Category: School and childrens’ Gardening


rhsc-allotOverview
Thanks to a new wave of Year 12 volunteers, two very kind parents (Mr Fox and Mr Southgate), Mr Crick and his construction group, Mrs Brook and her ‘Care of the Countryside group’, Roy the horse poo man, Mike and Keith and Whitwell Railway station, Malcolm at Reepham Hardware store, the wisdom and help of Mr Nigel Boldero, the kind donations of unwanted garden tools from staff, students and parents, Mr Ernie Adams and the site team and, of course, our regular Saturday volunteers, the winter work is now very nearly at end down at the allotment site. Without these people, the Allotment Project would not be developing as quick and with so much dedication and devotion for a third year since February 2015.

The raised beds
We have made some major improvements to the raised beds. Due to the fact the water table is very shallow and often causing us some flooding issues, we have had to make the raised beds even higher. On our largest raised bed we used a technique borrowed from the ‘permaculture’ gardener Sepp Holzer whereby we buried dead branches and leaves under top soil. This not only aides drainage but it will create long lasting nutrients as this organic matter rots away over time.

r1Just before the start of the February half-term, and thanks to Whitwell Railway Station, we used more kindly donated railway sleepers to heighten two other small raised beds. Again, this means we will be growing crops well above the water table and we will be able to create our own new fertile soil that it not clay based (the allotment site mainly sits on clay).

r2The soak away/rainwater catcher/harvester
In an effort to be super green and sustainable we continue to work towards supplying the allotment site with its own water supply by catching rainwater from surface runoff. Thanks to Mrs Brook’s ‘Care of the Countryside’ group, Mr Crick’s construction group, Mr Southgate’s brick donations and of course the Year 12 volunteers who dug the whole another metre deeper, we now have a much more soundly made and reliable soak away area to harvest rainwater. This water will soon be pumped out using a simple solar powered pump into our two 1000 litre containers.r3

The polytunnel
Everything has been reorganised in the polytunnel and everything is now ready for the new growing season. There are two new raised beds, using old wooden pallets, to hopefully grow tomatoes again for a second time. These new raised beds mean we no longer have to buy and use grow bags as the tomato plants will have all they need from the soil we have created for them.

r7The fruit cage
The Year 12 volunteers have improved the inside and outside of the fruit cage. Many thanks to Mr Southgate for donated unwanted bricks which we used to make a new path so the strawberries don’t get trampled on! The ceiling of the fruit cage was also raised so volunteers no longer have to crouch!

r9Other pathways
As we are getting more volunteers it was only sensible and practical to improve access to the allotment site. Thanks to the College Enrichment group a new path has been built using old broken bricks (thanks again Mr Southgate) as a drainage layer and paving slabs kindly donated by Mr Raggett. This means no more muddy and slippery paths in and out of the allotment.

r10Compost and horse manure
In an effort to be even more sustainable and green, we have started to create our own compost area. This is made using green waste from the allotment and leaves kindly gathered by the site team and the contractors Countrywide. Old straw bales, food waste/tea bags from the staff room/canteen and those who fly-tip the countryside have also all been composted. Thanks to Roy (the horse poo man) from Reepham Rotary Club we have been well supplied with ancient horse manure that is fantastic for growing our produce in. Thanks a million Roy.

r11r12Chicken coop
Hopefully by March we will have a small brood of chickens down at the allotment site. All preparations are being made to build the chicken coop on a limited budget. Most of this will be paid for by the East of England Coop token scheme which is currently operating in Briston and Melton Constable Coop stores. Thanks to Callum Pell who kindly donated a disused and battered old children’s playhouse. Thanks mainly to Mr Fox, this playhouse has been reassembled and will soon to become a new chicken house for the chickens to live in and lay their eggs. Molly Brown (Year 12) has taken the lead on this mini-project and has organised obtaining some hens for us. We intend to sell these eggs to the school canteen for them to use in their cooking.

