What is Eco-Schools?
Eco-Schools is an international award programme that guides schools on their sustainable journey. Their mission is to help make every school in the country sustainable and to bring about behaviour change in young people and those connected to them so that good habits learned in schools are followed through into homes and communities. What’s more, by addressing environmental issues in school and reducing waste, we'll save money, which can be reinvested elsewhere.
For any more information, visit the Eco-School's website at http://www.eco-schools.org.uk/.
Our Eco-Schools bid is being led by Miss Sharp; but being greatly helped by our head gardener Mr Palfrey.
Our Eco Warriors:
3KA: Johnathon & Betsy
3RH: Felix & Cassie
4ES: Tessie & Rory
4RH: Oscar & Will P
5JK: Ellie & Mason
5VW: Danny & Megan
6MW: Lucas & Harriet
6EA: Charlie & Sienna
We were lucky to have a visit from Water Aid to explain to us, in an assembly, all about the work that they do and who it benefits. Lots of us were surprised by the facts that he gave to us!
Selling the holly branches that we harvested from the garden at the Christmas Fayre:
Tue. 25 April: Changed to p.m. to do after-school Gardening Club. Checked all areas, after 3 weeks away, then watered many dry plants. Unpacked, watered and re-potted the lemon and orange trees, which look very large and sturdy. Weeded some raised beds. Carried on planting Woodland Trust trees to finish the row inside the top-road fence, and, with the Eco-Warriors, down the side wall to the playground wall. There still remain about a hundred oak, rowan and birch, which I’ll gradually put in over the coming weeks. Those already planted now look great that they have come into leaf and are easier to spot. The Eco-Warriors wanted to chop the green manure plants into the raised bed soil, that they have protected all winter, so we did that. Gardening club was with 3 boys, and we sheltered from a severe hailstorm in the poly-tunnel while I explained what was growing there, and what we were going to do. When it stopped, we went out and prepared a raised bed for planting onion sets, which they then put in in rows. We finished off by putting in some canes next to some Woodland Trust trees planted along the top fence.
Checked all areas – things are sprouting now in this mild spell, including weeds! Watered plants in the poly-tunnel. Took out all the caretaker’s keys to
ascertain which one opened the central gate leading up to the wall below the road, but outside the school fence, as a ‘dead area’ to start planting the Woodland Trust trees. However, first, I had to clear brambles, fallen rocks and odd sticking out branches to allow passage all along, then realised that there was so much litter that a proper pick would be needed before planting. Weeded the raised beds, particularly of dandelions and goose grass. Weeded significant perennial tap-rooted docks and
dandelions from the soft fruit and tunnel surround beds. Divided, and potted up a perennial geranium that had to come out of the poly-tunnel outside bed to get to the weeds, and placed the two large ceramic pots so as to discourage entry to the tunnel from the upper door. The children collected 3 sack-fulls of rubbish, which took some
time, before commencing planting 4 different types of tree at the far (Eastern) end by the ‘slit’ method. We do have canes and collars, but will fit them afterwards. To be continued next week. I also have the map print-off of the grounds which we can use to plan other areas for native hedges to go. Took the rubbish sacks to the bins. The 3 dibbers are back in the poly-tunnel again - thanks.
Transported to the garden, and unpacked the Woodland Trust 420 free tree consignment. Arranged live tree ‘whips’ in their species groups outside the
poly-tunnel, and stored the plastic collars and canes in the tunnel. We need a large print-off of the school grounds map to help decide and record where we plant these over the next month or so. Watered the tree whips. Last week I noticed that the robin’s nest box in the corner of the poly-tunnel has a nest in it with two eggs. I toughed the eggs, which I didn’t think were very warm, so presumed it was an old nest from last spring. However, there was a robin sitting on the nest this week, staring at me, and didn’t move when I was in there. Showed the children. The doors to the poly-tunnel had been left wide open again (by the hen carers?) so I closed them, but, while the
robin is nesting, we’ll have to leave a small gap in the lower end door for her to fly through, and all be aware that this beautiful happening is there. I re-staked two of the remaining three apple trees, blocked the hen entrance (they were getting through behind the tree), weeded the raised beds, took a barrowful of rocks to the corner pile outside the garden and weeded the corner bed of docks and bindweed outside the tunnel. The children planted peas in 5 raised beds, including the one with elephant garlic in, but we struggled with this a bit, as the 3 new dibbers I bought recently, and kept carefully in the poly-tunnel had gone missing, if anyone knows where they’ve gone? (They weren’t in the toolshed either.)
