Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beautification Day Update

An old apple tree gets a facelift around its base.

Beautification Day at Big Girl's school was last week and was a huge success. (You might remember me mentioning it in this post.) The event was a result of a child writing an opinion piece in our school newspaper about litter near the playground; I figured a "beautification day" could make the children proud of their school. When I started to scope out the project, and was given a date, I realized the scale of the project needed to be manageable. The school had this old perennial garden planted years ago by a teacher, the local garden club, and a school garden club. But it was buried under leaves and overgrown and neglected for years.

My goal became centered around this "secret" garden, and this one area of the school. I figured keeping it small, focusing on the one area and making this one spot really nice would be a good starting point. I had to keep in mind "maintenance" -- who would take care of this in the immediate future and years to come? I also had to prep the area, and one day during school spring break I packed up the kids and my parents joined me at the school and we raked out the whole area, pruned bushes and weeded a little to get it ready.

Old and new plants combined for a new, pretty garden.
There was not a lot of time to get ready for this last-minute project on our school calendar. I was a little worried that I would be able to handle it all on short notice, but everything seemed to work itself out: The district allowed us to work on it with the kids during recess times. This was a worry of mine, as the recess times are 20 minutes long, 10 minutes apart, three in a row, and we had around 100 kids sign up (there are a little more than 300 in the school). It would definitely be a rush to get everything done during that time.

I called and contacted several local businesses regarding donations of plants and mulch, and I also asked our school families to bring plants. I had a "wish list" to give guidance, and the list included mostly spring- and fall-blooming perennials to allow our students to enjoy the beauty of the garden when school is in session. Perennials also require less water than annuals during the warmer months and return each year.

A few donated plants
Three businesses offered to donate, and on the day of the event, many families brought many, many plants. We had about a dozen parents show up to help, many of whom I had never seen volunteering at PTO events or at our meeting. Each one really just jumped right in to help. A women from our local garden club, which I had also contacted, came early and dropped off dozens and dozens of garden tools and garden gloves she had been storing at her house from a now-defunct garden club at our school. She was glad to hand them back over to us! And two members of the garden club came to help as well. They were such an asset!

My parents even contributed to the project, donating several bags of mulch. I need to buy more mulch, but it won't cost more than $30 or so to finish out the project. And our PTO spent NOTHING on this project -- donations took care of everything! I had up to $100 of PTO money to spend if I needed it, but the extra mulch is all that is left to purchase. Eventually, I would love to add a bench or too, or a bird bath.

Stone edging which was buried under weeds was dug out and reset.
The kids absolutely loved and enjoyed the event as well! Many of them asked if they could work on it again the next day, or asked when they would be able to do it again. It was definitely a success in their eyes, and they were so proud of their plantings. We may not have the "reading garden" of my dreams yet, but it's a start. We hope to use this beautiful area during our "Read with a Parent" event later this month, and I think it would be a great place to set up a refreshment table for parent orientation this spring.

School beautification projects are great events for schools and students and communities. We hope to repeat this day in the fall and spring, and keep our school community pretty.

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