Garberville town square gets drought-conscious landscaping from local students

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Using agave and succulents, the new landscaping will use very little water. Once established, the plants will spread on their own, filling the spaces in the planter. [All photos by Lisa Music]

On June 1, students from South Fork High School installed eco-friendly landscaping in Garberville’s town square.

The Town Square Board of Trustees teamed up with students from the South Fork Horticulture Classroom to replace the landscaping of the two large cement planters in the heart of the square. Out of three projects submitted by the class, the town square council approved a xeriscape design that emphasizes the use of native plants and succulents that require minimal water and maintenance.

Eleven students from the horticulture class along with their teacher, Rebecca Robles, and parent volunteers, removed the previous landscaping, filling the planters with dirt and rock before planting the various succulents that will propagate and fill the space. Robles said the planters will need to be watered about once a week for the first month, then every two weeks the following month, and once a month thereafter until the first rains arrive in the fall. After that, she says, the plants and Mother Nature should take care of the rest.

Robles and a few other teachers at South Fork High School stepped up last fall to teach electives in addition to their regular curriculum to meet needs when the school was understaffed. Robles brought his passion for horticulture to South Fork students in his new role. High school student Sonya Osborne said: “When she teaches, she not only teaches you English or horticulture, but she teaches you lifelong lessons.”

Robles’ daughter, Scarlet, is also one of his students in the horticulture class. Scarlet explained that learning about horticulture in school was different from homeschooling and that projects like the Town Square project made the classroom all the more interesting and rewarding. “[Today’s project] was a really enriching experience… Here, we always want to be careful, ”she explained.

Sophomore Aliya Burns credits Robles for inspiring her students’ learning, “[Teaching is] so easy and effortless for her. You’ve just been with her all the time [and] all your lessons… fun learning.

For her part, Robles feels lucky to be doing what she loves. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s true that someone pays me to read good literature and play in the mud all day,” she said of teaching English and of horticulture. Robles explained his relationship with his students, saying, “When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to get kids excited too.”

This passion pays off for students outside of the classroom. South Fork Junior, Elaine Leyva, turned her experience in horticulture class into a job at Tooby Park, crediting the class and Robles with her recent job.

Senior Caleb Wilks said he was happy to hang out with his classmates before his South Fork days were behind him, doing something to help his community.

James Coulter’s father, Kyle Terrell, was on hand to help with the Town Square project, meeting his teenager’s teacher for the first time. Terrell appreciated the opportunity given to students through the elective class, saying, “It is important that these children learn to care for plants and give back to their community.

pupils, parents and school staff on one of the cement planters in the town square

The South Fork High School horticulture class, parents and staff.

Robie Tenorio, Garberville Town Square Board Member, said the design and student set-up was beautiful and Town Square was delighted to partner with South Fork High School on the xeriscape landscaping. Tenorio said that in addition to the design and installation done by the students, Randall Sand & Gravel were generous in helping with the soil and rock for the project, as well as Sylvandale Garden Supply with the supply of plants.

“Today was a lot of work. I hope they’re proud of them, I’m proud of them,” Robles said after the landscaping was completed.

Aliya Burns is thrilled, not only for what the students accomplished on June 1st, but for the future of landscaping as it fills up and is enjoyed in the future. “Over the next few years people will see the work we’ve done, they might not know we did it, but we will know we did it,” she said.

This article is written by Lisa Music, a local freelance journalist. To reach Lisa with advice, questions or comments, email her at [email protected]

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