Fifth grader Arianna T. knows what it’s all about — way to think green, Arianna! Your artwork is so beautiful and sends such an important message. Go green!
Archive for October, 2010
In the ferocious battle between our Caraway habitat volunteer army against Red-Tip Photinia generals, Nandina lieutenants, toxic Pokeweed weaponry, and root-bound pawns, I am proud to declare that every invasive plant and stubborn had-to-go on our habitat workday agenda all surrendered to our muscle power. Peace on the home front exists once again, and our new native plants will usher in a new era of tranquility and wildlife-friendly outdoor learning opportunities for all our Caraway families and visitors.
I call this a battle because I challenged our volunteers to do the impossible — tackle tough Photinias known for their massive root systems and their history of foundation destruction, breaking of backs, and diseased foliage. To make matters worse, whoever planted these plants years ago stuck them smack up against the foundation of our school, making them extra difficult to remove. But our volunteers were dedicated, determined, and strong. With tremendous muscle power, as well as shovels, mattocks, axes, loppers, bow saws, rope, trailer hitch, and a two-ton tank — those ten photinias at last succumbed. Just take a look at the roots in the above photo — you’ll know how tough these plants are to get rid of. Well done, volunteers!
The front beds have had all the Nandinas removed with weed wrenches, with new plants in their place. The side beds have been cleaned of their overgrown monster plants, and we’ll be reviving these beds with new organic matter and improved soil, just in time for students to plant new plants in the spring. Our O.W.L. has had a drink of water and a few new plants added in, too.
I want to thank every one of our volunteers — we owe them a lot for their caring, dedication, and sweat — braving rain and days worth of achy muscles to get the job done. Caraway parents and students, school neighbors, Habitat Stewards, Capital Area Master Naturalists, and many Westwood High students made all this possible. Thank you: Kelley, Jason, Sue, Richard, Julie, Isaac, Ron, Peg, Irene, Gregg, Ruifei, Ben, Wade, second Gregg, Riley, Michael, Meredith, Logan, Nolan, Kelly, Jared, Vanessa, Michelle and her two helpers, Amrita, Amrita’s mom, Cynthia, Patrick, Nima, and those who didn’t sign in but I know you were there — I know you were all tired and sore the rest of the weekend and beyond. Thank you also to Kelly and Darin for picking up tools from Keep Austin Beautiful, to Tricia for picking up snacks, to Mrs. Rieck for making cookies, to Suzanne for signs, to Randall for sign-in sheets, to Ben and Leanne for recruiting Westwood volunteers. Thanks to Kelley and the Wildflower Center for the spectacular plant donations and bonus raffle prizes. And thank you Keep Austin Beautiful for the use of tools — I promise you that we used every single one of them! Who am I forgetting?
Here’s what we learned:
Caraway is surrounded by terrible nutrient-depleted soil that is hard as a rock and desperately in need of compost.
Caraway also resides on top of a rock-filled caliche bed that is about a foot under that terrible soil.
Weed wrenches rock on Nandinas.
Lemonade is very satisfying when you are working hard.
Mrs. Rieck makes great cookies.
Our volunteers rock!
Here are a few After pictures, too, and please welcome to our Caraway native plant family: Sandpaper Tree/Anacua, Mexican Plum, Coralberry, Chile Pequin, Lyre-Leaf Sage, Dwarf Palmetto, White Leadwort, Shrubby Boneset, Antelope Horns, Lindheimer’s Senna, Wafer Ash, and Red Yucca, along with more Anacacho Orchid, American Beautyberry, Inland Sea Oats, Turks Cap, Dwarf Yaupon, Mealy Blue Sage, Flame Acanthus, Gregg’s Mistflower, Texas Betony, Texas Lantana, and Evergreen Sumac plants. You beautiful plants, you!
If you missed out on the fun, we are going to be getting the rest of our native plants in the ground next Saturday, and one of our Girl Scout troops will be putting in a new butterfly-hummingbird garden for our youngest students. Please come join us! There aren’t any Photinias left, though — sorry that you’ve missed out on THAT fun. :)
Texas Native Plants Week was the perfect time to start our new wildflower meadow, and our Kindergarteners were happy to oblige by Bunny Stomping our wildflower seeds into place!
