A garden for gibbons
Today we had a great group of kids come out to our sanctuary and plant some winter veggies for our gibbons.
Their project was part of the annual Trident United Way volunteer bonanza known as the Day of Caring. The kids are from the University School of the Lowcountry, and their school has sent us volunteers in the past to help us out with special tasks.
This year, they planted a winter vegetable garden for our gibbons. The land that the main part of the IPPL sanctuary is located on was once mostly a sod farm. Apparently, that former owner took his sod—and a lot of the topsoil, too—when he left, decades ago. What soil that remains is either sandy or (in the low-lying spots) full of clay. This means—as we have discovered—that trees, shrubs, and vines can do OK with a little extra attention, but growing crops straight out of the ground is a challenge. We tried planting a vegetable garden of tomatoes and peppers a few years ago and watermelons last year, but they all failed to thrive in spite of plenty of sun and water.
So this time we are going to try some raised beds that have been filled with bags of topsoil that we bought for this purpose. Samantha supervised a team of four kids, two teachers, and two parents as they stripped the current layer of grass off of a couple of rectangular patches in the middle of the main gibbon yard. (The dads were really helpful with this part of the project, which is harder than it sounds!)
Our staff had built up a couple of bedding frames, and our volunteer team got the frames into place and filled them with the topsoil mix.
The kids then planted rows of collards, beets, lettuce, kale, cabbage, onions, radishes, and microgreens.
Except for the collards, we are starting all our veggies from seed. Fingers crossed, these will all turn into veggies that will make an appearance in future gibbon breakfasts.
One of the girls said that, now that she has experience planting a garden here, she feels she can try this at home, too.
She also thought she might be able to write a book about gibbons—so it sounds like Sam did a great job of passing along lots of information about gibbons in addition to gardening tips.
During lunch, the kids shared with me some of the fun facts they had learned—how gibbons come in a variety of colors; how they’re territorial; how they can travel as fast as 35 mph through the trees; how males and females have different calls. They also got to learn about individual differences—they thought Helen was a very intelligent looking gibbon and were impressed with Elsa’s ability to catch treats that were tossed to her.
That’s the kind of thing you have to go outside a classroom to learn!