Checked all areas following half term week, and, with a lot of water filling various vessels, I concentrated much of this into the big green wheely bin as a
central source for watering. Watered poly-tunnel plants. Things are starting to grow faster now, such as broad beans, elephant garlic showing, daff clumps, sea buckthorn, etc. Noticed a second clump of rhubarb in the soft fruit border, so, as we have several bins knocking around not doing much, decided to cut the bottom out of another one and use it as a rhubarb cloche, especially as the earlier one to be given this treatment is now up to the top of the bin aperture. Moved another apple tree, (the 7th) to the ‘MJS bank' against the neighbour’s wall. Only 3 remain now, and these are all round the edge of the area, and may not need moving, as we are also running out
of places where they can go. Sorted through the recently-ordered veg seed packets to determine which ones need planting first, and collected suitable trays and pots for the children to plant them in. Liaised with Miss Sharp about Eco-School progress. After break, not a very good attendance of Warriors, with some saying others ‘didn’t want to come out’, (it was snowing and hailing), but we had enough bods to plant the 8 free trailing begonia corms in big pots for the summer, and place on the staging
lower bench, then turned to the leek seeds, sown and watered into trays. Tidied up some wind-blown pots and litter, and did some weeding among the beds.
Took delivery of the spring veg. seed order – kept in the poly-tunnel till after half term, and also the 4 free packs of potato growing kits. Again, with all these
frosty nights about, Tuesday is frost-free again, so moved two more apple trees, one to the ‘MJS’ bank, and one to the playground fence panel outside the gooseberries. This leaves only 4 trees to move, but a couple of these might not need moving as they are already round the edge – SM to have a look and decide for after half term, when they will still be dormant for a few weeks more. Checked recently-planted trees and shrubs, and inserted canes next to the cobnut bushes and the sea buckthorns around the southern bank border fence, as markers, as the mowing regime starting is not too far away. Having said last week that there was no rush to plant the free bulbs…it appears naked lily corms don’t like to dry out and should be planted asap! However, they are difficult to grow, and whilst not liking to dry out, they also hate
remaining damp. Planting with much sand is recommended for good drainage, but failing that, one book I have says ashes will do. As we have no sand, I brought in a big bag of coal-fire ashes from home, and the children enjoyed mixing a 50-50 medium with compost. We cleaned out two old rectangular planters from last year, and half-filled them with the combo., planted 6 lily corms in each, then topped up with the medium and watered. There are now in the poly-tunnel on the new staging. Then, the process of ‘chitting’ potatoes was explained to the group, and, in class pairs, they set up their chitting frames, put 2 varieties of potatoes (Rocket and Casablanca) on the
frames, and left to chit in the poly-tunnel till March. There are class posters, charts and stickers with the kits, which they each took back to their class. [Correction from
last week: the greengage and damson trees are to the left of the garden gate, not right as stated.]
