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Girl Scouts Native Plant Project
By Paul Higgins, Common Ground Garden Manager, Palo Alto

Palo Alto Girl Scout Service and Leadership Team with Paul
Palo Alto Girl Scout Service and Leadership Team with Paul
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Higgins

On Veterans Day, a wonderful group of 25 Girl Scouts, aged between 10 and 16, came to the garden and helped us to plant approximately 50 native plants in a new 'native bed' at the back of the garden. They donated the funds we used to purchase the plants from a local nursery, Yerba Buena. We started the session by explaining why native plants are important, and then we got to work clearing the area, digging holes, planting, and finally mulching to suppress weeds. The new bed will need to be watered periodically during the coming year's dry season, but will be left to its own devices afterwards.

At a follow-up meeting, the girls were asked for one word to describe the experience, and they replied: "Fun, enlightening and interesting." Later, Charlotte Kadifa, a member of the Palo Alto Girl Scout Service and Leadership Team (SALT), wrote this (slightly edited) piece to summarize the experience:

"The fourth annual Palo Alto Girl Scouts' Service Day was held on Veterans Day, November 11th. Service Day is organized by our high school Scouts' SALT, of which I am a member. SALT partnered with six nonprofit organizations to provide volunteer opportunities on Veterans Day for 160 Girl Scouts ranging in age from 6 to 16.

"For the second year, Common Ground Garden was one of the nonprofits with which we collaborated. In addition to SALT members, three troops of Scouts (a total of 25 girls) volunteered there. Senior Troop 60648, Cadette Troop 60310, and Junior Troop 60518 spent the morning planting a native plant garden. The native plants were purchased for Common Ground through a grant to SALT from Silicon Valley Bank. Girl Scouts provided the "girl power" to plant them!

Girl Scouts Digging
Girl power at work at CGG
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Higgins

When we arrived at the garden, Emily and Paul explained to us how native plants not only are drought-resistant but also help the environment by efficiently sequestering carbon. They taught us how to break up the hardened soil with a fork and to dig with a spade. The Junior Scouts hauled mulch by wheelbarrow for the new garden. The Cadette and Senior Scouts dug the holes for the five-dozen new plants at the designated locations in the garden bed. Older and younger scouts partnered to add compost, place the plants in the new holes, and spread mulch around each plant. Six of us had the challenge of planting a three-foot-tall bush with spikey leaves that poked through jeans and work gloves. We handled it with the utmost care!

Interspersed with the physical exertion, there were plenty of moments for examining roly-poly bugs, admiring the variety of shapes and colors of leaves and blossoms, and basking in the beauty and peacefulness of the shaded gardens.

At the end of the morning, we all initialed a wooden plaque to commemorate our contribution to the project. It was very gratifying work to create a native plant garden that will be long-lasting and provide educational opportunities for the greater community that Common Ground Garden serves."

Related topics:
CGG Youth Education Page: for educators or parents interested in field trips and lessons for school-aged children.
CGG Adult Education Page: a list of current classes offered to adults at Common Ground Garden
California Native Plant Society: find native plants for your California garden! find native plants for your region in North America!

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