Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Saving energy at school

I've been supporting 3 primary schools to save energy during Eco Schools' Energy Saving Fortnight based on previous work I've done. St John's made the biggest saving, using 7% less than the previous two weeks.

They had children carrying out daily inspections and awarding points for classes where energy wasn't being wasted. Points were displayed on the Health Schools board every day with the overall results also being presented.

They will probably carry on with this and would save around £1000 a year if they could shave the same amount off their whole energy bill. Once it gets up and running this type of monitoring system is very easy and cost free to maintain. Pupils are also taking these messages home so there is also a wider impact on the community.

Manchester City Council's Energy Management Unit were really helpful in providing data.

Tetrapak wallets

We've cut back some of the gardening work at St John's and been doing some other projects with an environmental theme, an eco club and an energy saving competition.

Here's a purse made from a fruit juice container. These are really easy to do. You'll need scissors, a stapler, a hole punch, elastic bands and that's it. There are some good instructions here

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Pumpkin time

We finally got round to harvesting our pumpkins at St Chrysostom's.

They were a good option for a school garden, especially with the wet summer keeping them watered!  Children were amazed to see how big they grew and really enjoyed cutting them up today. We'll make some soup, pumpkin chips and maybe some cake with them.

We've also saved the seeds for planting next year and I even managed to sneak in a bit of Numeracy while we were doing that.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Bean hair and bean moustaches

It was time to pull down the runner beans at Armitage as we want to save some of the beans for planting next year and we don't want them to get frost damage. The Gardening Club found there are more uses for beans than I realised.

We picked most of the beans quite young but left a few pods to dry out so the beans inside get nice and hard. We'll store these over the winter. You can also cook them like you would any dried bean.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Another good thing about the wet summer

The strawberries at St Chrysostom's really seemed to enjoy the wet weather and have matured into magnificent looking plants sending out runners in all directions. We are trying to capitalise on all this growth and pot the runners to create new plants.

If you have never done this before, the idea is to place the roots of the new plants on the runners into relatively small pots, wait until they have established themselves and then separate them from the main plant. They can then be planted out. It can be a little bit fiddly to get the runners to stay in the pot but the idea of more strawberries is a strong motivator!

It's a carrot!

One bad thing about the cold, wet summer meant that lots of things we planted at St John's were not ready to harvest before the summer holiday.

One good thing about the cold, wet summer was crops that we planted in the spring were well watered over the summer holiday and were just waiting there for us when everybody got back to school.

These little carrots are an Italian variety (Franchi seeds) and grew very well in a relatively shallow container. Yes, they really are carrots.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Stinky Stew

If you thought comfrey tea smelt bad, try nettle tea.  Not nettle tea that you'd buy in the shops, this one's a plant food. We used the nettles that had sprung up over the summer in our raised beds at St Chrysostom's and soaked them in water for a week. Then it was just a matter of decanting it into a bottle. While it's brewing keep it well away from anyone as it really does stink.

You can then dilute this and use it for a plant feed. Put the left over leaves into the compost.

Children called it Stinky Stew but assured me they hadn't named it after me. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Leaf mould

A year ago we put leaves in plastic bags at St Chrysostom's and we got them out today. They'd rotted down very nicely and we spread them on the raspberries for a nice mulch over the winter. Children really enjoyed seeing how they'd changed.

Really easy to do, just make sure water can get into the bags, making leaf mould is a wet process whereas compost is best kept dry.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Salad Days

Every Monday has been Salad Day at St Chrysostom's. We go out and pick a couple of bowls. One goes onto the school salad bar and the other goes into the staff room to perk up the staff's lunches. When they know it's grown at school a lot of children have been trying the salad although there are some who don't like the ideas of eating something that's been in the soil!

We've grown a variety of lettuces, rocket and oriental leaves such as Mizuna, Mibuna and Osaka Purple. You can easily find packets of mixed seeds and they easily produce a crop during term time. Many are "cut and come again" where you simply take a few leaves and the plant carries on growing. Our best Mizuna grew where someone dropped a handful of seeds and we didn't get round to thinning them out!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Harvest time ... potatoes

We dug out the potatoes from sacks at St John's and a got a great crop (this was just the first few) of a different earlies. It was a big surprise as we hadn't done this before and didn't know how it would work.  There was nearly a riot at the end of the after school club when we hadn't harvested everything; "We don't want to go home, we want to finish this!!"

