In 2016, we started a project in partnership with Dulce Municipal School, Projeto Rede. Our aim is to promote an innovation process through proposals for Integral Development focused on Ecological Literacy.
When we arrived at the school, we held a few meetings with the school community and some proposals for workshops focused on both the contact with nature and the creation of educational spaces that were in fact sustainable came up at the time. Thenceforth we began to build edible gardens and agroforestry garden in order to promote a connection between students and living green spaces. And to better understand the characteristics of the place, the climate and the soil quality for these gardens we have counted on the ecologist Tainara de Proença Nunes, who is part of the Projeto Rede educators team.
“More than building an edible garden and a healthy and productive vegetable garden that offers organic food for everyone, we understand that the construction process also brings health benefits, helps in understanding the life cycles and contributes to the development of the ability to care for and respect nature, as well as caring for the people around” says Tainara.
Every place has its characteristics, its strengths and weaknesses, which must be considered. Dulce school, for example, is located in a neighborhood that is still under construction and, for that reason, it’s common to find huge amounts of debris in the place. Instead of ignoring and discarding this material, we reuse everything that the site offers and produces, according to its conditions. What was formerly seen as waste can become material for the construction of an edible garden and an organic vegetable garden.
Another key point for the creation of this space is the soil quality. When starting a garden, we have to make sure that the soil is in good condition. The first characteristic to be observed is the color: the darker the soil, the more organic matter it has and the more alive it is. However, when the earth is light or reddish and sandy – when you pick it up you feel the soil slipping through your fingers – it means that it will be necessary to prepare and regenerate this soil so that one day it is possible to plant there. “To prepare the soil, it’s good to always add organic matter to the place and cover the soil with dry leaves, thus avoiding the loss of moisture. Gradually, this material decomposes and brings more and more life to the earth” explains the Ecologist.
Once this was done, we started choosing the plants and the arrangement of each one of them. At Dulce School, for example, we made a herb spiral, a garden shaped so as to copy nature’s patterns and make it more productive and functional by bringing together several interconnections that we can observe in natural environments in a single element. In the herb spiral it is possible to create microclimates and plant different species in the same ground, respecting the characteristic of each one of them and optimizing the space. At the top of the spiral, the environment is usually drier and sunny, while the underside is moister, ideal for plants such as mint.
In addition to conventional plants, we have a garden of PANCs (Unconventional Food Plants) to introduce new flavors to those who live in the school and to value foods that were previously consumed and are no longer used today. At Dulce School, for example, a multitude of plants and food like taioba, yam, turmeric, goldfish plant, hibiscus, sorrel were planted.