Spring 2017
Spring will be here soon which means will we will start sowing and propagating seeds in order to plant in our raised beds. Thanks to Solana (a local potato seed company) we have secured a great many seed potatoes that we will be planting in March when they arrive. In other news, we were approach by the company Adnams who run a ‘Food for Thought’ scheme. If we had decided to join up, it would have meant that Adnams would buy our produce and use it in their restaurants over East Anglia. They could have also given us £1000 on top of the money given in payment for our produce. After some careful thought, and an open discussion with our regular volunteers and others, it was decided that this would undermine the whole purpose of the Allotment Project. Food should be grown locally and for the local community nor should it have to travel hundreds/thousands of miles to get to us. This should be the message for the children to understand. Food production should be both sustainable and environmentally friendly. In time we are planning that more and more food can be sold to the school canteen. It would be amazing, maybe one day, if we could provide all food products for the school canteen. This remains a dream.

r15Thank you very much for taking the time to read this update. If you would like to help out one lunchtime for the younger volunteers I would be extremely grateful. I hope that this year, now that we are getting more and more established, there can be a shared responsibility amongst other staff to help run the Allotment Project. One person ‘running the show’ is not sustainable. There will be another seasonal update in the summer.
Thank you again for taking the time to read about the ‘goings on’ down at the Allotment Project.

Matt Willer
Staff volunteer at RHSC’s Allotment Project

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c2w1drbwgaasqt_-jpg-largeMore progress to report at the food growing project at the local high school in Reepham.

Teacher Matt Willer and his colleagues have started to broaden out the participation of students at the project, most recently extending this to a group focused on ‘Care of the Countryside’, who also carry out regular sessions at a local Field Study Centre. by all accounts this was a great success, with the students putting in a full shift to improve the recently dug soakaway.

Another recent project has been to create a brick path using recycled bricks. It’s planned to fill in the gaps with some fine wood  chippings.

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Matt is also interested in the possibility of offering qualifications in association with a local college – and maybe also seeing the wider, unused site developed for more ‘full blown’ agriculture…all very relevant for this School set in the heart of rural Norfolk.

Oh, and a recent plea for surplus gardening equipment has resulted in a good number of additions to the project’s tool shed; I donated a wheelbarrow and selection of border and hand tools, which will also also give me a bit more space in my shed! Here’s just a few of the donations so far…

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Old School Gardener

 

dsc_1100551You may recall that I’ve become involved with a food growing project at the local high school in Reepham. ‘The Allotment Project’ is the brainchild of teacher Matt Willer who has put energy and ideas into action on a not very promising (very wet) plot at the back end of the School playing field.

Matt and his colleagues have got an enthusiastic group of students working regularly during lunch breaks, including most recently a group working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Matt kindly sent me an update which is very encouraging.

You might recall that I suggested that they might like to sow a ‘green manure’ to give cover and eventually added nutrition, toa large raised bed and Matt says the mustard plants are growing really well (see below).

dsc_1101Also, as you will see by the photographs, the Sixth Formers have done a great job at preparing the largest raised bed by using old bricks (donated by a parent who is a builder).

Matt is also now thinking of following Sepp Holzer’s very interesting idea of a raised bed, usually referred to as ‘Hugelkultur’ (see below). I have never seen this in practice and it would be great to experiment with this permaculture-inspired approach to ‘no dig’ food growing.

Another teacher at the School, Mr.Crick, and his construction group, have also joined in the project and built a compound around the well to make it a bit safer, more attractive and organised. You may recall in my earlier post on this project how Matt and the students have dug this well into which the playing field run off descends, and from here he plans to pump it into a large storage container from where it can be drawn off for irrigation.

I also hear that the broad beans I helped the children to sow are on the way up!

Old School Gardener

 

An active lunch hour at Reepham High School and College Allotment Project

An active lunch hour at Reepham High School and College Allotment Project

I’ve written a little about this Allotment Project before. Headed up by enthusiastic teacher Matt Willer, it provides pupils of all ages at Reepham High School and College with some extra curricular ‘outside classroom’ experience of growing food. I’ve offered to provide some help and the other day I spent an hour with them.

