Ocean Friendly Gardens, GAP
October 24 2014

Students Build Garden Friendly To Ocean & Butterflies

This project got started when Surfrider-First Coast Chapter Ocean Friendly Garden (OFG) Coordinator, Paul Hayden, got a request from Fletcher Middle School Art Teacher, Chris Hicks (in Jacksonville Beach, Florida), to help turn three garden spots at the School into Ocean Friendly Butterfly Gardens. Paul had talk done a talk for the School's science classes (click here for a blog post about the talk). Chris had been thinking of doing a garden project and heard about how well-received Paul's talks were.

The project was completed over three days, with a donation for materials from the First Coast Chapter, invaluable time and expertise from Donnie Pellicer of Native Roots Landscape and Design of Jacksonville, the over-site and assistance from Chris, and the hard work of over 300 of his art students. Paul met Donnie at a Surfrider meeting on OFG and he was willing to help with our OFG projects.

Paul educated the students about the mission of the Surfrider Foundation, the tenets of the OFG Program (CPR – Conservation, Permeability and Retention), and ways they can help the environment in their daily lives and in their yards. It was refreshing to see just how interested and inquisitive the students were and how hard and cheerfully they worked.

The sites were cleared, prepped, landscaped and mulched with pine straw. They were transformed into beautiful, low maintenance butterfly gardens. Here’s how CPR was applied to revive the local watershed and the ocean:

Conservation - Donnie chose all Florida native plants, which will also attract beautiful butterflies. As a matter of fact, no sooner than the plants had arrived then a butterfly found its host plant and settled in. Donnie informed the students about what butterflies are attracted to which plants, why each was chosen, and about proper planting technique. Donnie also explained the problems caused by invasive plants and why they were removing a particular one from the old gardens. The plants were purchased from Tradd's Nursery, which specializes in natives.

Permeability - Soil was un-compacted, then they removed mulch that was not ocean friendly and replaced it with natural pine straw.

Retention - All of the irrigation for the plants will come from rain and run off. There are low points in each garden to help slow down and absorb runoff. Fortunately, there are a lot of buffers around the buildings as well as grassy areas and trees that slow the flow to a degree.

The school will handle the maintenance for the most part, but Donnie and Paul told Chris they would be available for help and advice where needed. In conjunction with the project, the art students have designed artwork, which they will paint on pavers that will provide access to the main garden. The biggest success was educating the students about the OFG concepts and how to use it in their everyday lives and futures. Many thanks to Donnie, Chris and Chris’ students: all of their work led to the completion of this beautiful project!