This Eagle Scout project by Matthew McKellar created a garden makeover for the entrance to Union Chapel Elementary School in Platte County, Missouri, using native plants to turn a neglected space into both beautiful landscaping and an educational asset for the students. The garden serves as a native prairie plant demonstration garden, pollinator garden, and butterfly garden. The native plants do not require fertilizer and supplemental watering, so it also created a more resilient landscape border for the school.
As you can see in the “Before” photo below, the old garden was sparsely planted, provided no wildlife habitat, and suffered from erosion where water ran off the entrance patio. It also had hard soil containing fill material, so the first step in restoring the garden involved preparing the garden bed to remove weeds and improve the soil. After verifying that no utility lines crossed the garden, several existing plants were reused elsewhere and weeds were sprayed and later removed. Debris was then dug out of the garden bed, the soil was rototilled, and compost tilled into the soil to provide organic matter and improve soil texture.
The landscape plan addressed several considerations. The garden is on the north side of the building so the front half of the garden is sunny and the back half shaded part of the year. The site is also on a slope so it is well drained. Plants were chosen for their sun-shade preferences for the front and back halves of the garden and we used plants that tolerated average to dry conditions. We also considered plant heights, trying to keep the majority to two to three feet tall to maintain visibility from the school entrance across the garden to the parking lot. The creek bed provides a decorative feature and fixed the erosion gully. The garden plan is below.
Like all gardens this one requires attention to keep it looking nice. Regular weeding is required to keep the crabgrass and bindweed under control. The plants are cut back in late winter and some of the seed heads are dead-headed in late summer. Several of the plants, especially coreopsis and coneflowers spread through seed drop, so excess volunteer plants are removed each spring as well.
Professional volunteers who assisted the project came from The Backyard Bird Center http://backyardbirdcenter.com/, The Platte Land Trust https://plattelandtrust.org/, and Burroughs Audubon Society of Kansas City http://burroughs.org/.