In fall of 2007, the landscape architecture firm of April Philips Design Works, Inc. and the landscape construction company of Cagwin & Dorward, in conjunction with Dixie Elementary School and numerous donors and volunteers, completed a Rain Garden in the drop off loop at Dixie Elementary School in San Rafael, California. The beautification project is a demonstration garden that educates the students and community about ecology, sustainability, as well as being a case study garden to advance sustainable landscaping industry practices beyond the current status quo. We especially wish to thank the Dixie Home and School Club and the Dixie School District for their generosity and support.

Located in a 3,800 sq foot median within the school’s main entry and vehicular drop-off, the derelict looking landscape had never been developed or planted due to insufficient school funding and water conservation requirements. The design team chose to design a garden that would reflect its Mediterranean, coastal bioregion and meet the following goals: 100% zero waste, pesticide free, rely on predominantly native vegetation, use only organic soil amendments to increase permeability and water retention of the local soils. In addition, to use only local recycled and salvaged materials, total reliance on seasonal rain water instead of irrigation and to be designed and built by 100% volunteer effort in order to be economically viable.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spaghetti in the soil?

Throughout the summer, the team has been observing the Loop with it's plants, soil, and other visiting creatures. One very interesting thing that has occured has been found around the grasses' roots and the surrounding soil. They are thin, long threads or strands like spaghetti, which push their way between soil particles, roots, and rocks. These strands are called hyphae and are microscopic cells of Fungi.
Fungi perform important services related to water dynamics, nutrient cycling, and disease suppression. Along with bacteria, fungi are important as decomposers in the soil food web. They convert hard-to-digest organic material into forms that other organisms can use.Fungal hyphae physically bind soil particles together, creating stable aggregates that help increase water infiltration and soil water holding capacity. The type found on the Dixie Loop's plants are mycorrhizal fungi, which colonize plant roots. In exchange for carbon from the plant, mycorrhizal fungi help solubolize phosphorus and bring soil nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen, micronutrients, and perhaps water) to the plant.
So! The spaghetti looking web in the soil helps our plants and shows a healthy, living soil.

Mycorrhizal Fungal Hyphae on the roots of a young pine tree, which grew in a container.