Having had a call from Sophie to say that the 6 fruit trees had arrived last Wednesday, the first job was to unpack these bare-rooted trees and ‘heel in’ to
damp soil till we decided where they are to be planted. Next I finally planted the last remaining sea buckthorn plant. Very large numbers of daffodil shoots are emerging now. Some good work had been done (by the gardening club?) to remove more bramble clumps from the garden far-end, so I carried on round to the holly hedge, which was encroaching onto the internal garden space, so needed low lateral branches removing, which then exposed previously inaccessible areas where more brambles and
other weeds were proliferating, which were removed too (3 wheelbarrow-fulls to the branch pile). Looked around the grounds for the best sites for the 6 fruit trees to go, bearing in mind that the garden still needs apples transplanting, and that much of the rest of the site’s soil is choked with mature tree roots, as we have found out recently. Decided the best place was along the playground side of the garden fence, one tree per fence panel, though two end panels were left for the outdoor classroom, to come, and the other (car park) end two panels were also left, as one was under the cherry blossom trees, and the next one along seemed to have major concrete under the soil there. So…two pears (Beth (planted by Beth!) and Williams Bon Cretien (Good Christian) are to the right of the garden gate, to pollinate each other, while to the right of
the garden gate are an Imperial Greengage and a Damson Merryweather. This left the Cherry Stella and the Victoria plum to go with the cobnut shrubs on the ‘MJS’ bank. The 6 tree order with Parkers generated two free gifts worth having: a bag of 8 cascading begonias and a bag of 14 Asiatic Mixed Lillies, both of which should provide lots of colour in the summer (to be planted later, no rush for these – in the poly-tunnel currently.
Brought in a veg. seed order for 2017 and passed to Sophie. Brought in tools to smooth off the jagged bits of the rhubarb bin aperture. Dug a trial hole
between the willow tunnel and the fence to see if the soil is less root-choked there, which it was, so planted a sea buckthorn. Moved two more apple trees from the middle of the garden to the park edge, but to plant one of these I had to cut a bramble thicket back. There are now 4 in a row along this margin, leaving just 6 trees more to shift before spring. After break, the children were set to work digging more holes along the willow tunnel border for more sea buckthorn, leaving only one to still plant next week. Late-comers were given a different task, as it was too crowded close together by the willow tunnel, so several used leather gloves and loppers/secateurs to cut back the bramble patch at the back of the garden further. Liaised with Erin about the completed Eco questionnaire results and conclusions, which seem to suggest that litter and water supply, and one other, are the areas for action, which can be easily facilitated.
Checked garden – broad beans growing well. Looked round the grounds to find the best spots for planting the sea buckthorn hedge plants after break. Decided round the perimeter in areas children aren’t allowed to play in (spiny bushes). Looked round the poly-tunnel for the best place to plant the grapevine in. ‘Unfortunately’, we have no holes in it low down, so I had to make one. Decided to use the side away from the hens’ access. Needed to weed the narrow bed outside the tunnel first, as it was clogged with docks, buttercup and bindweed roots. Planted the grapevine on the outside of the tunnel (so it doesn’t need to be watered in hols.), poking it through a small hole, so it will grow inside the tunnel, benefitting from the summer temperatures in there. I’ve done this before, and it should fruit well not this summer, but next (2018). Noticed the rhubarb shoots coming up, so took the bottom out of a spare bin knocking around, and placed it over the rhubarb, to encourage longer stems reaching for the light, and somewhat protecting the plant itself (N.B. Bin bottom edges are sharp, so children not to put hands in.) After break, we ‘un-
heeled’ the sea buckthorn hedge plants, and took spades and forks in pairs to plant them. After trying in several boundary places between mature sycamore trees, and finding that the soil was choked with tree roots there, we finally managed to dig holes to plant 5 of them along the top road fence. 7 larger ones remain, which we re-heeled in, and we might need to put them where I first thought of along the willow tunnel fence.
Checked all areas. Righted a lot of the strawberry plant pots which had been blown over by last week’s gales. Finished assembling the poly-tunnel staging, including placing two long planks underneath for a bottom shelf. After break, the Eco-crew dug up the heeled-in medlar tree and two cobnut bushes, and took them to the ‘MJS’ banking to plant properly. Some bulbs from previous weeks were re-planted in the bank too. Good news that the 420 free Woodland Trust trees was successful – delivery during the week of March 6-10th. A large plan of the grounds will be needed to plan where to put these.
