FALLBROOK – Volunteers are what make it happen. Save Our Forest calls it “The Big Dig.” The two-year program that began in 2004 starts at the fourth-grade level in all five Fallbrook Union Elementary School District schools and teaches students more about their community, its rural qualities, how they can help promote conservation and protect the environment.
The students plant young native plants into gallon-sized pots which are grown for a year to gain enough roots system to survive on their own.
The next year the students take a field trip to a preserve where volunteers help them plant them. The fifth-grade students dig in and prepare a site for their plants. Some know how to use the shovel and how to get the plant out of the pot, but some do not. Volunteers are each assigned to work with students in small groups to get the plant off to a good start. This year’s planting was done at Los Jilgueros Preserve on South Mission Road.
The first planting site in 2005 was near Live Oak School in the Biological Preserve immediately west of the school playground at Dallas Street. That year they planted trees in cooperation with San Diego County to vegetate the Open Space Requirement to protect the wetlands adjacent to the a nearby housing development.
Since then, Save Our Forest has added all other in-town schools and partners with the Fallbrook Land Conservancy’s committee, The Native Plant Restoration Team. They use their knowledge and work at the preserves to prepare for the plantings.
Permaculture methods have been implemented as well, including creating swales to capture and sink rainwater and hugelkultur, which involves layering old wood with native soil to retain moisture and slowly decay, feeding the plants over time. This care has improved survival rates tremendously.
The aim for students is to help restore the preserves, which were formerly groves, to native growth.
Submitted by Save Our Forest.