Valentines is the day of love and this year the Crystal Springs gardening team, the Water Legends will commit their love, passion and desire for healthy water wise food with the start of a permaculture garden. Fortunately, Crystal Springs school is blessed with fertile soils and have a perfect place to start a garden. The fenced perimeters will help defend the garden from marauding goats who also like their untitled share of the tasty treats.
We started the day with a very interactive session with Water Explorer coordinator, Julia Colvin. The Grade 4 class was asked to evaluate different types of soil, sandy, clay and loam as a substance in which we can grow healthy vegetables. We looked at the process of how soil is made and were astounded to learn that 3cm of top organic fertile soil can take 100 years to create; yet annually South Africa losses 400 million tons of top soils through poor agricultural techniques and bad land management. We then looked at how to build a compost heap to enrich our soils with nutritious organic material for the plants to feed. Conducting an experiment using hydrogen peroxide, a chemical that produces a foamy reactions when in contract with organic material, we were visually able to compare the organic material in loamy soils as compared to the poor sandy soils. In this activities we learned how to conduct an experiment by controlling for variables in order to prove or disprove our hypothesis. Most of the children hedged their bets on loamy soils creating a foamier reaction when in contact with hydrogen peroxide. They were correct. Being a water wise school, we were impressed to see how loamy soil are not only a rich feeding ground for plants and many beneficial animals that live in the soil, we also learned that loamy soils organic material hold water better than clay or sand decreasing the amount of water needed to irrigate our plants. Being true to our permacultural ethics of people and earth care, we then looked at ways we could conserve and look after our finite natural resources like water and soil. In a small experiment, Julia showed how to mulch our soils with dry hay to protect our soils from erosion and evaporation and create a nice warm, moist environment where all the good guys like worms and decomposing bacteria want to hang out. One boy, Samkelo Mofokeng commented that earthworms strongly dislike being showered with soapy water. Now that he understands the ecological significance of earthworm, hopefully he will take greater care. After a session of theory, the children were itching to get out and get their hands dirty, Gardening enthusiasts Mrs Mkize and Ms Zuma along with project coordinator Mr Mphumula joined the soul buddies for an intensive session of garden. We planted Brinjil, Cabbage, Broccoli, Spinach, Lettuce and beetroot and winter seeds for a well-planned out year round harvest of crops.