Posts Tagged ‘SEED school gardening charity’


School Gardening Teacher, Caroline Jolly, with one of the St Brigid's School hens.

School Gardening Teacher, Caroline Jolly, with one of the St Brigid’s School hens.

I was very impressed after speaking to Dundrum GIY group in the Goat, Goatstown, recently, to then be brought by local GIY Champion, Shane Maher, to see a famous school garden in Stillorgan nearby. Teacher Caroline Jolly has been the inspirational driving force behind developing this educational oasis. Caroline is a protégé of Marino Institute of Education lecturer, Paddy Madden, author of  ‘Go Wild at School’.

The grown-up community helps the students, especially during the school holidays in keeping St. Brigid’s  School Garden looking great all year round. Daily attention is needed also for the hens. Food and water for the hens is one responsibility, but so is protecting poultry from the increasingly brazen foxes in this suburban environment. Amazingly, a honeybee brood box was set up empty and after  a few months a swarm took up residence in the midst of the wildflower meadow. Seeds for this wildlife oasis came from in Scariff, Co. Clare.

It is important to also appreciate the legacy of fertility which underpins the thriving nature of this school garden. The site was before now part of the Rectory garden for St. Brigid’s Church of Ireland in Stillorgan. A previous Rector kept a couple of donkeys there in years gone by. Geoff, Caroline’s uncle and godfather and Patsy who also works in the school garden, expressed their appreciation for all the fertility which the donkeys bequeathed to the present generation of young horticulturalists. Good fertility and soil structure is being maintained now by a fine three bay composting system which decomposes a diverse mixture of plant matter and poultry poo.

My sincere thanks to Caroline and crew for the very kind bottle of elderflower champagne, old coffee grinds for deterring slugs and the finest of St. Brigid’s hens’ eggs. One of the bigger eggs had a delicious double yoke. Congratulations to Shane and all at Dundrum GIY for all their work in lending a hand whenever required in this wonderfully inspirational outdoor living classroom.


School Gardening Q&A at Bloom draws a crowd – First Week in June 2012

Michael Kelly (GIY), Paddy Madden (SEED) and Cathy Eastman (SEED) in front of a large crowd at Bloom, listen to Hans Wieland (SEED) stress the importance of the School Caretaker for School Gardens.

The proven educational benefits of school gardening being a part of the curriculum were highlighted in BLOOM, the Bord Bia gardening festival on its first day. Michael Kelly, for GIY Ireland, hosted a lively question and answer session in the big marquee at the famous Phoenix Park annual extravaganza. The panel from SEED, the Earth Education network, comprised of Paddy Madden, school gardening lecturer and earth education author from the Marino College of Education, Dublin; Cathy Eastman from the award winning Gortbrack Earth Education Farm, near Tralee; Hans Wieland, from the Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim and Trevor Sargent, a former school principal and Minister for Food and Horticulture was there for Sonairte, the Ecology Centre at Laytown, Co. Meath, as well as being the author of Trevor’s Kitchen Garden, a fundraiser for school gardening projects.

The rudiments of establishing a school garden were teased out by the panel. The success of a school garden project generally requires the support of the Principal, the engagement of the Caretaker and the drive of a designated teacher, perhaps the Green School Co-ordinator. The first step is to plan on paper how the garden is ideally to be laid out. The locations of hedging, fruit bushes and trees, raised beds, etc. Then set about an introductory three year plan.

–         Year 1: In ALL the vegetable patches, sow potatoes as an easy first crop, which leaves the soil friable after the crop is harvested.

–         Year 2: In the same clear patches, sow peas. This improves soil health by adding nitrogen, and peas are a favourite for many children.

–         Year 3: Begin a planned rotation with at least four plots growing different veg family groups (a) potato/onions (b) peas/beans (c) cabbage/kale (d) carrots/beetroot.

Given that school summer holiday coincide with the main harvest for most GIY-ers, the school garden suits crops which can be harvested in June before schools close for July and August.

–         Early potatoes sown in strong potato bags started in early February indoors, can be put outside after the risk of frost has passed (generally after Easter) for a June harvest. Strawberries likewise make for a popular June harvest.

–         Short term crops like lettuce, radish or scallion are likewise sown in the spring for a May and June harvest.

–         Perennial fruit bushes, trees, herbs and rhubarb etc help support a wide biodiversity in the school grounds as well as yielding healthy food for the school community year after year.

–         Produce which ripens over the holiday period is often harvested and frozen, to be savoured when pupils return in the autumn. A rota of parents and/or the caretaker are required to water over the summer but manicuring the garden is not necessary. Pupils learn important lessons about biodiversity from seeing weeds on their return in the autumn.

An easy way to construct raised beds on a existing lawn area was outlined. No digging up of grass sods is required. Place a raised bed wooden frame, one metre wide and as long as you like, on top of the grass. Inside the frame of four planks (ideally 1 foot /30cm high), place a couple of layers of cardboard on top of the grass. Cover this biodegradable floor with soil. The children can be asked to each bring a bag or carton of soil to school for the raised bed. Plant strawberries or potatoes. Over time, the cardboard with decompose as will the grass underneath it. However the bed will need weeding from time to time.

Appeals were heard for the Department of Education to plan schools with school gardens in mind. The present sterile school landscaping policy is at variance with the curriculum which encourages outdoor education. Also school canteens are needed so school grown produce can be cooked and enjoyed as part of a healthy eating habit.

GIY and SEED, the 6 organic centres around Ireland providing School Earth Education, will continue to co-operate so more schools can benefit from good quality earth education and school gardening.

Trevor Sargent, Patron of SEED.


Pea, beetroot, sunflower, courgette, leek seeds all thriving on one of the greenhouse side shelves.

Last year, I had no greenhouse, this year I do. The compact 6 by 6 foot structure has two side shelves at chest height which hold seed sowing trays and pots, thus increasing the range of plants in the garden I can bring on from seed at any one time.

Some of the opened seed packets (first used in 2009) I finished off by sowing the remaining seeds in them. I am pleasantly surprised that most have done really well. The 2009 Sugar Dwarf Sweet Green Mange Tout Pea (what a mouthful!) has given me a 100% germination on the tray of seeds sown, bought from the Organic Centre However Cosmos grown as  beautiful tall daisy like multi-coloured flowers gave very patchy results from the 2009 opened seed packet. But excellent germination from the Lettuce Baby Leaf Mix 2009 packet, not 100% mind you.

Folks with bigger gardens may want to do more direct sowing outdoors now. My small patches are all occupied still with last years plants like purple sprouting broccoli or simply with piles of organic matter, hedge clippings etc waitung for me to  shove in to the empty compost making brick box. Therefore almost all fruit, veg, herb and flower seeds are being sown in pots or trays in the greenhouse first, before transplanting outdoors in a couple of weeks.

The only direct sowing outdoors I have done is radish and carrot seed. Minimal root disturbance is the rule-of-thumb for all plants with ‘carrot-like’ roots. To withstand slug attacks, either use nemotodes, organic slug pellets, stand guard all night with a torch (not a serious suggestion!) or protect the seedbed by covering it with dry smashed up egg shells. A combination of these and other options seems to be working for me. I have not yet had to eat my own words, as written in the new book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden ( on the many proven ways of avoiding slug and snail predation. If you have bought a copy, I hope you are enjoying it. It is selling well which is good news for SEED the school gardening charity. The SEED organic centres are currently preparing an impressive garden and stand for the BLOOM festival over the June bank holiday.