Starting a Schoolyard Habitat - Knowledgebase Question

Troy, NY
Avatar for eldris
Question by eldris
February 27, 1998
We are starting a schoolyard habitat on a portion of unused land next to a local elementary school. Our goal is to attract wildlife, such as birds and butterflies from the nearby woods. Our idea includes types of small shrubs and wildflowers. We are planning on including a small pond for a water source and home for frogs and fish. The current soil is relatively dry; what steps can we take to improve the soil?

Answer from NGA
February 27, 1998
What a great plan you have! It sounds like you have some wonderful ideas--especially the part about having a source of fresh water to attract birds and butterflies.

First of all, to improve your soil, add organic matter--compost, grass clippings (try to find clippings that haven't been sprayed with pesticides), well-rotted manure, shredded leaves, etc. You might try amending the soil in some areas, and leaving some as it is--some wildflowers actually do better on poor soil!

Consider having a soil test done--contact your Cooperative Extension office at 518-270-2781 for information about soil tests. If you have very acidic soil, you might want to add some limestone in some areas. But if you plan to plant native plants, they may be fine in your native soil, so beware of changing it too much. It might be a good research project for your students--to find out the soil preferences for the plants you've chosen, and even research what plants are native to your region.

To help conserve water, try mulching with organic mulches like straw or bark chips.

Also, check out NGA's "Kids and Classrooms" website, especially the following:

This is an article from NGA's "Growing Ideas: A Journal of Garden-based Learning". See the website for information on becoming a subscriber.

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