Young Gardeners: Growing gardeners of the future - November 2011
By: John Cavill
The growing season may be drawing to a close on the Whitgift Senior School garden in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, but the enthusiasm of the pupils has not diminished. As the pupils’ mentor, John Cavill explains, harvesting has caused plenty of excitement this month.
The nights have drawn in and the weather although warm in places has been a bit nippy here and there but there is still no lack of enthusiasm in the kitchen garden, in fact there is a certain buzz throughout the school.
So what’s been happening in our kitchen garden? Well as the garden is seen from the front of the school we have been clearing as fast as the debris falls. The trees around us have been giving plenty of leaves, but we like that as we can make leafmould that may be ready for next year, and as the vegetables die off we have been keeping on top of everything as best we can.
Squashes cause a stir
Patty pan, Turk’s turban and more! The students seem to love the names and even better they love the look of the unusual and odd looking squashes. There is always some excitement around the more unusual vegetables and this is something I had promised the students from the first day I met them. My advice is if you are growing squashes in school, give them plenty of room and make sure you have a collection of the odd looking ones, even some of the teachers may not know what they are.
Peas ripe for planting
As the runner bean wigwams have been taken down for the winter and the beds dug over, it was suggested that the children might like to plant some overwintering crops. Pea ‘Meteor’ is almost hardy (and may need a small amount of fleece) for the winter, but it seemed like a great idea and some of the beds were planted with them. The peas were sown in flat drills 5cm (2in) deep with at least 15cm (6in) between the rows.
Armed with this knowledge the children planted the beds with all shapes and sizes of drills but all 5cm (2in) in depth, so we will have to see what comes up in the spring.
Green manures smell sweeter
When I mentioned green manure to the students they thought it was horse muck or chicken pellets of blood fish and bone meal, but turned green. I explained that the term ‘green manure’ refers to plants that are sown and grown to improve the soil. I explained that not only will they make the beds we are using look good over winter, but they will also improve soil fertility, protect the soil structure, and when dug in to the soil after the winter will add vital nutrients for a new year of growing. Some of the students thought this was a great idea especially if it meant that they wouldn’t have to spread the ‘smelly’ chicken pellets again.
So the children have chosen which beds they would like to grow winter vegetables and which ones they will set aside for the green manure. They are all interested to see what it does and how it works; especially in the spring when they dig it all back into the soil.
Cooking up a new feast of gardening ideas
A new teacher in the cookery department has brought an influx of fresh ideas and links what he teaches in the kitchen to what we grow. We now have requests for tomatoes for tomato sauce, garlic and lots of different herbs. To make sure everybody knows what is growing and for whom, the produce destined for the cookery class will come from raised beds that will soon be painted a different colour. The colour is undecided but it may be blue. This will not only show everybody what’s growing to be used in the school but of course gives the students a little more ownership as they know where the produce will be going and why.
Give us more marigolds
Regular readers may remember that a few months ago I surprised the students with marigold seeds. They are long and black with light brown ends. Well even now we have an abundance of flowers growing and they just seem to be popping up everywhere. This is something that the students now want to develop and they want to plant more of them next year and as early as possible to get the best display.
So a plan has been hatched and this is what we are going to do. First we are going to remove lots of flower heads from the healthy plants. Then we are going to store them on newspaper in my cool, dry potting shed. In the spring we are going to rub the base of the flower to see the seeds just pour out.
Polytunnel and greenhouse mean more room to grow!
Such has been the success of this kitchen garden project that we now have the use of a polytunnel behind the school and a quite fascinating and unique internal ‘greenhouse’ that’s between two classrooms inside the main building which even has a glass roof. This will make for an interesting winter as we now have more growing area and of course the internal greenhouse is heated. We will be showing you all that we will be doing plus what happened to the undercover winter stock in future issues.
Whitgift’s best-kept secret
The school has a secret that we have been keeping for months and is very exciting. It will mean developing a new and separate part of the school garden next year. The details are nearly ready for release and KG readers will be among the first to share in it.
In the meantime this new project already has support from ASDA, Tesco, Greggs and M&S! The children know a little of what we are going to achieve and we will be asking for a panel of Kitchen Garden readers to try something for us on behalf of the children in the early part of 2012, but in the meantime it is maintaining the interest of the children and giving them lots to think about. So we hope you’ll follow our progress in 2012.
We love colourful carrots
We are still harvesting the carrots in abundance and there are still lots to go. It is a strange year as we really did think the carrots wouldn’t do well and here we are late in the year and the children are still harvesting them. We have yellow, red, purple, orange and white carrots and they do still raise the odd question. Mainly the children ask if they will taste different, or if I had added dye to the water to make them the colour they are, but different coloured carrots are definitely recommended.
Stretching the bean harvest
I have deliberately left a number of the beans (runners, French and broad) so the pods wither and die but the beans are still looking great. I have left them so the children can harvest the beans with a view to drying them and keeping them for planting next year. This of course did cause a little amusement as some of the beans are not quite the same colour as the pods they were in, like the green runners that have bright pink beans.
The Whitgift Garden Project
At Whitgift Senior School the Inspiring Communities Government Fund made it possible for the school to team up with John Cavill to design and build the garden and help educate the children through gardening. It aims to lift the aspirations of all the children in the school through learning outdoors.
Follow progress each month in KG and you can also log on to John Cavill’s website at www.simplygardening.co.uk/whitgift.html to view the latest information.
If you have a school project you’d like us to feature in KG simply contact Steve Ott: firstname.lastname@example.org
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