A lot of older boys turned up and Matt set them to shifting bark across the surrounds to some raised beds. Matt had also brought in two old car tyres he’d found, and these were duly filled with soil ready for planting up; another example of Matt’s creative approach to recycling in the project.

How many boys does it take to shift a pile of bark....

How many boys does it take to shift a pile of bark….

I was pleased to see some faces that I recognised from a few years ago, when I was providing help at nearby Cawston Primary School; it was good to see these youngsters had retained their interest in growing. It was also nice that they also recognised me!

Another good thing was to see that Matt had taken my ideas of sowing some green manure on a couple of large raised beds, and that the mustard seeds had germinated and hopefully will go on to cover the ground and be ready to dig in early next spring.

Apart from the many boys, some other teachers (one of whom I’d worked with on gardening at the school a couple of years ago)  brought a group of girls down who are part of an extra curricuar group interested in science and technology. I worked with them to sow some broad beans in four raised beds, explaining why we sow now, the benefits of broad beans (apart from the delicious flavour) and we prepared the soil, measured out rows, sowed and labelled each row. We even had a few seeds left so that they could take a personal plant home in a pot and see how their’s grows in comparison with those put in at the Allotment.

For once, a picture of me talking to the girls about broad beans...yawn

For once, a picture of me talking to the girls about broad beans…yawn

It was good fun and I look forward to my next session there.

Old School Gardener

I’m pleased to share part of an article featuring a gardening project at my local High School, where I helped with an initial gardening group some years ago. This article, from Permaculture Magazine, decribes how Matt Willer has used ingenuity and ‘scroungeabilty’ to establish a thriving school allotment…to read the full article you need to subscribe to the magazine, which I’ve just done. It’s a great read!

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Old School Gardener

 

 

 

toddler-gardening‘My father mistrusted gardeners- they dig up all one’s best plants, he avowed- and would not have one anywhere about the place, so always I was commandeered to do the weeding and clearing that bored him. ‘When I grow up I’ll never, never, never have a garden’, I resolved, as day after day I uprooted daisies from the tennis court or tidied the edges of the paths. And I meant it. But now that there is no force to command me but the needs of the garden itself, I am happy with it.’

Clare Leighton 1935

Ther RHS national schools science project starts this week

Today (18 April) British astronaut Tim Peake sent a special message from space to the hundreds of thousands of children who will be beginning our Rocket Science project in partnership with the UK Space Agency experiment this week.

Tim, who delivered the message from the International Space Station where he’s been since December, wished the 600,000 young people signed up to the experiment good luck with their investigations into the impact of micro-gravity and space travel on seed germination and growth. The results will help to form a clearer picture of the potential for astronauts to grow their own food to sustain them on long-term missions.

Speaking while 400km above the surface of the Earth, Tim said:

“This is a really exciting week for the hundreds of thousands of young people across the country who will begin their Rocket Science experiments. I’d like to wish everyone taking part the best of luck with their investigations and I look forward to seeing some of the results.

“It’s possible that among those pupils taking part in the project are the young people who will help mankind reach the next big milestones in space exploration for the benefit of people on Earth. I hope the RHS Campaign for School Gardening’s Rocket Science experiment will spark curiosity and wonder amongst young people who may become the next generation of horticultural scientists.”

With more than 8,600 schools and educational groups poised to begin their Rocket Science experiment this week, the project is now among the biggest mass science experiments conducted in UK schools.

Rocket Science will see school pupils across the country spend 35 days analysing the growth and development of two batches of seemingly identical rocket seeds. However, one batch of seeds has spent time in space with Tim on the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth at 17,000mph. The aim of the experiment is to enthuse young people about science and horticulture and provide the European Space Agency with key insights into some of the challenges of growing food in space.

Results of the experiment will be published later in the year but keep an eye on our website, Facebook page and Twitter page for updates!

