Creating wildlife habitat on a school campus

Grant Union High School in the GEO Academy Garden
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | April 1, 2021

Funded by
Sacramento Municipal Utility District SHINE Award

Summary of the Day
A little over a week after our first SLEWS Field Day at Grant Union High School we were back for our second day, which took place over the students’ spring break. Our first day had been spent clearing out the planting area and enriching the soil, so the site was ready for the next step of its native habitat transformation – installing the plants!

At our opening circle, each student shared which superpower they’d most like to have and introduced the group to a plant we’d be installing that day or one they’ve already seen in the GEO Garden. Then we headed out to the planting site to get started.

The first step was using rakes to level the ground and break up any large clumps of soil. Then students worked together to install the irrigation line. Once this was done, the students were challenged to set up the planting area based on the planting plan their teachers had provided. Roles were assigned – project manager, assistant project manager, etc. and students had long and lively discussions about the best way to lay out the plants. Once they finished, teachers provided feedback and students adjusted the plant layout to better follow the planting plan. Students made indentations at each planting site and filled them with water to saturate the soil before planting per the garden manager’s instructions.

We took a break for a burrito lunch to give the water time to sink in. After eating, students finished digging holes and planted all of the plants. Students installed an emitter at each plant to ensure it would receive the proper amount of water, and added spaghetti tubing where necessary to make sure the water would reach the plant. Finally, we put a layer of mulch around the plants to discourage weed growth and increase water retention. We finished just in time for a quick closing circle before sending students off to enjoy the rest of their spring break. I’m looking forward to our third and final field day later this year, when hopefully we can get more students involved with the project!

A big project on a windy day

River Garden Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | February 4, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
River Garden Farms
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
David Marks
Ruby Marks
Gabrielle Stadem
Sarah Gaffney
Anna Tolle
Bri Grosskopf

Summary of the Day
For our second double-header field day at River Garden Farms, we were at a new location on the road to River Garden Farms HQ. We had planned 2 SLEWS projects here for this year, hoping that 2 classes of students would each adopt a section of the hedgerow for their 3-day project. Alas, COVID-19 had other plans, but we were lucky to have a dedicated group of volunteers come out to get this project started!

We started our cold and windy morning by watching a planting demonstration by Joanne Heraty of Yolo County Resource Conservation District, and we learned with semi-recent rains we had some of the easiest digging all year ahead of us! Remember, this was meant to be a double SLEWS project, so this hedgerow was LONG! By the end of the first shift (lunchtime) we had finished maybe ¾ of the planting, so our afternoon crew arrived and finished the planting portion. Once all 480 plants were installed, we set to work on installing the irrigation system, laying out the line and following up with emitters. By the end of second shift, we were halfway done with emitter installation – I told you this project was ambitious!

Looking forward to our last double field day at River Garden Farms next week where we will mulch along this hedgerow.

A record-setting planting day

River Garden Farms
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | January 21, 2021

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
River Garden Farms
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Nick Gallagher
Brandi Goss
Gabrielle Stadem
Sarah Gaffney
Krysteen Terlouw
Peter Johnson

Summary of the Day
For our first (double) field day of the season at River Garden Farms, we were rewarded with great weather – and an ambitious day of work! Last year, Florin High School students installed native habitat under some powerlines amid a walnut orchard (blog post here: https://landbasedlearning.org/blog/2020/01/14/plants-under-the-powerlines/) and our work was continuing this project south of County Line Road. It worked out that we had volunteers for this project, as this area would be difficult if not impossible to access by school bus!

Since River Garden Farms can’t extend their orchard under the powerlines, they elected to make it an area of native habitat. There are many lines of irrigation already installed here to support the plants, so the work for the day was planting, “as much as we get through”. The ground had been turned recently so we didn’t need pickaxes this time – what a relief! – so we spread out along multiple lines and worked hard, planting through the morning and afternoon shifts of volunteers. This was the most tiring SLEWS day I can recall, but I was still SHOCKED to hear that with just 6 SLEWS volunteers and some RCD staff, we had shattered the previous SLEWS record for most plants installed in a day (450ish) – we had planted over 750 plants!

This is SLEWS’ FIFTH season of field days at River Garden Farms! Hopefully next time we’ll have a crew of high school students with us.