Thanks to a Seed Grant from the Wildflower Center and Native American Seed, we had plenty of seeds for our new meadow.
Mr. Fowler and I met with all of our K classes this past Friday, and Mr. Fowler demonstrated his superior Bunny Stomp method that was just perfect for getting those seeds into the soil.
Not to be outdone, our Kindergarteners exhibited outstanding Frog Hops, Kangaroo Jumps, Deer Stomps (complete with antlers), and other fine methods for seed planting.
The kids all spread cupfuls of wildflower seeds mixed with sand.
What kinds of seeds did we use for our meadow? The Nature Trail Mix from Native American Seed, which provides an extensive variety of native wildflower seeds, including Texas Bluebonnet, Drummond Phlox, Gayfeather, Indian Blanket, Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Purple Coneflower, Cutleaf Daisy, Huisache Daisy, Purple Prairie Clover, Greenthread, Standing Cypress, Bush Sunflower, Golden-Wave, Clasping Coneflower, Lemon Mint, American Basketflower, Black-eyed Susan, Mexican Hat, Plains Coreopsis, Prairie Coneflower, Maximilian Sunflower, Lazy Daisy, and Missouri Primrose. We also added in some Antelope Horn seeds, a native milkweed that supports our Queen and Monarch butterflies. We even discovered a little native aster already in the meadow area.
The mix also provides the seeds of a variety of Native Short-Mid Height Grasses, including Buffalograss, Blue Grama, Prairie Wildrye, Little Bluestem, Green Sprangletop, Sand Lovegrass, Sideoats Grama, Cane Bluestem, Texas Cupgrass, Virginia Wildrye, White Tridens.
We will be putting up a new low fence barrier around our meadow sometime soon, and then we’ll let our native seeds and flowers grow, and hopefully in spring we’ll see our first flowers. It will take at least a couple of years to have a well-established meadow, but at least our seeds have been planted, and all our Caraway families will get to watch our meadow grow over the years!
Go ahead — jump for joy about our new wildflower meadow. We are! Thank you, Kindergarteners!
Let’s give a big thank you to Girl Scout Troop 80 for organizing the recycling of plastics and cardboard at our Carnival last weekend. Your Green efforts are greatly appreciated, and we thank you for taking such good care of our environment.
Here are Megan and Joanna working hard after Carnival to get everything separated into bins.
You are an example to us all — thank you SO much, Troop 80!
Habitat Workday is here, and ooh boy do we need lots of volunteers. We’re going to completely transform the front of the school, taking out those invasive Nandinas and Photinias and planting LOTS of beautiful native shade plants. We’ll have raffles for volunteers and plenty of snacks, so come on out and join us!
Time: 9am-12pm, but if you want to come early, we’ll be there!
Bring gloves and a water bottle, and even though we’ll mostly be on the shady side of the school, you might want a hat or sunscreen. Meet us on the Carlwood side of the school by the picnic tables.
Thank you very much!
Texas Native Plants Week is October 18-24 — celebrate with us, and visit your local Austin nurseries to get some great native plants into your garden or yard. Please visit the official Texas Native Plants Week website for more information and some great plant suggestions. And of course, take a look at the list of native plants we have in our very own O.W.L.!
How are we celebrating Texas Native Plants Week at Caraway? A Habitat Workday, of course! Saturday, October 23, from 9am to 12pm. We’ll be planting new native plants around the school grounds, transplanting a few others, and pulling out some invasives. Please join us if you can, because we definitely need you! E-mail Meredith at MMLN(at)austin.rr.com to let us know you can volunteer.
The Wildflower Center is having their annual fall plant sale this weekend. The main days are October 9-10, Saturday and Sunday, with a members-only sale being offered on Friday the 8th.
This sale is one of the best opportunities to start or diversity your native plant garden — many of the plants available at the sale are ones not typically available at local nurseries. People travel from all over the state to attend this sale. I highly recommend it!
Great news — Caraway Elementary has received a $50 seed grant from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center! With this gift certificate, we will be able to purchase seeds from Native American Seed to help create our new wildflower meadow. Get ready to stomp some seeds, Kindergarteners!