Good news from the Woodland Trust - we've been successful in our bid for 420 free native trees! Delivered in early March, we now need to start planning, with a plan of the school grounds, where this substantial new resource is to go.
Liaised with Sophie about tree orders and deliveries. Checked poly-tunnel. Brought tools in to finish staging assembly, but greater priorities were to unpack
and ‘heel in’ the bare-rooted trees, including the Sea Buckthorn hedging, the medlar, and two cobnut filberts. A time was arranged with the HT to discuss the best places for planting these new fruits. The vine was unpacked and placed next to the fig in the poly-tunnel in its pot, but will eventually be properly planted just outside the poly-tunnel, and a small hole made for it to grow inside the tunnel. SM mentioned moving the bird sculpture again, as a Forest School fire circle is wanted there, and to that effect 34 large log seats had been delivered. Decided to have another go at uncovering the concrete bases below the sculpture, so spent most time digging round the edges. After break, when the Eco-Council children came out, we had another go at moving the bird, and, with all of us heaving in a rocking movement, it budged, and we
were able to loosen it completely from its soil. However, the two concrete bases are very heavy and awkward, and either need breaking up with chisels and lump hammers, or the bird’s props sawing off (one is loose anyway), and even so, to ‘walk’ the thing out of its holes and towards the fence somewhere out of the way would take a substantial number of strong ‘dads’, probably with crow bars for leverage! Some spring bulbs were disturbed in this work, which some children replanted with the dibbers in the ‘MJS’ bank, while the rest of us rolled the logs into position as a circle, which entailed removing several bramble thickets from the far side too first. One
slightly disturbing sign from the Eco-Councillors has been their growing tendency to wander off back to school at various times without me dismissing them together at the end, if this could be mentioned. We need a plan of the school grounds soon, as the Woodland Trust have undertaken to inform us if we’ve got the 420 free native trees pack by the end of Jan., and we need to plan where this goes, along with some other fruit trees ordered still to come.
Checked poly-tunnel, whose both doors had been left open. The top door had come off its hinges again, but is easily fixed back on. I try not to use the top door at all – perhaps we need a sign on it to this effect. Scouted round the site to identify the best sloping bank that is not trampled on, for planting the large bag of crocus corms. As the frost had gone, decided to try to start moving the apple trees, which are now dormant. Managed to dig up and replant two, (with close attention from the hens!) along the far boundary fence (leaving room behind for a Woodland Trust native hedge). The top one is the one with canker, and the lower one is a Worcester Pearmaine apple, whose label broke off during transplanting. Moved another couple of barrow-fulls of rocks from the top side of the willow tunnel, which were frozen into the ground last week. Pruned several basal rootstock suckers from several apple trees, which had been planted too shallowly. Tidied up some stray holly branches left
around from last week. Glad to hear this proved popular at the Christmas Fayre. After break, the Eco-Warriors were shown the crocus corms, and took dibbers and forks to the orange zone bank above the retaining wall, and planted most of them in the form of a large ‘M J S’, with letter- width 4 corms wide. Squiggly lines were planted either side with the surplus when they had finished, and we still have some left for next week.
Checked the garden: a very different problem to last week – ground frozen solid, so my plan to start moving the apple trees, has been postponed. Similarly the large bag of croci received, which will be stored in the poly-tunnel till it thaws. To keep warm, I decided to move the rest of the rocks between the willow tunnel and the garden fence, a) as it was very uneven ground to walk on, and we would be working here after break, and b) it’s a potential hedge-planting section of
ground. Took 4 or 5 wheel barrows full to the corner of the garden where the other rocks are. Last week noticed we have at least 3 female hollies, and this being a very good year for berries, I suggested we harvest some sprigs for sale at the Xmas Fair. Had brought in secateurs and loppers, plus gloves, and we took out the step ladders, but found we didn’t actually need them after all. Children took turns in pruning berried branches off, and bagging them into small (20p) medium (30p) and large (50p suggested price) categories, which 3 boys could run, not involved in any other commitment. Stored in 3 bin bags in the poly-tunnel, as it’s too warm in school. Heard we have been successful in receiving the £400 for garden tools and plants, so will price that order up more accurately. Will also start to prepare a seed order for our main vegetable planting for spring.
