Young Gardeners: It’s all systems sow in the school garden
By: John Cavill
The pupils of the John Whitgift Academy in Grimsby have really come to enjoy their time tending to the fruit and vegetables under the watchful eye of tutor John Cavill. We join them after a short break to catch up on progress so far this season.
Hello from an exciting kitchen garden project in the heart of Grimsby. It’s planting time and this always raises the excitement within the school as we have a massive list of fruit and vegetables this year and the students are itching to get them growing.
We have been fortunate enough to enlist a new sponsor for tools this year and five sets duly arrived just in time for sowing and planting. Although these tools are adult ones, they are so light that the students can use them without any trouble at all, and anything that makes gardening easier must be a bonus. The spades, transplanter, shovels and garden forks are very distinctive, having round handles, and you will see them in the pictures of the school kitchen garden project from now on.
First off all the garden needs cleaning and tidying and the green manure (mustard) that’s overwintered in the beds has to be chopped and dug in. We seem to have had our fair share of rain recently and this means that the polytunnel – an asset that until recently was being underused until taken over by the school gardening club – has been put to very good use. This incidentally needs cleaning too, so the first steps this month are cleaning, painting the raised beds and making the garden shipshape for the season ahead.
Last year the WoodBlocx was planted with a massive amount of white mustard in the hope that it would grow over winter and add fibre and structure to the soil. We left it a bit longer than we should and with lots of rain and warm sunshine it’s grown to about 1m tall! Sam (who is trusted with the shears) started taking this bed down by first cutting the mustard back by half, then another half and so on until it was ready for digging. Then digging in the edges of the bed first, Sam started the job of sorting the soil and getting it ready for the coming year. Very quickly he had it all in shape and started on the other green manure beds too.
Katie is the star this month. She has been with the kitchen garden project from the very start and is there each week, rain or shine, to stamp her mark on the project. Despite a painful foot injury, which meant she needed crutches, and a very wet day, in between showers she came and worked in the garden just the same, such is her enthusiasm. This year we have some new strawberry plants and we are making the most of them with three separate strawberry beds. So Katie, sitting on a school chair, dug the holes and planted the strawberries ready for the season. I did promise Katie that I wouldn’t mention the fact that she did her planting sitting on a school chair with 25mm of rain water on it, so please rest assured Katie, I didn’t!
We have some new students this year and one who is already shining through is Chloe R. As soon as I gave Chloe a trowel, weeder and cultivator, she was sorting the beds in the polytunnel and I was impressed. So impressed that Chloe is now in charge of our new leek trials; we will have one bed in the tunnel and one bed outside in the quadrangle. Chloe R is going to look after all the leeks, read up on them and grow them to the best of her ability. We are sorting the beds right now and I can’t wait to see how she does.
A request from the students this month has been lots of kohl rabi so it’s in and growing. We have the variety ‘Azur’ and ‘Violetta’ which are purple and ‘Olivia’ which is green. These strange looking vegetables make heads turn so the beds with it in are closer to the windows this year so the whole school can see what we have done.
The students have now planted their early potatoes and Hayden, Brodie and Sam took on this job without any help from me. They planted the potatoes last year and remembered just what to do and how to do it. We don’t plant in rows, we dot them in the 1.2m (4ft) square beds and last year it worked well, so after changing the soil and conditioning it, we have used the same beds but are trying different varieties.
We had a very important visitor this month. Our friend Alan Titchmarsh came to see how the kitchen garden project is growing and caused quite a stir. Well actually it wasn’t the real Mr T; my friends from a local sign-making company made a life-sized cut out of the gardening celeb and stuck him to the front window of the school so he greets all the visitors as they come in. Beyond the window Alan graces is the garden itself. Along with Mr T are lots of the best pictures from the project and these light up the school entrance.
Next month construction of the recycled greenhouse will be complete and our Japanese Tomato system will be in place. With the help of the caretakers Jim, Jam and Sally, our new water harvesting kit will be installed and experiments will have started in the polytunnel. We also have been told that the John Whitgift Academy kitchen garden will be on the tour for Grimsby in Bloom this year, so it’s on to the D T Brown website in the flower seed section, and this of course will add even more interest to an already thriving project!
Green-fingered students recognised
Congratulations are also due to two of the kitchen garden students who have been chosen to carry the Olympic torch in Sutton-on-sea on Wednesday, June 27. Chloe O and Sam will carry the torch the day after it arrives in Cleethorpes. Chloe O has been with the kitchen garden project from the start and gave the beds the once over in her wheelchair to make sure the whole area was wheelchair friendly. We all admire her for her sheer determination. Sam joined the project last year and is now a great member of the team growing and tending to the whole project. Good luck to both of them, we are proud of you both!
John Whitgift academy garden project
At John Whitgift Academy 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 to view the latest information.
If you have a school project you’d like us to feature in KG simply contact Steve Ott: email@example.com
❯ Radius Tools; www.radiusgarden.com; www.simplygardening.co.uk
❯ D T Brown; www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk
❯ WoodBlocx; www.woodblocx.co.uk
❯ M D Signs; www.md-signs.co.uk
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