Madera Edible School Garden Committee Meeting

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
7:15 p.m. Community Room

(Enter through front door, descend stairs near library)

Garden Site Review

Review of proposed garden sites follows the summary below of a meeting with a school district site manager. This summary/review is being emailed in advance in order to eliminate need for paper waste (photocopies) of the information/visuals presented here, as well as to make our meeting time/discussions more efficient.

Lani Hunt and Vicki Victoria met with WCCUSD Site Maintenance supervisor Dave
Frazier on 10/3 to review prospective garden locations. We appreciated the time,
advice and consideration that Mr. Frazier, a 30 year veteran, provided us on
the site tour. Mr. Frazier has stated that they cannot lend any of their staff
or resources to the construction or maintenance of the garden. His department
is very understaffed due to budget restraints.

A design/plan of our proposed garden will be submitted to Mr. Frazier’s office/comment for their review prior to commencing construction. He has offered to use a soil probe to collect an appropriate sample for soil testing, but we have to pay for the lab testing, estimated around $75. He suggested that we approach our principal/site council to apply for MRAD funds to pay for the soil testing (the garden qualifies). In addition to testing for any toxins, the soil analysis will also help us to determine what type of amendments are needed for the soil.

Herbicides were once used along all the fences along the school’s slopes (for
easier/faster weed management while the remaining areas were machine mowed),
but have not been used since 8-10 years ago. Weed killers are still currently
used in the landscaped plant beds and containers outside of the classrooms, as
the staff does not have time to hand-weed.

Mr. Frazier also recommends that only redwood be used to build planter boxes.
Cheaper woods such as fir or pine break down too easily and his staff has had
to clean up too many rotting, abandoned planter boxes. We inquired about the
use of terraced paving bricks and he said that that was a better choice as it
will outlast any wood and also provide added support for slope erosion. Also,
they can be easily stacked and eliminates the need to have lumber sized and cut.
He recommended epoxy for the top bricks to ensure that they don’t tumble off

We also indicated our interest in planting fruit trees, but he discouraged it
saying that it would attract “vermin” (raccoons, possum, birds) and their droppings, as well as rotting fruit.

Mr. Frazier advised us to use industrial strength standards when selecting our
fencing (cyclone fence/gate at bottom of the ramp to the lower yard is a good
example of a sturdy, effective fencing material).

The following is a summary of the prospective garden sites. Each site has corresponding PDF images. Sites appear in order suitability/feasibility for garden locations.

Proposed Garden Site - Upper Yard, NE Slope1) Behind MPR, Upper Yard, NE Slope. (MPR = Multipurpose Room)

With constant sun exposure, gentle slope is in a corner away from yard area and classroom windows. There is a 1” drip line that currently waters landscaped trees in the eastern perimeter of the yard. We could tap into this, but there might not be enough water pressure to support both the trees and a garden with just the 1” line.

Teachers/staff ideally do not want a garden in proximity of the yard, as children
are prohibited from being on the slope (concern for confusion of rules). A fenced
garden could alleviate this concern, as well as deter deer or vandals from entering
the garden.

The district must maintain a 100’ set back from residential properties. This
requires that weeds/plants must not be overgrown or dead, posing fire dangers.
Therefore, it is best for the garden to not stretch to the top of the school’s
property line, in order for district staff to be able to mow (preferably using
a tractor) the slope regularly. The culvert (hillside runoff) drain should always
be clear of any garden debris.

MPR provides a solid wind barrier to the slope.

Proposed Garden Site - Behind Community Room, Lower Yard NW 2) Behind Community Room, Lower Yard NW next to Ramp

This was the location originally preferred by teachers/staff because it is completely tucked away from the yard. Other advantages are existing quick coupler that could readily be expanded for irrigation/hose with no technical expertise.

Concerns about side from the north wing of the school would produce shade on
1/3 to ½ of the east slope during winter. There is also a large amount of landfill
(rock debris) left behind from the school’s remodel that was not sufficiently
cleaned up by the contractor.

The two large metal boxes are electrical transformers (similar to the electrical
breaker switch box in your home) and do not emit anything dangerous. Only concern is that the boxes are not aesthetically pleasing.

A stand of Monterey Pines around the perimeter of the northern portion of the
yard provides a wind barrier for the site.

Proposed Garden Site - Landing outside of Copy Room 3) Landing outside of Copy Room, Front of School

This was a prospective site for a planter box garden. The overhangs on the east and south may produce too much shade. Small space doesn’t allow for expansion and there is no existing irrigation sources. Access also problematic since students would have to pass through the copy room.

Proposed Garden Site - Concrete Planters in Lower Yard4) Two Concrete Planters in Lower Yard

Planters currently have un-maintained plant cover. No existing irrigation (would have to cut through concrete to put in place). Hose can be attached to quick coupler on the east slope, but would require 40-50 feet of hose that needed to be secured each time (trip hazard).

Proposed Garden Site - Lower Yard Slope

NE Slope between Lower Yard and Classroom Blacktop, Next to Stairs OR On the Ridge along the length of the Black top

Not recommended because of “wind tunnel” like setting. Several trees have been removed for failure to thrive/disease. Trees were chopped and extensive root system still remains in the slope. Planter boxes were suggested for the ridge along the black top. Evidence of failed landscaping project remains (abandoned drip irrigation) on slope.