NEWS FROM THE GARDEN – November 2017
As the growing season draws to a close we have harvested and started to put the garden to bed for winter.
We held a very successful Grandparents gardening afternoon on Tuesday 23rd of October with an amazing numbers of helpers – 31 grandparents and 26 children attended. Luckily some helpers brought their own gloves and tools and even donated tulip and daffodil bulbs.
Due to the large numbers, we set to work in teams.
The ‘Pots team' hunted all the playgrounds and corners of the school for neglected and faded pots and planters to weed, top dress and plant bulbs. Now they all look cared for and we await new growth in the spring.
The ‘Compost team’ cleared all the compost beds, sorting the finished compost from the weeds and re-stacked them efficiently. The compost was used to feed the planters around school. Leaves were also raked and packed into bins to break down and be added to the soil to improve its texture.
The ‘Weeding team’ worked very hard to clear the old plants, weed the beds and transport everything to the compost bins. Beds were dug over and left to rest prior to being mulched or replanted in the spring.
It was wonderful to see the children eating autumn raspberries straight from the plants and enjoying working with adults.
We then went for afternoon tea in the school hall with a well-deserved sense of achievement.
Thank you to everyone involved, we got a tremendous amount of heavy jobs completed in a short space of time.
Mr Miller put his talents to good use in the kitchen.
After the long summer break it was lovely to come back and find the garden had been cared for by some kind volunteers. ‘Leicester Gardeners’ visited weekly and a number of parents and grandparents of children in the school also did some weeding and kept an eye on things.
Some plants had done well and were almost ready to harvest whilst others had suffered from lack of water or too much shade from the trees in the park so we shall consider those factors in future. Unfortunately the dry spell during the summer holidays and voracious slugs caused many of our sunflower seedlings to ‘disappear’ but one brave flower remains to brighten up the space!
We harvested beetroot, pumpkins, squash, potatoes, sweet corn and huge cabbages, and are still picking (and eating) autumn raspberries whenever we visit the garden.
We are hoping to have another Grandparents gardening afternoon during October where we can tidy the plot, sort out the compost bins and mulch beds for their winter rest.
Elise’s (year 5) grandfather kindly donated currant bushes which have been used to complete one of our fruit beds. They will settle in and develop a good root system to hopefully provide us with fruit next June.
A huge thank you to all the helpers this gardening year and the whole school has benefited in some way by growing crops , working in or visiting the garden with many children cooking with the produce or taking it home to eat.
June & July 2017 -
The garden has continued to be a popular curriculum area over the last few weeks with children enthusiastically weeding, watering and tasting.We have been successful growing potatoes which were planted, cooked and then eaten in year 4 with mint from the herb patch.
Despite the very dry weather, the regular watering has helped nurture many plants. The tomatoes and sweet corn are thriving and the courgettes and pumpkins are forming. Lettuce, carrots and beetroot continue to grow and after being thinned should still be available in September. We have even picked our first sweet peas and taken them to the classroom.
Unfortunately our cabbages are not yet ready but look amazing. The birds beat us to most of the fruits so nets will be purchased for next year although as the plants were new there were very few anyway. Armfuls of rhubarb have been sent to the school kitchen and garlic and onions have also been harvested.
A huge thank you for all the help and helpers during the school year, from the team of Grandparents, mums and days offering equipment and plants and especially kind offers to help over the summer.
We have a gardening company who are helping for two sessions a week during the holidays to keep on top of things and a couple of mothers and some teachers who will also water as they pass by.
Planting plans are already being formulated for next term and next year for bigger and better results!
April & May 2017 -
We had a great start to our gardening year but the early spring months have been much trickier with weather and wildlife thwarting our horticultural plans.
The very dry April, especially over the 2 week Easter holidays, caused emerging seedlings to die or fail to germinate meaning we needed to replant carrots, beetroot and some chard seeds. Peas did emerge but unfortunately were discovered by the local pigeon population who gobbled them up within 24 hours! We enthusiastically replanted peas and French beans during May but clever pigeons know where to come for a tasty green snack and very few survived. Having learned our lesson we will try again next spring with cloches or netting to protect our plants!
Cabbage plants were planted in April and covered in fine mesh to keep off those birds and butterflies and they have grown and look really healthy!Hopefully they can form part of a ‘school dinner’ before the end of term. We have just harvested tender stem broccoli for tasting in year 4 during Healthy Eating week along with radish and some spinach. The garlic is thriving and so is our bed of onions. Potatoes are growing well and it would be great to allow children to dig and cook those before the end of term. Our strawberries are setting fruit and if we can get to them before the birds will be a treat. Fruit is forming on our gooseberry, raspberry and blackcurrant bushes and the rhubarb is ready to pick. During May we were able to take armfuls of parsley into the school kitchen to help out with a fish dish.
Weeds continue to be a nuisance but are no match for regular pulling by classes of children who surprisingly, are really enthusiastic about getting them out and filling our compost bins. Many feet on the paths are also helping to keep the pathways clear.
One of the most satisfying things has been using our own ‘schoolmade’ compost, all the weeds have rotted down over winter from last year and we have used it as a mulch and recently sieved out the larger lumps to produce our base compost to grow salads in the classrooms.
A big thank to those who have donated items such as plants and pots for us to use and it is especially wonderful when a child recently offered sweet corn he had grown at home.
Keep an eye on the plot over the summer as it will hopefully be overtaken by giant sunflowers as each classroom has a number to grow for our growing competition to be judged in the autumn.The summer holidays are a problem for us as the plot needs regular watering and weeding so if there is anyone who would be interested in helping out, perhaps an hour a week please leave your name and number into the school office and we shall try to draw up a rota.
March 2017 -
All has been busy in the garden over the last 4 weeks with everything springing into life. FCC Environmental have kindly refilled and revamped 6 of our 12 raised beds with fresh soil ready for planting. They also put in posts to support raspberries and sunflowers. Mr and Mrs Keal then added the wire supports with year 5 children planting autumn fruiting raspberry bushes. Elise (Yr 4) and her Grandfather kindly donated 2 home produced thornless blackberry bushes and planted them to complete the row. We look forward to children picking and eating fruit in the autumn.
Reception children and other classes have visited the garden to look around and enjoy the space. With the new ‘log’ seats in place there is room for story time or just sitting and looking!
On the 27th March we held a ‘Grandparent Gardening’ afternoon with a fantastic turnout of 20 grandparents and 22 children. As a result we were able to make huge progress with spring planting and preparations.
Snowdrop plants were divided and replanted along the hedges for a lovely display next spring. Strawberries and chives weeded, divided and replanted.
Raspberries and fruit bushes were mulched with our ‘home produced’ compost with a marvellous display of granny wheelbarrow work supervised by a couple of granddads leaning on spades!
Produce for early summer and autumn consumption was started with onion sets and seeds of carrots, radish, beetroot, peas, rainbow chard, lettuce and spring onions being sown. Tender stem broccoli plants were planted out.
A huge thank-you to everyone who has helped so far this year as we have made a great start.
If you get time, take a look at the plot as the daffodils look wonderful and over the next few weeks seeds should be springing into life.