This week we have a guest blog from Philip Allen of Lagan Valley Permaculture:
Teaching School Gardening – June 2013
The garden at Kircubbin Integrated Primary School is the result of the children winning the ‘Have Taste Don’t Waste’ banner competition at the ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ event in Ards. Rachael Ludlow-Williams and I first visited the school during stormy weather to understand how the salty sea wind behaved onsite. The designated site is tucked away in a sunny corner but with very pale grass indicating poor soil or lots of builder’s rubble underneath.
Since the whole theme was about recycling waste materials we drew up a garden plan incorporating over fifty tyres, reclaimed bricks, newspapers, compost, saved seeds, rescued plants and old carpet, and then presented the plan to the school.
With the thumbs up we liaised with Ards Council Waste Management to get the materials. This was very helpful as the council kindly delivered the tyres and the working relationship was very good.
The work took three days to complete over three weeks, and the children joined us. We asked the children why recycling was important and why habitat for wildlife needs to be considered, and then showed them how the black tyres would heat up by inviting them to test the heat of black and white surfaces simultaneously.
The tyres were columned, two and three on top of each other, and arranged in a spiral with old carpet on the ground to keep weeds suppressed. This was covered by sea shells collected by the class for aesthetic purposes, with the permission of N.I.E.A. We filled the tyre walls—where the tubes usually go—with old newspapers, and the centre voids were filled with compost provided by us and Ards Council.
An arch made with hazel was erected, and the children tied the rungs on. Sweet peas and runner beans were planted to climb up the arch which forms the entrance. The children planted out the tops of the tyres with vegetables, while wild flowers were planted in a leftover corner area. We created a wood pile and placed a basin of water in one tyre column to benefit wildlife. A bird table was also fixed into the last tyre column.
We discovered that the salty air did not negatively affect the plants that were sheltered by tyres, and shared this information with the children. We also showed them how old sandwich containers protected flower seedlings from birds. The three week period allowed us to spot other developments and share the revelations.
Having the children and their teacher helping brought the project to life. Their enthusiasm and energy was indescribable, and I felt they experienced lifelong learning on connecting gardening with recycling and expressing their artistic talents in the process.