Tag Archive: school

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


A Learning Through Landscapes film in which Sir David Attenborough explains how schools in England are facing tough decisions to accommodate a sharp rise in pupils. He strongly believes that making the choice to sacrifice their outdoor spaces will not only have a catastrophic effect on children’s connection with nature but also their learning, behaviour, health and well-being too.

More information: Learning Through Landscapes

Old School Gardener

Win a greenhouse for your School!

What is GYGG?
We’ve teamed up with TV gardener, David Domoney to launch Get Your Grown-ups Growing (GYGG) 2014. We are encouraging schools across the UK to host a GYGG event this October where they invite adults from the local community to help out in the school garden….’

Old School Gardener

WP_20140322_081Some of the wonderful planting at Queen’s Lower School for girls, Chester

Old School Gardener

I had a great day’s gardening with various groups of children at Cawston Primary School, Norfolk, last week. They made great progress with digging over the various borders, watering and transplanting- as well as each sowing runner bean seeds in aid of Dr. Barnardo’s. But in addition to these rather more mundane activities it was also possible do some ‘instant gardening’.

An old willow tree stump, removed from the side of the former pond to make way for the new one a couple of years ago, lies near the entrance to the garden and was, to be honest, a bit of an eyesore. Mrs. Brett, the ‘learning outside the classroom’, co-ordinator had a great idea to make this a feature by planting it up, so I bought various bulbs, primulas, anenomes and ferns, using some of the money raised from opening up Old School Garden to the public last year.

Ann, one of the parents, and I helped the children turn this into an attractive feature.  We cleared around the old stump and used other old branches to create ‘planting pockets’ in addition to those created by the roots of the stump and filled these with old soil from a nearby spoil heap. The plants were well watered in and there’s now a colourful, rather beautiful ‘floral sculpture’ to welcome us as we enter the garden!

Old School Gardener

Tree Grants for Schools and Community Groupsschool trees

‘Grant applications for the 2014 planting season are now open.

The Tree Council’s Tree Futures offers help for tree planting through two grants programmes, the ‘Trees for Schools‘ and ‘Community Trees‘ funds.  Any school or community group within the UK that is planning a project that actively involves children under 16 is encouraged to draw on the fund to plant trees and make a greener future.

The Tree Council’s National Tree Week (from 29 November to 7 December in 2014) is the focus for these projects and successful applicants organise their planting events in conjunction with our annual celebration of the new tree planting season.

In addition, we are offering funds for fruit tree planting by schools and community groups through our Orchard Windfalls fund, first launched for the 2013 planting season. We are able to fund projects between £100 and £700 and successful applicants will receive up to 75% towards their planting costs. For example, if your project totals £700, The Tree Council would offer up to £525. The remaining 25% will need to be secured by your school or organisation.

With the generous support of an anonymous donor we have been able to produce a Key Stage 1 & 2 teaching and learning resource which will be sent out free of charge to all successful grant applicants. To see taster pages and information about how to purchase the CD ROM please click on this Tree Ties link.’

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Veggy Heaven

from Gardenphotos.com, via Growveg

The Kitchen Garden at Old School Garden

The Kitchen Garden at Old School Garden

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

As I write to you on midsummer day it’s cloudy and rain threatens. We have had some warm spells and even some sunshine, but you get the feeling that ‘proper summer’ has yet to find its way to Norfolk. I know that you’ve had pretty similar weather in your neck of the woods and no doubt you’re as curious as me as to the way the ‘late’ (read almost non-existent) spring has had an impact on the plants. A few pointers from Old School Garden as I write:

  • the Magnolia is still in flower as are the Siberian Wallflowers, Pansies and Violas
  • Sweet Williams are just about coming into flower but the pink Peonies, though with huge fat flower buds, have yet to fully unfurl (having said that the earlier, red varieties have been and gone)
  • Irises are looking good (though last year’s Iris Rust problem has retuned to some)
  • Carrots and Broad beans probably need a further week or two to be fully ready for harvesting
  • Second early (but not first early) potatoes are flowering
  • Lettuces are ready to crop

So it’s a story of some things flowering late and running into other things which is making for some interesting combinations and a few weeks of intense colour; certainly the best show at this time of year I can remember for some time!

