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Castro Valley High School Garden Receives Bay Friendly Recognition

Michelle Trueblood Holding Bay Friendly Garden SignMichelle Trueblood Holding Bay Friendly Garden SignThe Castro Valley High School garden was recently recognized as a Bay Friendly garden. The garden area on campus is used by Science, dosage English and Special Education students to combine environmental learning with classroom lessons.

Over the past few years, shop teacher Michelle Trueblood has organized students and other volunteers to establish a garden area on campus that works well with the Bay Area climate, mind minimizes water use, provides learning opportunities, adds habitat for local critters, and provides garden-fresh vegetables to school gardening students.

CVHS noted the following best practices for Bay Friendly gardening present in their work:

Building Healthy Soil

  • Garden beds are prepared by hand rather than with a tiller.
  • After initial preparation, beds are maintained with little or no tilling.
  • Sheet mulching is used to establish planting areas or pathways, and as a way to control weeds while improving soil.
  • Soil is protected from compaction with clearly defined paths and or raised beds.
  • Soil is amended with compost.
  • Cover crops are grown to enrich the soil. 

Reducing Waste in the Garden

  • Active compost bin or worm bin
  • Food scraps from garden, cafeteria or cooking classes are composted.
  • Garden trimmings are used on site for composting or mulching and/or recycled in green waste cart if available.
  • Plant waste is minimized by not overplanting, overwatering, or overfertilizing.
  • Pruning is minimized by choosing plants that are appropriate for the space.
  • Recycled, salvaged or renewable products are used for artistic or functional purposes. 

Conserving Water

  • Mediterranean climate or native plants are featured (more than 50% of the garden area is occupied by plants adapted to summer dry climate).
  • Plants are grouped by water needs.
  • Native grasses and other lawn alternatives are planted to reduce water consumption.
  • Watering occurs according to need, not a pre-determined schedule.
  • Mulch is used on bare soil in the garden and on top of garden beds.

Creating Wildlife Habitat

  • Food for wildlife is available through plant selection.
  • Water is provided with a small pond, bird bath, or water dish.
  • Year-round protective cover is provided with a planting of evergreen trees/shrubs, logs, rocks, or brush pile.
  • Wildlife is encouraged with a variety of plants that flower and set fruit at different times of year.
  • Areas of the garden are left somewhat untidy – let flowers go to seed to provide food for birds, and leave dead leaves and stalks to shelter over-wintering insects.

Protecting Local Watersheds and the Bay

  • Non-permeable surfaces such as asphalt and concrete are removed and replaced by permeable surfaces, allowing water to soak in rather than run off.
  • Nearly all soil is covered by mulch or plants.
  • Synthetic fertilizers are not used in the garden.
  • Synthetic pesticides and insecticides are not used in the garden.
  • No invasive species have been planted, and any invasive weeds on the property are being managed to prevent their spread.

Contributing to a Healthy Community

  • An integrated approach is used for controlling weeds, insect pests and diseases with least toxic controls used first for safety of children, pets and wildlife.
  • Pests and their damage are tolerated to the degree possible. Perfection is not the goal.
  • Beneficial insects are encouraged through plant choice.
  • Organic vegetable garden provides food.
  • Hand or electric tools are used instead of gas-powered tools.
  • Potential neighborhood hazards are considered and controlled in the garden -- including fire awareness, weed seed disbursement and rodent habitat.
  • The garden is accessible to the community, through work days, events and open garden hours.

Saving Energy

  • Local garden products and suppliers are utilized.

Encourage Play, Learning and Teaching in the Garden

  • Students are engaged in garden design, installation and participate in ongoing maintenance of the school garden. 
  • Garden design and materials encourage informal interaction with garden features.
  • Students participate in garden activities that provide time for unstructured exploration and guided inquiry.
  • Plants and garden features are selected to provide connections to state content standards and classroom curriculum.
  • Interpretive signage, graphics and murals convey information and provide teaching moments.

Building and Sustaining a Network of Support

  • Community work days and events engage parents, neighbors and other community members in projects that sustain the school garden.
  • Successes and benefits of the school garden program are measured and promoted within the school and surrounding community.
  • Support is sought from the school district for funding, maintenance or supplies when possible. 

Learn more about Bay Friendly Gardening

Read more about the garden in this Daily Review news article.