Young Gardeners: Rain (nearly) stops play in the school garden
By: Web Editor
Torrential rain may have caused the students in the garden of the John Whitgift academy to run for cover on occasions, but they have still managed to harvest some tasty crops, as tutor John Cavill explains.
To say the last month was a washout has been an understatement as Grimsby and the school’s kitchen garden project has seen much more than its fair share of rain. We haven’t been rained off very often but in the last few weeks we have all been stood in the corridor looking back into the kitchen garden more times than we can remember. One thing that has grabbed the students’ attention this year is the lack of growth, but despite all that we have had some notable successes.
Hot salads and sunflowers
We have runner beans growing, but last year at this time we had some to take home. We have kohl rabi growing well. Last year Katie D took some home and cooked it, added it to mash potato and her family loved it so much she asked for more. Another thing that is growing strongly are the sunflowers; although Chloe O and Miss Thornton spread lots of them into the garden, there does seem to be more than they planted? The lettuce is only now ready to eat but we do have a mixture and also mustard leaves to complement the students’ sandwiches. Chief tester Molly G picked a handful, washed them and tied them together. What’s strange is the mustard this year is a lot hotter than before, yet it’s the same variety, but as Molly found out, even the lettuce couldn’t cool the fire of the hot mustard leaves.
Over wintered broad beans
They have taken ages to grow as we planted the broad beans in November last year, but they are finally ready and ready in abundance! Some of the students find it quite amusing that the beans have their own pods to look after them and some actually hadn’t ever seen them before. We harvested beans from five different beds and after seeing me munching on them as fast as the students can pick them, they all wanted to try. The beans were quite sweet and very moreish; in fact once Chloe R had started to eat them she couldn’t stop either. As each student entered the garden they were offered the beans and even Miss Thornton was adventurous this year and tried some so the beans were a big hit. Bags of them left the garden for cooking at home and within just a few hours the bean beds were cleared, dug over, fertilised and ready for more crops.
Sam T is one of the first members of the kitchen garden club and has been a great part of it from the beginning, but is a little camera shy. Last week I managed to get an agreement from him that in exchange for lots of the strawberries that are ready he would let me take a picture or two of him eating them. So this month’s issue sees Sam munching his way through a fair number of strawberries and taking a bag full home with him. One thing that is of course attractive about the strawberry beds is the fact that the fruit are red and light up the areas they grow in; students always seem to be attracted to them and thanks to D T Brown this year for supplying us a number of plants to get our strawberry collection going. Oh and you will see on the pictures that Sam thinks I am just taking the pictures of the strawberries but with my wide angle lens I can take him also, but a deal was a deal!
Daniel ‘Green Fingers’ connoisseur of fruits
One thing that always impresses me is when the students appreciate the quality of the things we grow and are not just looking for quantity. This year there isn’t the abundance of fruit like last year, but this doesn’t put Daniel off at all. Wearing his very fetching orange overalls Dan picks carefully from all the fruit bushes just enough to try, always making sure some are left for the others. This year we have a few additional crops to taste and in just two handfuls Dan has strawberries, yellow, red and peach-coloured raspberries, white currants and gooseberries. Raspberries and strawberries Dan has tried before, but not the others so eating one at a time he tries everything.
He found the gooseberries surprisingly sweet and we are sure they came from Victoriana Nursery’s collection of ‘Hinnonmaki Yellow’.
The white currants are interesting and quite sweet, as Dan eats them one by one then picks more for a second sampling. What I love about this is Dan now has a deep appreciation of all these fruits, he can’t wait to try them and knows the massive benefit that is gained from growing his own. Even if he works hard and the harvest is small, it doesn’t matter because as he savours each fruit in turn he knows that the great taste is there in part because of the work he and his classmates have put in.
The summer holidays will soon begin and even though no students will be there I will go along every fortnight to look after things and to prepare for when the project starts again in September. I am hoping by then we will have funding for an overhaul of the existing polytunnel and also new raised beds in which we hope to have world themes such as Italian, French and Japanese. We have lots planned and plenty more we will be sharing with you.
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.html to view the latest information.
If you have a school project you’d like us to feature in KG simply contact editor Steve Ott at firstname.lastname@example.org
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