School Gardens: Creating Habitat, Ecosystem Diversity

‘… that but this blow / Might be the be-all and end-all … / We’d jump the life to come.’ ~ Shakespeare, Macbeth

Soil Is The Easy Part

Bringing dead soil to living doesn’t really take much. Heck — in just a month’s time and with $0, the soil went from this …

Fixing 'Dead' Soil With Organics

The Beginning — Organic Infusion
(January 2017)

… to this.

Lettuce and Turnip

Lettuce and Turnip
(March 2017)

Without much more labor, the underground world of microbes and fungi take over, turning and churning organic waste into soil. That’s what they do. That’s what they’ve always done.

All we have to do is not mess it up to begin with. Is that so hard?

Cardboard Shredder

Leaf Mycelium

Leaf Shredder

Dead Cockroach Shredder

Compost Shredder

Once the soil ecosystem is fully intact, indicator species like ox beetle grubs and earthworms begin showing up in the garden beds. Our Soil Food Web cycle is now complete!

Healthy Soil Indicator Species
Ox Beetle Grub and Earthworm
(January 2019)

Sex In A Child’s Garden

I know, I know. It doesn’t seem like a likely topic for elementary school discussion, but garden plants simply cannot reproduce without having sex. And they cannot have sex without insects.

It’s the way of Nature, like it or not.

In order to enjoy any fruits, we simply must set up shop for a variety of nectar-sippers, including lunch cafeterias for their youngsters.

Planting More Milkweed

Milkweed Seed Pods
Just Toss ’em In!

Monarch Caterpillar
Grow It, And They Will Come

Monarch Chrysalis
Next Generation of Pollinators

Painted Lady
(2nd Grade Classroom Release)

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent

Having a separate pollinator garden in addition to the interspersed milkweed plants attract a wider variety of beautiful insects, butterflies and moths in particular. Plants like fennel and dill, parsley and aster will welcome these rainbow beings into our garden. Hopefully they’ll stay for the season, leaving their munch-y babies (caterpillars) behind to repeat the process season to season.

Eat or Be Eaten.

Wherever there are insect populations, their predators will soon move in! The wolves of the garden are just as important, even if they generally give teachers the heebie-jeebies.

Garden Spider Mama

Ladybird Beetle
Eating Aphids

Gray Tree Frog

Gulf Coast Toad

Leopard Gecko

Baby Green Anole

Baby Green Anole

Ours isn’t a large space, but now that all the important terrestrial creatures are present, we can pretty much leave Nature in charge of keeping the soil and edible plants healthy and worry-free.

The B’s and E’s

Say it fast enough and you’ll know where the saying ‘the bees knees’ came from. As for the ‘be-all and end-all’ of garden pollinators, the bees knees should definitely be of the native variety.

Honey bees which — like domestic cattle, sheep, chickens, and pigs — were brought over as domestics from Europe and Asia have their own issues with survival. They get more than their share of the news coverage, and perhaps if we’d let them go feral, they might be able to evolve a better strategy for their future than we are ‘allowing’ by our constant micro-managing. (Just sayin.’)

Solitary bees get much less attention than their European cousins but are no less worthy of conservation. And they don’t require an expensive beekeeper’s license either.

Anti-social bees are harmless and are easy to attract to your garden space, requiring no care or worry for their survival. They are quite capable of taking care of themselves … provided we don’t mess things up for them unwittingly. The fact that many of these species are in population decline should on its own urge you into habitat action where you are. As the bees go, so do we.

Interesting Factoid:  Did you know that only the bumble bee is capable of pollinating tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant? That they have a special bumble bee super power to unlock the pollen in the anthers that other bees cannot get to? They vibrate their bodies in the key of C. It’s called buzz pollination. Go ahead. Look it up!

As a general rule in an organic space, gardeners should be using no pesticides or herbicides. Both are equal opportunity destroyers, no matter what the packaging says it does and does not do. Be smart: no company needs to make money on the deaths of others. Ask yourself, What Would Nature Do?

If you recognize potential habitats, you can simply leave them where they are. The pollinators will thank you for it by turning all your flowers into edible fruits.

(And they don’t need to get paid for it).


A Couple of Sunflowers
Bee Habitat and Bird Seed
(Summer 2017)

Tall Sunflowers

More Flowers … and 8 Feet Tall
(Summer 2018)

Provides Soil Aeration and Bee Habitat
(Not too hard to work or plant around either.)

[Email Readers: Above is an embedded video. You’ll have to view it at the blog!]

Unknown Native Bee (VIDEO!)
in Dead Sunflower Stalk
Winter Garden Resident

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7 thoughts on “School Gardens: Creating Habitat, Ecosystem Diversity

  1. Incredible salute to the power of nature, Shannon. You have always shown yourself to be a soil guru, but this piece really takes it up to a superb level. Love hearing about the native vs. European bees, the “rainbow beings,” the important elements of good soil. Your photos are fantastic, highlighting the incredible cycle of all that goes into, without much ado, the organic building of a garden.


    1. Nature never lets me down or wears me down, Jet! But the kids enjoy most the stuff they see with their eyes, which is why insects, reptiles, and birds are so important in the garden classroom. Gotta keep them questioning and learning.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Being a lifetime insect lover, it’s difficult to admit that I only learned of the bumble bee’s power while watching Disney’s ‘Wings of Life’ with my kids several years back. Insects are fabulous!

      Liked by 1 person

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