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High School Students Connect Water Quality Testing & Ocean Friendly Gardens

February 25 2013 | Ocean Friendly Gardens, GAP,
by Paul Herzog

Redondo Union High School Biology and AP Environmental Science teacher, Mary Simun, and students in the Ecology Club had already been participating in the South Bay-Surfrider Chapter's water quality testing program (Teach & Test, an arm of Blue Water Task Force). When Mary and the students heard about an Ocean Friendly Garden planned for their School campus, they were stoked to learn they could help build a part of it. Then they thought: why not monitor the OFG for its benefits of pollution prevention tool and wildlife habitat.

A landscape contractor prepped the site:

  • Removal of the 5,000 square foot of turfgrass and several invasive Pepper trees.
  • Re-directing downspouts from the adjacent building into the OFG rather than letting them drain to the street.
  • Converting spray-head irrigation to drip irrigation.

While the contractor was responsible for installing the majority of the OFG, a small section was installed by the the AP Environmental Science and Special Education classes, as well as community members who had attended OFG classes. The students and community members were guided by OFG partner, G3/The Green Gardens Group, through two Hands-On Workshops:

  • Contouring for rainwater capture and sheet mulching (laying compost, paper and mulch to smoother remaining grass root and re-build healther soil).
  • Planting and drip irrigation installation.

The OFG is now a learning labratory for the students. While increases in wildlife (birds, bees, butterflies) can be easily observed above ground, a network of healthy soil biology to help filter and move around water will take a 6 months-1 year to develop. Students will need to take core soil samples and look for the fine, white-colored hair-like mycorrhizal fungi "network" that can connect a tree in a front yard to one in the back. Click here to read more about the "soil food web."

Easy Reader, the local newspaper, did a great job of covering the story. The ER article included quotes from Surfrider about runoff being the #1 source of ocean pollution and our past treatment of water as something to get off our properties as quickly as possible. A board member with West Basin was quoted as saying that water use in the garden is project to drop by 80%! garden with permeable soil and low-flow irrigation systems.

Funding for the OFG came primarily from a grant through State Proposition 50 that Surfrider and West Basin Municipal Water District were awarded to teach classes and build ten demonstration OFGS. Additional funding came from local water retailers, California Water Service Company. Though G3 was awarded the contract to teach the classes and design ten gardens, the RUHS OFG was an extra garden and the majority of the work was done through a design/build contract  awarded to Dudek Landscape Architects, who worked with Habitat Restoration Sciences Inc. (HRS), a Dudek company.

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