Eco Centro working to improve campus gardens, flow of water

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Cecile Parrish, Sinkin Eco Centro farm and garden coordinator, stands in front of a flower garden south of Chance. Parrish said the center is growing plums, peaches and fig trees in the garden to help the area absorb water by rooting the soil. Travis Doyle

Eco Centro is landscaping four areas of campus.

By Travis Doyle

The staff of Sinkin Eco Centro is improving campus landscaping by adding native plants, herbs and fruits to multiple areas of campus to attract pollinators.

“The ultimate goal with SAC that we’re working with the president and vice president on right now is that they want San Antonio College to have the most pollinator-friendly, native and edible landscaping of the community colleges,” Cecile Parrish, Eco Centro’s farm and garden coordinator, said in an interview March 19.

The first garden the center worked on is a 2,200-square-foot gully south of Chance Academic Center between the center and the nursing complex.

Staff at the center began to plan the landscaping in the spring of 2018, and they started planting in the fall.

Before the area was renovated, whenever there was excessive rain, the water flooded onto walkways and attracted mosquitoes, Parrish said.

“It was such a mosquito issue that the mosquitoes were coming in when people were opening campus doors,” she said.

The area used to be so dense with hard soil and bedrock that when it rained the soil would not absorb water fast enough, and the water would jump the drain and flood the main campus.

“By putting in the rock and root systems here, we made it so water rushing across the soil actually soaks in,” she said.

Parrish said after the root systems loosened up the soil, the ground allowed water to be absorbed faster while it is moved across the gully.

“Our goal was to show the community and the campus that you can solve drainage issues sometimes with low-impact design, rocks and channel design and native flowers,” Meredith Miller, Sinkin Eco Centro director, said in an interview March 7.

The garden is also home to bluebonnets, Blackfoot daisies, prairie verbena, twist-leaf yucca, skeleton-leaf golden eye, a blackberry bush, peach, plum and fig trees.

Miller said fruits and herbs grown in the areas around this college will be available for students to pick off of the trees.

Signage will be placed around the plants to inform students what produce can be taken.

“We can at least make sure that as you’re walking from class to class or walking back to your car on your way home, you can get something right there, something local, something easy, something that you can just grab,” she said.

Miller said she hopes the fruit trees by the basin will be producing fruit by May or June.

“One of our goals with eco is to show that food production and agriculture can happen on a very small scale also, and in an urban environment, it makes a lot of sense,” Parrish said.

Parrish said she hopes changes such as this will create wildlife habitats for animals, birds, bees and butterflies.

The other three gardens the center is working on are west of Loftin Student Center, west of the five-level parking garage east of Chance and in beds lining the sidewalk to the north entrance of the Victory Center.

The pollinator and herb garden by Loftin grows blue sage, wormwood, thyme, garlic chives, sage and more.

The parking garage pollinator garden has Copper Canyon daisy, lemon beebalm, mistflowers, Turk’s cap, prairie verbena and more.

The pollinator garden at the Victory Center has switch grass, eastern gama grass, mealy blue sage, butterfly weed and rosemary.

“We’ve been systematically going around campus looking at each building (to determine) what would be the most appropriate type of garden,” Miller said.

For more information, contact the center at 210-486-0417.


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