GROW Awards 2018
We have been documenting all the hard work in Google Drive. You can access the photographs by clicking on the following links or continue reading below for a sample of photographs and our explanation of what we are doing. Enjoy!
Our school turned green during February and March this year when all classes starting planting flowers and vegetables in our outdoor garden, cold frame and in our classrooms. Each class has planted lots of different flowers including sunflowers, marigolds and sweet pea.
However the main action took place in our outdoor garden which has been revamped this year thanks to our expert visitor Martin. 3rd Class worked with Martin to plant a wide range of vegetables (an amazing 10 varieties in total!). These included: onions, radish, scallions, lettuce, french beans, broad beans, beetroot, rhubarb, carrots and marrow. We also planted potatoes.
The first thing that Martin did was send a soil sample to Teagasc to see what condition our soil was in. We could then choose the best fertiliser and plants. We learned how to prepare the soil correctly using the correct tools and learned about the importance of using fertiliser.
Next we moved on to planting our vegetables. We never realised how each vegetable needed to be planted in a different way to make sure that it grew properly. For example, we made measuring sticks using recycled wood to make sure that our onions were spaced correctly and used lollipop sticks to measure between the beetroot. Once Martin showed us what to do we were able to take Senior Infants up to the vegetable beds ourselves and show them how to do the same.
Here is the research that we have about all the different vegetables we have planted this year.
We are keen about recycling in St. Peter’s so it was very important that we made use of materials we already had in school, our local community or at home. With this in mind, new features in our garden this year are:
1. Bee Drinking Station
We used wooden planks that Martin recycled from an old shed to form the base of our station. We attached diagonal slats down the plank for the water to travel down. The next step was to put a recycled 2l milk carton at the top with specially drilled holes to ensure the water dripped out over a period of time. This station encourages thirsty bees to visit our vegetables and plants and pollinate them. Our next step is to build a bumble bee house at our Eco-Tribes site in May.
2. Recycling Buckets and 2l Milk Cartons
We contacted our local Centra to get large buckets that we could use in our vegetable garden. This is an exciting addition to our outdoor garden as it shows you don’t need a large space to grow vegetables. Some of our class have used this idea in their own homes to grow vegetables! We planted lettuce, radish. Our class also collected 2l milk cartons for lots of different reasons, including:
- Instead of purchasing new watering cans we reuse 2l cartons with holes in the lids to water our plants. This also means that younger children from the infant classes can be involved in watering plants in the vegetable garden and Dreamtime Garden as they are not as heavy as watering cans bought in shops.
- We also attached the 2l cartons to the side of our vegetable beds so we could grow companion plants. Companion plants are very important and are used to attract bees for pollination but also to discourage pests from going to our vegetable patch. We chose to plant marigolds this year.
- We also used the 2l cartons as weights to hold down our mesh tunnel. They are a safer alternative to using wooden or iron pegs.
3. Mesh Tunnel
A brand new addition to our vegetable patch was an eco-friendly pest control measure. We purchased a mesh net and Martin helped us use recycled plastic water pipes to make a pest deterring tunnel. The mesh is big enough that we can water through it (something we were very worried about in the beginning!) but the holes are small enough that bugs, slugs and birds can’t get near our plants! It has worked really well….apart from the sneaky slugs who were hiding in the soil already before the mesh was attached. That’s a valuable lesson learned for next year! This is the first year that we have not lost any of our vegetables to bugs or slugs. The mesh is particularly good at preventing butterflies from laying their eggs and the resulting caterpillars from eating out precious plants! We used our collected 2l cartons to hold the mesh down. On Martin’s second visit we pointed out that some of the cartons were falling over and spilling so we were worried that a gust of wind would wreck all our hard work! But not to worry, Martin had a solution – sand! So we used 2l bottles to make funnels and filled out cartons with sand instead of water. Next year we will use sand instead.
4. Copper Tape
This is another new addition to our vegetable patch thanks to Martin! We wanted a way to prevent slugs from destroying our plants and undoing all of our good work. But it needed to be Eco-Friendly. Any methods we had used in previous years had not worked and we lost a lot of our vegetables. This year we have tried copper tape. How does it work? We decided to experiment using our recycled buckets. We formed a ring around vulnerable plants with the copper tape. The tape’s natural electrical charge will stop slugs and snails eating crops as they travel up our pots. Their slime acts as a conductor – and they don’t appreciate the shock ( a gentle reminder the plants are off-limits!) We were dubious as it looked like simple tape but after checking our plants two months later we were pleasantly surprised to find not a single plant had been nibbled on! It is a fantastic alternative to otherwise harmful pesticides to the plants.
