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We love it when our online shoppers share their gardening experiences related to the product they bought. It’s awesome to see fruits of their success through their hard gardening work, and even better when they are sharing their knowledge with youngsters, the gardeners of the future. This is an inspirational story from John Marais, a teacher at Sterling High School.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. Well done, it looks amazing!
In 2016 the eco-club of Stirling High School in East London decided to start a South African biome themed garden. As a WESSA eco-school, the theme for the year was biodiversity so we started planning an indigenous garden. The aim of this project was to create a multi-functional space which was educational, could be used by the learners during break and also to beautify the entrance to the school.
Biomes form part of the high school curriculum for Life Sciences (biology), yet very few children ever have the opportunity to see these different areas and their unique plant growth. So from the start the project needed to fulfil this need.
The entrance quad to the school was an unused space consisting of two strips of lawn surrounded by asphalt walkways. This was converted into six raised beds made from gabions. The idea behind this was to provide seating space as well as give some height to the area. To give some structure and symmetry, the beds on either side of the path were planted with the same types of plants. There are seven biomes in South Africa, we chose to plant two boxes with succulent species from the Thicket, Karoo and Succulent Karoo biomes. Two boxes were planted with Fynbos plants and the last two boxes were planted with Thicket and Forest plants.
The Grade 10 learners needed to do a project about a plant from a particular biome and if they were able to, to also find a specimen which they could then plant. Many of our plants were thus donated by leaners and their parents. These learners were also able to plant their own plants, something which many of them had never done before!
The succulent boxes contain many species of Aloe, Crassula, Cotyledons and Kalanchoes, to name a few. All of which were donated or grown from cuttings. The Fynbos posed more of a challenge as the soil needed to correct. For this we added more sand as well pine needles and decomposed pine bark to get the correct acidity. Here we planted all the main components of Fynbos; restios, ericas and proteas. We have some rare species growing here such as Silver Trees (Leucadendron argenteum), Erica verticillata, Serruria florida and Erica cerinthoides. In the thicket-forest box we planted an Umzimbeet tree (Millettia grandis) in each box as well as Dragon trees (Dracaena aletriformis), Num-num (Carissa macrocarper), Strelitzia reginae ‘Mandela’s Gold’ and Dwarf coral trees (Erythrina humeana).
After the gardens had been planted, information boards about the biomes were created and put up on the walls of the quad as well as some individual plant labels which gives some interesting information about the plant.
In 2017 we started the next stage of the project which was to create a wetland. These very important ecosystems are under threat throughout the world and once again are taught as concepts throughout high school. We lined a large area with plastic and poked a few holes. We filled this with compost enriched soil and then dug our pond into this. Here we used the pond kit from Tanya Visser. We lined the pond with rocks which were also donated.
All the wetland plants were also donated by parents and teachers from the school. Here we planted Cape Blue (Nymphaea nouchalia), Waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos), Fluitjiesriet (Phragmites Australia), Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), Wild date palm (Phoenix reclinata), Arum lilles (Zantedeschia aethiopica), red hot pockers (Kniphofia species) and Kruidjie-roer-my-nie (Melianthus major) to name a few.
Many children, teachers and parents have been involved in this project; digging holes, donating plants or weeding on a weekly basis. 12 Months ago the space was just lawn, today there are over 80 indigenous plants from many different parts of the country.