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KDSS recycled garden wins provincial award

Education/Home & Garden

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A crowd of Kincardine District Secondary School students surrounds Carol Blake (L), Jen Taylor, Holly Xu, Jessilyn Wolfe, vice-principal Sheryl Elliott, Amanda P. Smith, principal Deb Kaufman, and Anabel Campbell, in the recycled garden at the school

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KDSS recycled garden, complete with benches and picnic tables. Photos by Carol Blake

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A relaxing spot for KDSS students in the recycled garden

The Kincardine District Secondary School recycled garden has received the Ontario Communities in Bloom Community Award of Excellence.

Carol Blake, who spearheaded the work to create the garden beside the high school, was on hand at the conference in Sarnia last weekend, and accepted the award on behalf of the hardworking and dedicated individuals who put the project together and maintain it.

The premise was to take old lawn furniture and decorations that had been discarded in the landfill site, fix them up and paint them, and place them in a garden setting for the high school students to enjoy, west of the main building.

Joining Blake and the students in their efforts is Anabel Campbell who donated the flowers and plants for the garden. Grade 10 students Johann Hack and Stephen Lewis have done a lot work maintaining the project, while Aiden Finlay, who has since gone on to university, did all the soil amending, said Blake.

She said the project stems from efforts of the local garden club which was formed after the Kincardine and Tiverton Communities in Bloom committees decided to take a two-year hiatus.

On her own, Blake registered the recycled garden, under the Kincardine Township-Tiverton Environmental Green School Project (KttEGSP), for competition at Ontario Communities in Bloom.

The garden also won the "Green for Life" award of excellence from Landscape Ontario, which will be presented at Expo 2010 in Toronto on Oct. 18.

Betty Lamont, chairperson of  Kincardine Communities in Bloom, said she was thrilled to be at the conference to celebrate this great achievement with Blake.

"The Community Award of Excellence is a very prestigious award and brings great honour to our municipality," she said. "Considering the competition involves 19 other participating communities, including the City of Hamilton, the City of Markham, the City of Waterloo, the City of Hamilton among others, it is an incredible award of distinction for the Municipality of Kincardine."

Lamont said that in partnership with Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association and Municipal Cultural Planning Inc., all 19 Community Award of Excellence projects submitted were reviewed and evaluated by a jury of professionals based on the following: community spirit; innovative ideas; and environmental sustainability.

And Blake's project, on behalf of the Municipality of Kincardine, took top honours.

In her submission, Blake said the project was initiated in 2007, and the three flower beds took three years to complete because they were overgrown with weeds and had not been managed for several years.

With the help of Campbell and the students, plus advice from the Kincardine Master Gardeners and the Horticultural Society, the area was transformed into a beautiful and serene place for students to sit and relax.

 

"My plan was to bring the garden into a manageable, sustainable state," said Blake. "I realized it needed to contain self-sufficient perennials that did not rely on the students who rotate in and out each year with no commitment to continuity for plant care, but could take pride in the beautification around their school."

She said the group reshaped and amended the beds with manure and nutrient-rich residue from the municipality's Green Cone digesters to bring life back into depleted soil. Then, they covered them with straw for the winter.

"Turning soil and adding more seasoned compost made a beautiful planting bed for our newly-divided selection of perennials from Anabel's personal garden," said Blake. "Our selection of perennials was incredible. The group then sprinkled seasoned compost on grass surrounding the garden to enhance growth, and added flat stones and mulch to the sit-in garden.

The theme, "Recycled Garden," took shape with the commitment to not purchase anything, but work with donated items or things recycled from the landfill, said Blake. "Our purpose was to show the high school students what is being thrown away into our valuable $75-$100/cubic metre landfill site, and what can be done with a little paint and creativity to renew beautiful outdoor furniture."

The group took a number of trips to the landfill with everyone keeping an eye out for good stuff. "We managed to create several new sitting areas for the students to enjoy the outside environment this spring," said Blake. "Each week, it was fun to see what we could find or create from someone else's refuse."

A well-established Hosta garden was split in the fall, creating two new shade gardens under the maple trees, said Blake. The Kincardine Horticulturalists contributed four flats of annuals for a little splash of colour, and beautiful mulch to hold the moisture in the beds. Another local school donated 400 feet of watering hose/sprinkler, and several beautiful cement stones were brought in on which to put the bench.

"What we found," said Blake, "was that people will get involved if you invite them to participate. So, we invited our local media to cover the story in order to bring awareness about our project to the entire community."

The result is an award-winning recycled garden.

 

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