April 8, 2013
Well, the Matilija Schoolyard Habitat project has been on it’s own for about a year. Time to take a look, how did it do? At the beginning of this school year, a new principle was hired, so it was time to look at the project with a “new pair of glasses” – - – to let it be, and evolve on it own. Thank you Ms. Mostovoy, past principal, for the faith and confidence to “build it and they will come” style to help move this project ahead.
In February 2012, 200 native plants were “grounded” (planted in the soil and gopher baskets) and managed to make it thru the hot Ojai summer. Drip irrigation should always be installed right after planting, but on-site access to irrigation wasn’t available until late June, when everyone was gone. As a result, the plants were hand watering over the summer (thank you Jenny!!!). By Sept, 2012, it was still warm, and many plants didnt make it. Some plants managed to survive, and the gophers were still plentiful. Fortunately, the weeds have been managed for the last few years without the use of herbicides (after “sheet-mulching” using compost tea, cardboard and lots of mulch).
Update at of April 7, 2013: a year later, about 50 % of the 200 native plants that were put in the ground still remain. The CA poppies are very happy (see picture). We received little rain this year. There was enough to water in the weed seed deposits from prior years, which are now in full bloom.
The Phase 1 area of the Schoolyard Habitat is currently in need of some maintenance to control the weeds. It is important to pull/stomp/weed whack the weeds before new seeds set, with more mulch added to further suppress the weeds. That should take care of it – - -no more weeds. We want to exhaust the seed bank and not let anymore weed seeds settle in. If not, those weeds will be with us for a long time to come. The native plants that have made appear a little dry and could use some supplemental water since our rainfall has been light and shallow (no heavy rains).
I hope the school will be moving ahead with the original grant proposals submitted to and funded by the Ojai Valley Women’s Club, Lowe’s and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. It was a blessing to be part of this amazing project. Many thanks to all the volunteers and donations and many hours of planning and organizing that got it off the ground.