Rather than spend a lot of words telling you about my gardening activities in the last month I thought that I’d let ‘the pictures do the talking’ so I’ve included three photo galleries and will give you a few guiding comments for each. The first one is a few pictures of the Gardens at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, where the Education Garden I redesigned and with volunteer support, replanted last year is looking superb. A mass of pink and orange oriental poppies along with Salvia ‘Mainacht’  with the billowing leaves of Macleaya in the background, are putting on a wonderful show, remarked on by many visitors, it appears.

There’s a call for me to provide some information on the plants included in the borders, so I’ll have to dig out my original design and plant lists and put together some sort of illustrated guide. Likewise, after a clean out and weed, the Wildlife Garden, and especially the pond and bog areas, are filling out nicely, though there doesn’t appear to be much wildlife evident to date. Monday is going to be something special here as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ is being recorded at the Museum and I’ll be on hand to help guide the audience and provide some information on the gardens. I’m not sure when this is broadcast but I’ll let you know when I’m sure, though I know that you’re a regular listener like me.

My voluntary work at the local Primary school continues with a regular weekly slot working with groups of children of different ages in the School Garden. You may have seen my recent post on the vertical planters we’ve made out of old wooden pallets – these are looking very colourful alongside the playground and I’m pleased to say that the children are being diligent in their watering duties. I’m going over there later today so will have a quick look to see that they’re holding up – I’m not sure the compost will hold in place especially if it gets at all dry. At yesterday’s session we weeded around the various veg beds and cracked open the first pods of Broad Beans which the children eagerly popped into their mouths – once I’d assured them that they would be deliciously sweet and tender – there came  a predictable ‘hmmm, yummy’ in response!

The other crops are all coming along well, and the attention to regular weeding and watering has really paid off this year, so we should be cropping potatoes, onions, cabbages, calabrese, peas, runner and broad beans, turnips and carrots soon! The other big  job was to empty out the wooden compost bins which have been clogged up with grass, sticks and soil over the years and are in real need of starting over once more. Hopefully, we’ll get this finished off today and we can then get more of a systematic approach to adding food peelings etc. from the kitchen as well as ‘green waste’ from the school lunches. The wormery seems to be going well, and the School Cook is pleased that the refuse collectors are now collecting food waste for composting at a local centre, too.

My other Master Gardener activity is picking up a bit. I’m doing stints at the Norfolk Show next week and also an event in a nearby village where some Lottery cash looks like it’s going to make some new adult education classes possible, including something from me on growing your own food or maybe design, depending on the level of interest. I’m going along to an open day on this to gauge interest and promote both Master Gardener and the idea of the courses, so we’ll see if anything comes of that.

As far as Old School Garden goes, I’ve mentioned the great show we’ve had recently so will let the photographs give you the details! Its been a month of systematic weeding around the different borders, finishing off staking the herbaceous perennials, dead heading and recently planting out the many annuals I’ve een raising from seed to plug gaps etc. I must say I’m pleased with the result, and after visiting a few gardens recently we’ve decided to open ours for charity in mid July. I’ll let you have details in due course, but we hope to make this a lively afternoon with advice from  my friends in the Master Gardener and Master Composter projects and of course plant sales and some delicious tea and cakes!

I hope that you enjoy the picture gallery which shows a few shots of different parts of the garden taken yesterday. As I was walking around I spotted a female blackbird raiding my cold frame and carrying off some poppy seedlings (and compost) in her beak! Having seen her later in the courtyard garden I suspect she’s gathering material for a new nest! We do seem to have had a lot of Blackbirds this year and they seem intent on disturbing the wood chip mulch I put on the long borders in search of food, with the result that sweeping the paths is rapidly becoming a daily chore!

Well,  matey, I hope this little update finds you and your good lady in the best of health. It’s great that you’re now well on the road to recovery and no doubt pleased that you can get outside and dig your patch once more. Did you manage to find any paid garden help? I know that the grass cutting is your biggest nightmare and this is one thing you could do with some help on. Or maybe you might think about turning some of that grass into flowering meadow? I’ve seen some lovely examples of mown paths through long grass recently that must be less maintenance heavy and more wildlife friendly too – worth a thought.

