Grow Your Own

Growing garden ecosystems at home and at school.

 

Transform our urban environment into a vibrant ecosystem by creating a diverse garden network. Through gardening, we encourage our community to rebuild their connection to food and the natural world — all while contributing to a healthier ecosystem.

School garden leaders – click HERE for resources especially for you!

The Magic of Community Starts in Schools!
Grow / Solutions

The Magic of Community Starts in Schools!

A Letter from Evan

By partnering with a school, empowering leaders, and cultivating a garden, we are able to impact not just the students, but the parents, teachers, and entire community.

I’m Evan Marks, founder and visionary behind The Ecology Center. I traveled the world managing and designing farms before deciding that the place I could make the most impact was where I grew up — Orange County. The community that came together around this idea successfully transformed a dirt lot and vacant historical home into a vibrant ecological oasis in just a few years.

We decided to put the change we’d like to see throughout our community in action here. By creating The Ecology Center as a model of ecological design, we use our space to educate and inspire individuals to transform their homes, workplaces, and schools.

Although we apply a variety of solutions towards creating a more positive future, we have come to realize that schools are a powerful hub for community change. One of our most established programs, Grow Your Own!, is a support network that helps to start and maintain school gardens in dozens of local schools. By partnering with a school, empowering leaders, and cultivating a school garden, we are able to impact not just the students and their habits, but the parents, teachers, and entire community.

Kids consistently inspire us with their creative thinking around ecological designs. By empowering the youngest among us to be the leaders of the future, we generate exponential benefit throughout the community.

These students then take the knowledge home — they push their parents and relatives to think differently about our relationships to the natural world and each other. We then get the joy of seeing parents and teachers join our community to begin their own eco-journey through workshops, events, and festivals at The Ecology Center.

It is for this reason that we treasure our relationships with local schools. Throughout the years, we continue to invest in these partnerships and evolve our efforts to support the community. This is also why we are absolutely thrilled to announce a partnership with Alice Waters’ organization the Edible Schoolyard Project. The Edible Schoolyard Project has provided support, curriculum, and healthy meals for decades to school children throughout America. It is an honor to stand alongside them in support of edible education and vibrant schoolyards.

There’s something magical that happens when a young mind inspires change. Leading up to our annual fundraiser Green Feast, we’ll be celebrating school gardens alongside our new partners. We are excited to share with you accessible garden curriculum for teachers, an interview with Alice & the Edible Schoolyard Project, and continuing inspiration around our shared mission: a garden in every school.

Join us. The future is abundant!

In gratitude,

Evan Marks
Executive Director, The Ecology Center

Grow / Services

Make your home into an oasis!

The Ecology Center will send out an experienced Eco-Designer to transform your space into a vibrant ecosystem.

Grow / Solutions

10 Ways Urban Farms Benefit the Community

From backyard beekeeping to roof-top vegetable gardens, community spaces, front yard orchards, and window boxes — urban farmers grow where they are.

 
Scott Sporleder, Photographer
Grow / For Teachers

Grow Your Own!

Our school garden program works to connect students, parents, and educators to create healthy, vibrant communities.

Grow / Curriculum / For Teachers

Resources for School Garden Educators

Are you a school garden teacher, administrator, or volunteer? Whether you are an experienced garden leader or just starting out, we have resources and curriculum specifically for you.

DIY / For Teachers / Grow

Garden Design Best Practices

Learn how to cultivate a garden that is diverse, stable, and resilient.

 
 

To start, here are some guidelines:

Place things in relationships and make connections
  • The way you arrange things in your garden design can greatly reduce the amount of work you do and the resources you need. For example, locating your chickens in the orchard will fertilize the trees and feed the chickens at the same time.
Draw inspiration from natural systems
  • You are designing an ecosystem, so copy what nature does best. For example, a thick layer of mulch mimics the leaf litter in a forest- it protects your plants, directs water, and looks good. Companion planting helps your plants obtain proper nutrients and remain bug-free.
Use full-circle loops
  • Ideally, your waste products find a second life. For example, plant debris and veggie scraps provide nutrients for healthy soil when composted in a pile or worm bin.
Create abundance and surplus
  • Increase the stability of your garden system by selecting items that have multiple benefits. For example, a fruit tree provides a sweet seasonal treat and surplus for winter canning. It also cools buildings in the summer and provides habitat for shade-loving plants to grow beneath it.
Start small
  • Design your garden to accommodate all your wishes, and plan to build in phases as you obtain more resources.
Use appropriate technology and time-tested, low-impact methods
  • For example, instead of starting with an expensive hydroponics system that depends on a constant supply of outside materials, try to become an expert in natural fertilizers first. You can make nutrient-rich compost and worm tea with ingredients from your own garden.
Reinforce your jobs
  • Your garden should be a resilient system, which means your basic needs are covered no matter what. For example, with watering, combine hand-watering with drip irrigation. This way, plants still get water even if one method breaks down.
 
DIY / Grow

Plant With The Seasons

A regional planting chart for Southern California.

DIY / For Teachers / Grow

Construct a Veggie Box

Build your own veggie box planter and grow your own food anywhere!

DIY / Grow

How to Test Your Soil

Identify your soil composition using the jar method.

DIY / Grow / Solutions

How to Start a Worm Bin

Composting at home is simple. Learn how you can get started.

Tools to Dig In

A few of our favorite hand tools for cultivating an organic garden that thrives.

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