Katherine Moores at Hulme Community Garden Centre helped us plant the sacks back in February and did some work with the children to help them learn about potatoes. Thanks Katherine!

Harvest time ... garlic

We lifted the garlic at Armitage that we've grown in a large planter among the flowers. The children then plaited the bulbs together to dry. We thought we've have to show them how but we found that one of the group could do it in a blur!

Full of beans

I like beans and broad beans are great for growing at school: reliable, look good and taste good. With Miss Dawson's microwave cooking skills we were able to go from plant to plate in about 5 minutes. A few herbs from the garden and a bit of butter ... mmmm.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Insect hotel with a green roof

When we finished the insect hotel at Armitage it looked, well, a bit unfinished. It's just a nice height so we stuck a mini green roof on top and have planted it up with a variety of herbs. It's in the early years playground so they're already combining looking for creepy crawlies with sampling the textures, smells and tastes of the herbs.

Red Rose Forest gave us some advice on the green roof based on their experience from the Green Streets project. 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Comfrey tea

There's a giant comfrey plant that grows through the greenhouse floor at Armitage. We've been harvesting the leaves for a couple of weeks and put them in a bucket of water to make a comfrey tea. It stinks but it's great plant food. Comfrey will grow anywhere and it's worth getting hold of.  Good for tying into learning about life cycles as well.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Radish fever hits Longsight

I've been growing a lot of radishes with children this spring and these beauties at St John's were probably the best so far. They're quick, look good and they're fun to eat.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Watering cans from old drinks bottles

There are lots of ways to reuse objects in the garden and here's another one. Garden Organic sell great little adaptors that you can fit to drinks bottles to create a watering can. They're much more manageable for small hands than a whole watering can, have a really good rose and also stop eager children drowning new seedlings!  Children just love watering and this means you can love them watering as well!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Garlic sprouting nicely

We planted some garlic in amongst the flowers in containers at Armitage and it's now really sprouting nicely.  It's an easy one to grow, just put a clove in the soil and that's it!  "Proper" seed garlic works best but you can try ordinary ones as well, the results are just less reliable.

While it's growing you can pinch the tops a little and really get that garlic smell, which is what's going on here.

Potatoes going crazy

We've planted some potatoes in sacks at St John's, with the help of Hulme Community Garden Centre. You need to add compost to the height of the leaves as they grow. These have gone a bit crazy and the ones planted more conventionally have yet to produce any leaves. We'll have to see which produce the better crop. Still, the Gardening Club seemed to enjoy working with the compost.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cress Heads in a potato

An imaginative take on an old favourite in the Nursery at St John's. They scooped out the top of potatoes, put in a layer of tissue paper and added the cress seeds.  One week later - Cress Heads!

Children painted the faces and stuck on googly eyes.Time for a hair cut soon.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Mr Goulden's apple and Mrs Pickering's potatoes

Armitage has tried composting before but we're trying again using the bays constructed by pupils. Mr Goulden's apple core was the first thing in the staff room compost caddy and we're now getting a steady flow of tea bags and fruit skins.The caddy itself is a container from the kitchen that would have gone to landfill had we not reused it.

Year 3 pupils are emptying the caddy once a week along with their own classroom caddy.

These caddies are great and are providing a good supply of "greens" (the moist fresh ingredients needed to make good compost) but just using fruit and tea will not give us a good balance so it's great that Mrs Pickering (Catering Manager) is adding left over veg, salad and egg shells. This week we even had a bag of potatoes that had gone past their use by date.

To balance the "greens" we need "browns", dry material to soak up some of the moisture and create air pockets to help the worms and micro organisms can do their stuff. That's easy, newspaper and cardboard are perfect and our bays are behind the school bins so every time we add some greens we try to put in the same amount of browns.