Woolly School Garden, a vertical landscape for kids


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I’ve been smitten with Woolly Pockets ever since they came on the market in the spring of 2009. The fuzzy, brightly colored planters create an instant vertical garden without any complicated construction. Just fill the pockets with dirt, pop in a seedling or some seeds, and water. They’re simple, they look great and they’re green -- made of recycled plastic bottles.

You’d expect to see them at homes, restaurants, hotels and even certain stores, but I was surprised to learn that over the last year the pockets have also been installed in more than 200 schools across the country.


Miguel Nelson, the sculptor who invented Woolly Pockets, was inspired to create the Woolly School Garden program after hearing Alice Waters in the summer of 2009. The concept is simple: For $1,000 a school can order a complete Woolly School Garden with 50 pockets, vouchers for Gardener’s Gold potting soil, seeds and curriculum ideas. Nelson said a teacher and students should need just a few hours to install a Woolly School Garden, and because the pockets can be hung on any wall or chain-link fence, there are no additional costs.

“It’s not like you need a lot of land or to bulldoze concrete,” Nelson said. “A lot of school gardens can cost over $100,000 to put in.”

This week Nelson was helping to install the Woolly School Garden at Santee and Frida Kahlo high schools, two adjacent campuses in downtown L.A. Nelson and his team aren’t usually on hand for installations, but this was a special occasion: They had been invited to put in these gardens by the city’s Million Trees L.A. program. By the time I arrived, the pockets were already filled with herbs, squash, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions and nasturtium, and kids had already had a tutorial on how to take care of the plants.

Nelson wants to have 11,000 Woolly School Gardens installed by 2011, serving as an outdoor classroom to teach science, health, even mathematics. Regardless of whether the students learn anything from having the pockets on campus, they looked fabulous.

-- Deborah Netburn

Photos, from top: The newly installed Woolly School Garden at Frida Kahlo High School; a student watering the pockets at nearby Santee. Credit: Woolly School Garden

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