Source: RHS

 

WP_20150524_13_47_31_Pro To Walter Degrasse

29th May 2015

Dear Walter

Looking back to my letter to you at this time last year, I see that various things were further ahead, especially in the ornamental garden and to some extent vegetables. But it’s still a lovely time of year, with fresh green growth everywhere and other emerging colours in flower and foliage.

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I was out weeding today and planting out some Cosmos, tobacco plants and ornamental grasses, just before the rain came to helpfully water them in. I finally got round to weeding (for the first time this year) an area at the front of the garden which was in danger of becoming overgrown with ground elder, nettles and the like- it was a relief to see it cleared and the strong growth of the shrubs and other plants there coming through, hopefully to invade the space that I’ve created. Whilst I was out a group stopped by the gate and were talking about the garden- after bidding them good morning they were very complimentary about the garden, which is always nice to hear.

Elsewhere in the garden I’m just about up to speed on the food front. Broad beans are podding up nicely, I’ve some Calabrese, Cabbage and onions bulking up. The potatoes are up above ground (I’ll earth these up next week), and I’ve just put out some squash (interplanted with the onions) and Sweet Corn. I don’t know if you watch the gardening programme ‘Beechwood Garden’ (shown early Sunday mornings on BBC 1), but they are trialling different approaches to growing tomatoes in a greenhouse. I was very interested to see the use of as specially designed ‘aquaponic’ system where the plants sit in pots with a wick in then that is dipped in a reservoir underneath in which you out the diluted feed. I’ve decided to buy the ‘Quadgrow’ system which I think is the one the TV programme is using, and can;t wait to get this set up next week. I’ve got 8 good looking tomato plants from my friend Steve to put in as well as the usual cucumber and peppers he’s kindly given me.

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So, Old School Garden, in spite of me being away for much of the month, seems to be shaping up nicely. Oh, I almost forgot, I finally cut back the Melianthus having had a couple fo flower spikes go over. It’s interesting seeing how small the new growth is compared to last year when I cut it back much earlier. I wonder if it will catch up!

As I’ve been away a lot I haven’t been in to Gressenhall or Blickling much. you may have seen my post about my latest sessions at Blickling earlier in the week. I also spent a couple fo hours at Gressenhall, doing a bit of tidying up and planting out a few annuals in the gaps in one of the borders there as well as the entrance border, which I was pleased to see looking good, with purple Alliums contrasting well with the newly maroon red foliage of the Cotinus. The grasses in this border have done really well, in fact they might be in danger of unbalancing the design, so a bit of ‘editing’ might be required here.

 

Well, as you read this we shall be back in Devon once more, hopefully finally sorting out a flat for my mother-in Law and getting some bulky items moved across so that she can move in once she’s out of hospital. Oh, and no doubt there’ll be a bit of lawn cutting and weeding to be done in her current garden, to prepare the way for selling the place.

I do hope that you and Lise are enjoying the lovely Spring weather and managing to get out and enjoy your garden, especially now that you’ve got a gardener in to help you manage it. All the best for this month old friend.

Old School Gardener

 

 

 

 

SteveHere’s a link to a nice little film about this project which my Master Gardener friend Steve has helped to set up and develop. A great example of the generations working with each other.

Steve has run many growing sessions that bring together old and young members of the community for their mutual benefit. He played a key role in establishing the Project in autumn 2011 with children from Catton Grove Primary School, older volunteers from Age UK, and staff from Mile Cross library, Norwich.

As well as learning about growing food in a sustainable manner, the project helps older people enhance their social contact and sense of purpose, and provides children with mentoring and adult role models. Steve recalls,

“I delivered a presentation at Catton Grove School for the kids (yrs 4 and 5), teachers, and residents from sheltered housing close to the Library. There were 30-40 kids present and 7 potential volunteers. From that we got a few design ideas and a list of vegetables, herbs and flowers that they’d most like to grow.”

Old School Gardener

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