Checked the poly-tunnel – poured a lot of yesterday’s leaked-in rainwater from the propagation trays, which still contain green tip cuttings, which must be successfully rooting by now. The rain has at least helped to swell and germinate the ‘green manure’ seeds planted last week in the raised beds. Having completed the bid for a large pack of free Woodland Trust native hedge plants, Mr Palfrey decided to scope the grounds thoroughly, for how much, and where, we could plant the hedges. It appears we have a lot of boundary lines around the perimeter of the site, (both inside and outside the perimeter fence), and within the site, that could be enhanced with such
planting, assuming we get the bid. As Mr Palfrey walked round, he also picked litter, and noted where there were large gaps below the fence, able to be got through by cats or even humans. Decided to use some of the many rocks between the garden fence and the willow tunnel, (one of the potential hedge-planting locations) to block up the holes.
The children continued this work after break. The main job the children did was finish planting the winter broad beans, which we only started 2 weeks ago. So now, virtually all the raised beds are planted with either winter veg. or green manure cover plants, apart from the one large low (ex-herb) bed left for the Gardening Club at
their request. I noticed that one of the apple trees has ‘scab’, a debilitating fungal disease, which can be cured with a special spray.
We checked the fence, which seems to be working effectively. Spent most of the time before break tidying up the compost bins, by putting back in the hoppers the weeds (thrown down earlier to keep the hens from jumping over), and separating them from the stick pile they were mixed up with. Uncovered a large toad. After break, the children helped me strengthen the fence with more bamboo canes and rocks, then we emptied the leaf bags into the third compost hopper, and added those from the leaf-blower men. Then we raked the raised beds level and sowed 6 different types of green manure seeds, (winter rye, crimson clover, white mustard, hot mustard, Phacelia and Lucerne (alfalfa)) to improve and protect the soil over winter, before chopping in when the spring comes.
Mr Palfrey bought in the roll of chicken wire for fencing the garden. He attached one end to the garden fence near the gate, then, with a post and angle, finished at the poly-tunnel corner. Cut the wire there, then started again at the other end of the poly-tunnel, stretching to the tree and post at the corner of the shed. This now divides the
garden into two areas, with the hens kept away from the vegetable growing areas and beds. The job is not finished, but it works at present, and I have left the remaining roll of wire hooked round the tree post, for ease of gating, which the Y6 hen-carers were shown, and could use. They were also asked to keep the poly-tunnel doors
closed now, as there are mediterranean plants in there (fig) and shoot cuttings being propagated, so need the cold air not to get in. After break, we could begin planting winter crops, so, with Y4 and 5 Eco-Warriors, we planted the elephant garlic in the raised bed next to the poly-tunnel (upper, after finding some other garlic in the lower
one), and two raised beds of broad beans (the one that had sweet corn, and the one to the left of that. The children said they would be able to make laminated labels for these beds, which is a good project.
Mr Palfrey checked the garden, and decided to carry on where he left off last week by weeding the soft fruit garden. Starting at the gooseberry bush end, he weeded out especially the buttercup and herb bennet (which has a leaf that looks at first a bit like the strawberry), plus bindweed, trying to leave the strawberry plants as ground cover and weed suppressant. Weeded most of the bed up to the gate by the raspberries.
