Mulch makes a difference at school in drought-stricken California
The newly built Newcomb Academy in the Long Beach Unified School District opened its doors for the 2015/2016 school year in September.
During the two years that the new facility was under construction, students and staff relocated to the district’s old Keller Elementary School site. Newcomb Academy’s principal, Wendy Sowinski, says that while they didn’t face too many difficulties at the interim school, they are looking forward to the new campus.
“We didn’t have a field at Keller Elementary, but we made do with what we had,” Sowinski says. “Our kids have ‘can-do’ attitudes, but I’m glad we will have a brand new field and gym for them.”
The new facility also includes all-new grounds. The school district is benefiting from a state-of-the-art landscape that withstands the daily rigors of a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school, while helping save water to meet the stringent water restrictions imposed because of California’s 4-year drought.
The project landscaper, Land Engineering, turned to Agromin, an Oxnard, Calif.-based producer of mulches, soil conditioners and other sustainable products. Agromin supplied 200 tons of its ES-2 mulch for use in planter boxes, around trees and in open spaces. The firm also provided 20 tons of its Garden Humus to amend the soil to give newly planted vegetation and trees the right start.
Garden Humus is designed for sandy soils. It adds natural organic humus while rebuilding the soil. Its structure introduces nutrients and microbes to promote healthy plant growth.
“The design goal for Newcomb Academy was specifically to save water and to create the least amount of future maintenance while still looking good,” says John Kay, owner of Land Engineering.
The mulch was applied in August. Agromin’s ES-2 is made from organic recycled material collected weekly from residents’ green recycling barrels. The company removes non-green items (i.e., plastic bags, metals) from the material. It is then chopped and put into long composting rows where microorganisms and nature transform the material into compost in about 60 days.
The microorganisms and the high temperatures within the material during the composting process kill any harmful pathogens and weeds. When applied to landscapes, this aesthetically pleasing mulch holds in moisture and keeps the soil cool so less water is needed for the surrounding vegetation. It also helps reduce erosion.
Since landscaping is one of the biggest water users, more and more government and educational facilities in California are removing turf and replacing it with drought-tolerant landscaping where mulch is a primary component.