Well, bye for now and I’ll give you a further update next month, though in the mean time I’ll do a post next week about how the recording of ‘GQT’ goes and my experiences at the Norfolk Show.

all the best

Old School Gardener

Other posts in this series:

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 20th May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 18th April May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 11th March 2013

Dear Walter… letter from Old School Garden: 15th February 2013

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Looking towards the Terrace and Orchard at Old School Garden

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Well, old friend, the morning has started under a veil of mist in Old School Garden, but it hopefully will lift later and we can have more of that elusive sunshine!

It’s been a very busy time in the garden and in my other gardening activities. They say that May is the busiest month in the garden, and so far I’d have to agree. In the last few weeks plants have started to catch up with the ‘slow seasons’ and there is a wonderful fresh greenness around and in the countryside beyond. I tend to wait until the end of May before putting out any tender plants and as a result, my greenhouse and cold frame are bursting with plants at various stages of growth. Hopefully I can move things on over the next couple of weeks so that I can make way for tomatoes and cucumbers (new seedlings kindly supplied by my friend Steve) in the greenhouse.


The Kitchen Garden is starting to fill out and every bed is now full with something (though the new Asparagus I planted last autumn is a ‘no show’ – maybe it drowned in all the winter wet or perhaps it’s just not strong enough to break the surface yet – there’s certainly Asparagus on sale locally). You remember I tried sowing carrots in modular pots last year and they were more or less a failure? I’d hoped that was due to the weather. Touch wood – those I sowed earlier this year and which I’ve now planted out, seem to have established well and are growing away. I invested in some outdoor polypipe as an experiment in building a structure to cover these with mesh (as a protection against Carrot Root Fly) and the result is looking like its doing a good job. I did a very simple job of slotting the pipe into some pipe brackets I’d fixed to wooden spacers screwed to the insides of my wooden raised bed and the new roof seems to be holding its curved shape quite well, though some roof – line reinforcement (perhaps with another length of pipe) may be required to ensure the structure survives the windiest weather. The Parsnip I sowed a couple of weeks ago in this bed also seems to have germinated, so I shall thin those shortly.

I’ve also tried a new design for the support of my Mangetout, creating a sort of angled arc which has 12 healthy plants at its foot ready to clamber their way up the netted structure (they grow to about 4 feet so I didn’t need anything very tall).


You remember that I planted my potatoes (well almost all of them) on 5th April, because that was deemed to be a beneficial date on the lunar calendar? Well, I haven’t got any way of making a scientific comparison, but these are now looking healthy, are well above ground and ready for ‘earthing up’. The reserve tubers which I put into a shadier spot a few weeks later have not yet broken through.

Early potatoes up and looking good

Early potatoes up and looking good

We’ve seen the return of ground elder – an annual event despite what seems like constant weeding. So I’ve been out doing a regular hour or two of hand weeding to try to systematically work my way around the borders, and with the recent rain and the addition of rotted wood chips to the soil, this is a very enjoyable and rewarding activity. It’s just lovely working your way through the soil, carefully ‘mining’ for the roots of the elder and gently easing it out of the ground – ‘just like archaeology’, as Deborah says! Though the flower borders are looking a bit like a wireless station at present (because of all the canes and string I’ve put out to support some of the bigger perennials), the new growth is gradually covering these and the garden is taking on a fuller look. I must keep on with the weeding!

With the lateness of spring the Tulips are still with us and they are making some very pleasant combinations with other plants in the garden. I’ve shown a few examples here.


Have you noticed any snail and slug activity yet? I’ve been very surprised that there seems to be very little obvious damage to Old School Garden as yet (compared to last year when it was disastrous). I did put down some pellets a few weeks ago, especially on the containers with Hostas in them and I’m very pleased that the new leaf growth appears to have virtually no signs of damage at all  – maybe these pellets did the job of killing off the young snails and slugs, though even so I haven’t seen many corpses around, so I’m thinking that maybe the very harsh winter weather did a good job in killing off those slugs and snails that would have normally over wintered. The Courtyard  looks good as a result, with the vine coming into to leaf and garlanding the walls and some new colour coming soon from some Sweet Williams I put into the containers alongside the Hostas.