An exciting new addition to our environmental work this year has been to involve the junior children more. Junior Infants had a special project to participate in this year. Once again we had our expert Martin visit with the children to explain what they were going to do. The infants had a brand new growing container called a Cold Frame to look after and use to help their plants grow. Martin visited their room and helped them to plant individual sunflowers and they also planted some vegetables too! These were placed in the cold frame outside the infant classroom. The children had the very important job of checking the plants every day and watering them. When they came back after their two week Easter break there was great excitement as it turned out that every single one of the sunflowers had grown! What an achievement! We gave the plants a few more weeks to harden up and then Ms. Lambert and her class have planted the flowers in our newly revamped Dreamtime Garden. We can’t wait to watch them grow taller!
6. Senior Infant Planting
Senior Infants also got in on the action! They grew sweet pea and placed these in the cold frame to keep safe. We had lots of fun making sure we looked after our plants! First we got our plant pots ready. We filled the pots with compost. We used our finger to make a hole in each pot. We placed one seed in the pot and covered loosely with soil. We watered the pots and placed them in the cold frame. We were delighted to find out after Easter that our plants had grown!
We had another very important job to do with 3rd class. After Martin showed the older children how to plant onions correctly we visited the vegetable patch with Donnacha and Jamie from 3rd and they showed us how to plant onions too. We all got a turn to help dig in the soil and measure the correct distance between plants. We visit the patch regularly to keep track of our onions and can’t wait until we can use them for yummy salads!
7. Dreamtime Garden
Our Dreamtime Garden is used during lunch by children who want a quiet space to think and chat. Unfortunately it had become overgrown over the last year or so and needed some T.L.C. A big thank you to Martin, Declan, Denise, Audrey and some of the children from the school who dug out the beds and cleared the weeds and dead plants, leaving the space ready for the next step of the process. Jason strimmed the garden and then laid mypex to avoid weeks breaking through again. We are very grateful to V&W Recycling, and Willie in particular, who donated two 5tonne bags of compost to use in the garden. This compost is very special Grade A compost that is totally natural and containing no peat or other nasties. We were very appreciative that Willie donated the compost as it has made a huge difference to our garden already. Our next step is to decide on plants to purchase to restore the garden to its former glory!
8. Potato Bag Experiment
Ms. Halpenny’s 4th Class have tried something brand new and exciting this year! We have been growing potatoes in our vegetable patch for a number of years and, more often than not, they succumb to slugs and other pests! Martin suggested a solution – potato bags! These are reusable bags that you can plant potatoes in. We admit, we were very doubtful that this would work. But after three weeks we are forced to admit we were wrong to doubt him! Not only are the potatoes growing, but they are growing quicker than the potatoes in our vegetable patch. This is an exciting development for the school as it means that we now can have any class plant potatoes inside in their very own classroom! This also means that any class can make the famous yummy wedges we make every June – everyone is a winner! Best of all, the bags are reusable every year so can be recycled for a number of years.
6th Class have been upgrading our Outdoor Classroom – blurb and photos to be added.
Our vegetable patch is an ongoing project and these are some of the things we are planning over the next few weeks, so make sure you keep checking back for updates!
- Dreamtime Garden – now that our wonderful parental volunteers and Jason have our Dreamtime Garden ready for action Ms. Lynch is going to consult with the Tidy Towns and Benedicta to decide what plants we need to purchase. The school community will all then be involved in replanting the Garden and returning it to its former glory.
- (Vegetable Patch) Peas – our peas require sticks to help them grow. Jamie collected smaller sticks for us to use and we will be changing them for larger sticks as the peas grow.
- Wormery – Martin is coming back in the middle of May to show us how to build our own wormery. We have been collecting 2l soft drink bottles to see if we can build one for each child in the class before June. (Hence why our classroom looks like a recycling centre at the minute!)
- (Vegetable Patch) Broad bean tee-pee – we are collecting larger sticks to make a tee-pee for our broad beans to grow up through. We are really excited about starting this as our school has never tried something like this before. We are just waiting on the beans to grow a little bigger.
- Eco-Tribes – 3rd Class and Ms. O’Rourke are busy as bees (!) preparing for our Eco-Tribes event on 23rd of May. We have been working closely with the Tidy Towns, Benedicta and the Dundalk Men’s Shed to construct our project this year. We are busy in the classroom researching lots of different herbs.
- Bumble Bee habitat – as part of our Eco-Tribes project we plan to build a bumble bee habitat. It will hopefully encourage other children and the community at large to build similar in their own gardens to encourage bees to visit.
- Winter crops – Martin tells us these are called “cover crops” and are used during the winter months so the soil won’t be bare over winter. We are hoping that when we ask Teagasc for another soil anaylsis next year that our soil will be in better shape as a result. Our plan is to plant mustard and also wheat. The wheat will be ground down once spring arrives and we can hopefully use it to make flour and yummy scones!
- Butterflies – we are waiting patiently in 6th class for our butterflies to hatch. We have bred butterflies for the last number of years and it is always an exciting time in our classrooms as we watch the butterflies hatch (hopefully!) before our eyes. Ms. Keane and her class will have plenty of photographs and videos of our butterfly release once our visitors arrive.