Children get the dirt at Earth Day Festival

VISTA — Tucked near the back of Brengle Terrace Park on April 25 was an Earth Day Festival packed with new developments for the community. Alta Vista Gardens hosted a day full of speakers and vendors showing the public different ways to interact with, learn about, or contribute to the environment and awareness of it. It was also the gardens’ big unveiling of renovation plans for the newly named children’s garden.
The new plans call for a triangular, sloping patch of fenced-in grass to undergo a radical change. Upon entering, trees will abound, with pathways leading to various themed sub-gardens, such as a scent garden filled with flowers, a sensory garden, a bird garden and the centerpiece of a butterfly garden.
The butterfly garden is not to attract butterflies, but rather is shaped like one, with planters forming a pair of wings and a pond in between them as the body. An outdoor studio, kite sculpture and other sections will round out the completed plans.
“This is great for kids to be active to learn about living and growing things,” Nancy Jones, a retired teacher and volunteer with Alta Vista Gardens, said. “For me, as a former teacher, focusing on a studio with a storage unit will let me teach composting and show them how to plant an edible garden. It’s a great way to reach out to the community.”
While the fundraising portion of the festival only raised about $7,000, Jones said money wasn’t everything. “Today was more about awareness, to let people know we are here and that we are going to be developing the garden for kids,” she said.
The garden was primarily designed by Bryan Morse from Expanding Horizons as the artist/designer, and Todd Cure’ as the landscape architect from Earth Sculpture Designs. However, parts of the garden were conceived by children from the community.
“We announced the winner for the new design of the garden today,” Don Nelson, a board member and chairman of the Children’s Committee for the Alta Vista Gardens, said. “We had 250 entries from kids in at least eight schools. ‘Bugs, Birds and Butterflies’ was the name that was chosen for it.” The winning name was entered by 6-year-old Haley Lindsay of Alamosa Park Elementary.
The winner of the design contest was 10-year-old Joel Acosta from Foothill Oak Elementary, who designed the aforementioned butterfly-shaped garden with a water feature.
Punctuating the day’s festivities were various talks about conservation, gardening aesthetics and environmental awareness. One such presentation was aimed at children specifically — Winifred Mesier’s story “Roxy the Recycling Robin and the Mystery of the Missing Trees.” It introduced the themes and importance of environmental stewardship to children in an entertaining and engaging manner. Geared toward empowerment, it left a message of responsibility for the children to absorb early on.
Another vital attraction was the vendors at the festival. The sale of plants was a primary focus. Many succulents were on display, which was fitting considering the water shortage North County may be facing in the coming months. Other vendors were tangentially related, like Tastefully Simple’s gourmet foods, which were condensed sauces or dips that only needed one or two ingredients to make whole. Artracks sold brightly colored birdhouses in geometric shapes, giving their wares an almost modernist touch.
Vendors from HomeLife Hydroponics were also present. “Plants usually find all their foods in the soils,” Chris Mathewson with HomeLife Hydroponics said. He explained that they add the nutrients to the water, which is then recirculated in the greenhouse.
“You can grow anything as long as the root mass won’t be too large,” Mathewson said. “Roots act not just to feed, but (also) as support. You could have a dwarf citrus, but an avocado — a major produce crop — would be too hard to do. But it usually grows at about three times faster and has probably three times more yield, depending on where you’re growing.”
“We want (the children) to become familiar with gardening and just become involved in it — getting their hands on the garden, the plants and seeing where their food comes from,” Jones said. “We just want to introduce them to the garden, and let their interest grow from there.”

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