On the wider front, I’ve continued to work with the children at my local Primary School, and as you may have seen in a recent article, I’m enjoying working on various projects with a group of 7 children on Friday afternoons. Yesterday at the School’s annual Fete, we managed to sell all of the hanging baskets that the children had planted up, so making around £40 profit that can go back into gardening activities. This event was also an opportunity to promote the Master Gardener and Master Composter schemes I’m involved with. A colleague, Jane and I manned the stalls for the afternoon, making  paper pots and sowing Nasturtium seeds with the youngsters, showing them the wormery and the worms doing their job as well as offering quizzes and advice and information on food growing and composting to the many adults who came over to see us. Over the next couple of weeks, the Friday gardening group will be finishing off some vertical planters they’re making out of wooden pallets and thanks to a kind donation of plants from a local nursery – woman these will make a lovely, colourful feature in the play ground. I’ll do a separate article on this project once they’re finished.

Today I’m off the Suffolk to inspect a community – run woodland which has applied  to be awarded a ‘Green Flag’ as a mark of excellence. You may recall that this scheme has been operating for a good number of years and is fast becoming the national benchmark for parks and open spaces in England. I’ve been a judge for about 5 years now and every year I get to visit a couple of really interesting and usually very well presented and run open spaces. I’ve been out to judge one woodland in North Norfolk last week and today’s trip will complete my quota for this year. I’ll write an article about Green Flag and the two sites tomorrow, so keep a look out!

Well, that’s just about brought you up to date with Old School Garden for another month.


Thanks for sending me the pictures of your lovely garden, where I see your herbaceous borders are starting to fill out like mine. And I was particularly impressed with your creations using pallets! The new ‘pallet shed’ looks wonderful and the fact that you managed to make it for almost nothing (given the price of sheds these days) is great. My post on pallets seems to have gone down a storm and is still receiving many visitors every day including from the USA and around the world! I’ve come across a couple of other, novel uses of these and will post the pictures shortly. I managed to obtain a few additional pallets for free from the local Garden Centre and I’m currently thinking about what else I can use them for. I’m certainly going to use some as a sort of raised bed edging where I need to consolidate some soil and support the wooden frame up which I’m training a fan cherry and plum. I’ve cut some pallets in half and will sink these, like fences, into the ground as barriers to keep the soil in (maybe using landscaping fabric inside to contain the soil). I’ll let you know how I get on and post some pictures.

Oh, and some great news, The Radio 4 programme ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ is coming to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum at the end of June, so this will be a great opportunity to introduce those attending to the gardens and promote the place a bit too, especially as there is a gardening event at the Museum the week after! Stay in touch.

All the best for now,

Old School Gardener

Other posts in this series:

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 18th April May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 11th March 2013

Dear Walter… letter from Old School Garden: 15th February 2013

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and join others by signing up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?

Two projects in the village of Cawston, Norfolk enabled me to ‘cut my teeth’ on designing playful landscapes.

Both were completed about 6 years ago and largely on a voluntary basis. I remain involved at the local Primary School, helping them with their School Gardening activities, but my early involvement was in designing, sourcing planting and organising the creation of an ‘Eco Park’ – basically to try and diversify the habitats and play opportunities in a bland, mown grass playing field with a solitary multi function play unit. The design features a curved mixed native species hedge (which is now over 2 metres high) and a haven for wildlife, several groupings of native trees such as Silver Birch, Hazel, Douglas Fir, Beech, Oak, Feild Maple, Mountain Ash and Black Poplar, and some areas of shallow mounding.

The planting has been used to create several different spaces, and grass within these has been left to grow long both to provide varied habitats and interesting play areas. In addition a ‘Nectar Bar’ of insect – friendly herbaceous and other flowering plants has been created alongside the school, including a painted pergola which both helps to privide shade to the south – facing side of the school and added planting interest.

The second project involved working on commission for the Parish Council and a local charity to design, seek funding, consult local people and supervise the creation of a new play landscape at the ‘Oakes Family Field’ located to one side of the village. The design was constrained by the need to retain areas for cricket and football pitches and to avoid placing play areas close to housing on one side of the field. There is a mix of landscape features including a large mound (with a slide), timber play equipment for balancing and enclosed social areas, as well as a selection of traditional play equipment in two main areas, one for younger, one for older children. Over £100,000 was raised from various sources and so a wide range of play equipment and features has been possible.

Old School Gardener

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