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‘Jimmy The Grower’

May 2017

The Schools Growing Project is going really well at the moment, and I am working with the same eleven schools each week.  I have now ended the work at St Charles’s, due to the teacher moving to another school and no other member of staff taking over the gardening club.  I have replaced this session with a session at St. Clare’s, off Smithdown Road, where I’m working each Friday afternoon with their EYFS.

Hope: Excellent progress being made with the raised beds at the front of the school.  The pupils have spent a long time weeding these beds, which were heavily weed-infested, and have now sown seeds and planted out red onions, runner beans and broad beans.  They have also sown seed potatoes in grow-bags and we will be sowing more crops before the half-term.  Some of the pupils have a real aptitude for horticulture and could potentially develop this into a career.

St Ambrose: Working with EYFS, we have spent much of our time sowing seeds and weeding the raised beds. We are currently growing potatoes in grow-bags and have tomato plants which we are growing in the classroom; these will be transferred to a mini-greenhouse next week, where they will be grown on. The children really enjoy spending time outdoors, learning about how plants grow and getting their hands dirty!

Much Woolton:  Tremendous progress currently being made on the refurbishment of the school growing patch.  Thanks to funding from the PTA and Barclays, the materials have been purchased in the last fortnight and the raised beds are being constructed.  Once they are finished, the top soil and compost will be added, and plug plants will be planted and seeds sown.  The after-school gardening club is flourishing and the pupils are busy at the moment staining the fence that surrounds the patch.

Millstead: The pupils continue to enjoy spending time in the community garden and also tending the strawberries and potatoes in the raised beds in the grounds of the school.  They are always enthusiastic when it comes to digging, watering and sowing seeds.  We have a core group of pupils who are involved each week, and there is also the opportunity for other pupils to join in the gardening activities.

Holy Cross: We have now reduced the number of pupils attending the lunch-time gardening club, as it had become a bit unmanageable, and the content of the sessions was suffering.  I am now working with groups of 4 pupils at a time, so that I can work with them on specific tasks, such as seed sowing and propagating.  We have potatoes and strawberries growing in raised beds, and will be planting out radish, beetroot and lettuce after half-term.

The Trinity: The after-school club have really been busy and have had major problems with Horsetail (an invasive, deep-rooted perennial weed), which has infested their raised beds.  The pupils have been working hard to stay on top of the problem, and it’ll be an ongoing issue now, possibly for years to come.  On a more positive note, the club is growing rhubarb, carrots, Spring onions, radish, lettuce, strawberries and potatoes. The Anemone japonica root cuttings we started off in the winter have developed well and are now ready for planting out.  They will flower in the autumn and be an impressive addition to the school grounds.

St Cleopas: Every Wednesday I continue to support teacher Mrs.Sheriff, who runs lunch-time gardening activities three days a week with pupils from Y1-Y6.  We have tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, runner beans, strawberries, parsnip, courgette and beetroot growing in the raised beds at the moment.  Several of the raised beds are falling apart, so we will be carrying out urgent repairs this week!    

St Austin’s: The polytunnel has been completely transformed, due to the efforts of the pupils, volunteers and myself.  We have an abundance of crops growing and have had to draw up a daily watering rota, as the beds are under cover and cannot access water naturally.  The site manager, Ivor, has installed a hose and built the raised beds and staging.  This has been a real team effort and we even have lemons growing in the tunnel.  The aim for the future would be to involve the pupils even more in the planning, planting and maintenance.

Belle Vale: The Groundforce Team, which runs every Friday morning, comprises SEN pupils. They have been working on the school garden since last year and have, in my opinion, benefited massively from their involvement in this project. I am supported by the school’s Learning Mentor, Claire Lydiat, and Dan Barlow (Teaching Assistant/Sports Instructor), and their input has been invaluable. We are continuing to weed a raised bed which is heavily infested by couch grass, and will be sowing seeds in this bed after the half-term. At the moment the pupils are growing strawberries, chives, beetroot, runner beans, sweet peas and potatoes. There have been tears and a few tantrums, but these sessions are really building the pupils’ character and self-esteem.

Norman Pannell: Teacher Miss Threadgill, and I, run a Friday lunch-time gardening club, and the pupils are some of the most enthusiastic that I work with.  The members are predominantly female, and they put the lads to shame with their willingness to dig and get covered in mud! Last week we were planting saplings in the school grounds and the earth was rock hard, but the girls’ determination to dig ensured the task was completed, despite the rain. The club has sown potatoes and runner beans, and is due to plant out tomato plants before half-term.

St Clare’s: I’ve been working with EYFS for the last three weeks and the pupils love the sessions. We have sown potatoes in grow-bags and sweet peas and sunflowers in plant pots. After half-term we will be developing a small vegetable growing area, where the pupils can plant out plug plants from Dutch Farm.

Dutch Farm: Work is going well down on Dutch Farm.  Seeds have been sown in the FFT growing beds, and I am maintaining the beds each week.  I am currently growing seeds into plug plants in the glasshouse, which will be distributed to FFT schools after half-term. School visits are currently being planned for June.

Schools Competition: We were recently awarded a small grant of £347 by Eli Lilly/Elanco, and this will be used to purchase gardening-related items, which will be awarded to FFT schools as prizes in a growing competition.

It is the intention of Food For Thought to extend the Schools Growing Project to more of its partner schools in the next academic year.  However, many of the eleven schools I am currently working with might struggle to sustain the excellent work that has been taking place this year, without the support of the School Grower.

The aim of the Schools Growing Project is to ensure that each school grows crops which will be ready for harvesting before the end of the academic year.  Consequently, specific fruits and vegetables have been selected for growing, in order for the pupils to see tangible benefits of all their labour. Without exception, I have found that the children I am working with love being outdoors, learning about nature and carrying out physical work. Many are developing a real interest in horticulture and show great potential in that subject for the future.