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3501 New York Ave NE
Washington, DC, 20002
United States


Washington Youth Garden

April Martin


Beautifying a School Garden, One Step at a Time

The school garden at John Burroughs Education Campus was relocated in July, right at the peak of the growing season.  The good news: the new location will provide a great deal more visibility and allow students and teachers better access to the outdoor garden classroom. The bad news: before being relocated to its permanent home, the garden beds were moved to an intermediate location on a far corner of the the school campus, closer to the street than to the school, and lacking direct access to a water source. What’s more, the new garden site, once a grassy niche of loveliness, quickly became a muddy niche of loose topsoil and clutter after the hardscaping elements (stone pavers, bricks, park benches, and picnic tables) from the original garden were haphazardly stacked together at the new site.

A pile of 53 stone pavers, 35 bricks, 2 picnic tables, 2 park benches, and 5 raised garden beds filled with the near-dead remnants of a garden that endured nearly two weeks on a street corner during one of the hottest months on record in the DC area left a lot to be desired.

Returning the garden to it’s previous splendor in time for the start of the school year would take more than our school garden coordinator extraordinaire could do alone…But who could she possibly ask to help in the ghost town that is DC in August?

Fortunately, the timing of the relocation coordinated perfectly with 2012 Beautification Day, DC Public Schools’ annual “spruce up” day. With the help of nearly 30 volunteers, our school garden was mulched, manicured, and muscled into a beautiful oasis - and just in the nick of time for its debut to students, parents, faculty, and staff.

In less than 7 short hours, our superhuman team of volunteers took this school garden from dirty and disorganized to inspiring and idyllic. Tables and benches were arranged, a perennial bed was created, mulch was laid, young artists created new garden signage, old tree stumps found around the school campus became rustic seats in a new outdoor classroom, and - most remarkably - a new pathway leading from the entrance of the school to the garden was handcrafted, one “step"at a time out of the stone pavers that had been part of the original site.