Building a School Garden

This post was written by the Magee Environment Club as part of Check Your Head’s Actualizing Change Program.

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At Magee Secondary School in Vancouver BC, students have been promoting sustainability since the new school was built around 12 years ago through the Magee Environment Club. Originally a recycling team, two and half years ago club leaders decided to make good use of the money collected over a decade by building a school garden that could be enjoyed by all. This fall, we are expanding from three to five raised garden beds so we have the space to grow more plants and explore the ecosystem of a vegetable garden.

Our project idea is to have five raised garden beds with dimensions of approximately 4 feet by 20 feet. This allows us to implement several initiatives. As the garden doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, we plan to leave one bed fallow at all times. Meaning we plant one garden bed with plants like clover, buckwheat, or rye which will actually put nutrients back into the soil and fix nitrogen from the air into nitrates in the soil.

Our second main idea is to create vegetable neighborhoods where we position together plants that grow well together and benefit each other based on soil composition and nutrient use. As well over the years, these neighborhoods would be rotated amongst the beds and changed up to prevent disease accumulation and to use up different parts of the nutrient composition of the soil before the bed needs to lay fallow for a year.

The two new garden beds are being made to last. Currently we have dug the grass out around the bottom of the boxes and have placed down a layer of gravel and base rock to allow for drainage around the wood. The wooden stakes and strings that outline the outer edges of the new boxes are calibrated to be exactly horizontal to our existing beds and as well completely square. As the land on which we are building the garden slopes down towards the south, the depth at which the bottommost wood logs is calculated to ensure the southern edge of the box is not floating above the surface of the ground. Once the bottom layer is finished, we may build up and add on with wood cut to size. In the spring, the club will dig out all the surrounding sod by hand and back fill with gravel to create a uniform garden region to District standards.

At Magee, students of all grades will usually be found working in the garden on Tuesday and Thursday after school. In the summer the members of the senior leadership council of the club will take charge of all the individual weeks and invite volunteers from younger grades to join them in the planting, pruning, and harvesting of general maintenance three times a week. If you have any questions or comments, contact us at environmentmagee@gmail.com

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