When the Eco-Warriors came out, some commented that the garden is starting to look more under control. We started with a garden litter pick, as there were a lot of plastic and sweet wrappers, etc. lying around, which were taken to a bin. Then we harvested two celery plants, which have to be taken out before the first frosts (imminent). Two girls volunteered to wash these and take to the kitchens. (The hens have eaten the spinach, and are starting on the nasturtiums.) The main job the children continued with was digging the mature compost out of ‘bin 3’ and topping up the sunken raised beds with it. House points were given to Dylan and Charlotte for persistent and mature hard work. Some raked the beds level, breaking up the clods, others volunteered to do weeding instead, but didn’t get very far. The rain became very heavy, so came in early to liaise about orders, etc.
Mr Palfrey liaised with Vashti from GROW (Gardening club) about co-ordinating and communicating about what we each do with
the children in the garden. We will be leaving a book in the poly-tunnel as a good method of imparting quick points for the next person in. Brought in loppers and cut down the young sycamore tree sprouting in the garden, only to find that it was the bole of a mature tree growing back. When the Eco-Councillors came out, we spent half the time moving more bark chips into the garden, and half the time topping up the weeded raised beds with compost found in the
hopper section nearest the road. Children went in early to start the questionnaires with Miss Sharp. Decided to cut down the raspberry canes to ground level. This isn’t necessary every year, but it is good to do occasionally, especially as, with this year, the patch has become infested with weeds, especially bindweed, so at least we can
get at the ground around this end of the soft bush fruit garden now.
Don't worry or become despondent at the state of the garden! We'll get it into shape, but it all takes time, a bit at a time. We are thinking about getting the Council to come and rotivate an area at the centre and back of the garden, then it's loosened-up soil, from which we
can easily pull out the remaining weeds.
Mr Palfrey would keep the hens in the restricted area of their own coop run for a while, until they form the habit of laying in the allotted nest box area, as we found chicken eggs all over the garden!
Looked in a seed catalogue order for autumn planting of garlic, onions and shallots, autumn-planted broad beans, ‘green manure’ seeds for over-wintering the raised beds, plus a fig tree, which would live happily in the poly-tunnel. Also a request for 10 sacks of free-delivery peat-free compost from Tommy Topsoil, which will last us through the winter. Weeded the raised beds along the car park border, leaving what look like 2 asparagus plants growing. Weeded under the corner gooseberry bush, which was found to have several low branches touching the soil and which had rooted. Cut off and dug these up, re-potting into new pots to grow on as extra plants (which could be sold at school fairs, if surplus to requirements).
After break the Eco-Warriors came out, and were shown how to cut off strawberry runners creeping onto the path areas and re-pot to make new plants. About 30+ were done. Then we dug up the potato crop from 2 raised beds and took a bucket full to the kitchens, feeding the rest to the hens. Liaised with Mrs Mansell about an imminent bid to get funding for some garden tools and further plants, which was needed by Friday.
Mr Palfrey brought in pruning tools and gloves. ‘Laid’ two clumps of hawthorn on the fence border (i.e. cut nearly half way through, then pushed them over, so they form a low hedge, rather than a spindly tree). They will continue to grow in this state. Pruned low branches off the yew and hazel which are either side of the shed, and taking up garden space by growing into the centre (of the garden). Cut more bindweed and brambles. Pulled some nettle clumps up.
The Eco-Council came out after break to meet for the first time. Gave an introductory brief on their forthcoming role, then harvested the apple crop, plus a pot of blackberries each, to have ‘blackberry and apple’ (slices, cut with a sharp knife brought in) as a healthy snack. We discussed which apple type we liked the flavour of
best, then they chose some to take home, and the rest to the kitchens.
Mentioned the 9 Eco-School ‘themes’, and took the one of ‘Water’,
as we didn’t have an outdoor tap or other source of water for washing fruit, etc. Mentioned that this could be a school ‘weak theme’, addressed by (Action Plan) putting a gutter and down pipe on a shed roof edge, then draining it into a water butt with tap.