Monday, 20 April 2015

It's that time of year again!

Well this is an exciting time of year for me, its seed sowing time. This year Mr Rodd supplied seeds for the OC project, so rather than JPa having a vote on what to plant, I have taken a few of each of the seeds available. This way we should get a nice wide range of plants.

I decided to wait until after the Easter holidays to plant anything as it is warmer now and anything planted before might have died if not watered for the two week break. Well what a good idea, the sun is shinning and it feels well and truly as if Spring has sprung!

So far we have planted:
Parsley, Basil, Thyme, Dill, Peppers, Cucumber, Courgettes (round ones as well as the typical kind), Pumpkin, Butternut squash, Aubergine (a dark and a light variety), Tomatoes and Honey bear Squash.

We are now seeing the first few shoots appearing out of the soil and I plan on showing the tutor group these signs the next time JPa meet.

suspicious activities in the onion crop

Well the onions and garlic are coming along really well, nearly all the plants are over a foot tall! They are looking so good in fact that we have a garlic thief. One morning The tutor group went out to the garden to find two of our garlic plants neatly dug up. I would like to think that it was an animal digging them up for food but sadly the edges of the holes looked too clean to be made by anything other than a spade or trowel. Admittedly we were upset, but knowing that the garlic is no where near ready to harvest we thought this would be the end of the problem (surely no one would dig up a garlic bulb that has yet to 'heart up' and actually form a bulb). We were mistaken, a few days later two more plants have gone.

We have no way of knowing who is taking our plants, all we can do is hope that it won't continue. JPa have worked hard in that garden (even digging in manure!) and are really looking forward to and deserve to get to harvest the plants later in the year.

So if you can all cross your fingers with JPa that would be much appreciated

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Dreams of a snowball fight

Well JPA have not been out to the garden in a while, the weather just has not been nice enough. I must admit, the prospect of walking through the mud with the rain coming down has not given me much encouragement. The students are still eager to get out there though, on rainy days they say "we don't mind getting wet and muddy" with a big cheeky grin, nothing seems to put them off.

Today we managed a tutor time visit to the OC, it was cold and muddy, but we made it. The foot path that leads to the garden was flooded. So whilst avoiding the puddles (or rivers!) out we went. Spades, forks and trowels in hand.

We got out there, worked hard and gave it a good effort. We are still keeping the weeds down in our bed around are crops (onions and garlic) and clearing the large gravelled area around the plots,

All through December and now into the new year we keep hearing the dreaded subject, snow! The students asking "if it snows, can we go in the garden?" followed by the  promise "we won't throw snowballs" (like we believe that one!).

Well we remain firm that the last thing we want to do on a snowy day is to go out to the garden with 26 excited students, but 8JPa are still trying to convince us otherwise. Watch this space, and send us your strength to help us say no if the snow does come.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

It's a wash out that will soon freeze.

Well we have had a really rainy November, JPa's last visit to the Outside Classroom although good fun and productive we had to hop over the puddles. The ground was water logged and somewhat spongy. December has greeted us with marginally dryer weather, but much lower temperatures so between the OC being reclassified as a swamp for a while and the students being happy (for a change haha) to arrive at school and be inside and warm JPa have not gone out for a fair few days.

Luckily for us we have onions and garlic growing and they do not require our attention, and will happily grow without a visit from JPa.

In the Classroom and around the school we are now feeling the pressure and excitement of the festive season approaching and I seem to have a hive of activity around me. From getting sugar paste cake decorations made and cake boards sorted for the year 8 yule log's and trying to see if we can fit in a Christmas cook for the other year groups. I have admit finding out we only had two weeks left of school took me by surprise. Which was of course bitter sweet, I panicked thinking 'how will I get everything done' and then I happily thought 'Oh that means its nearly Christmas time'.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Out in force

This morning JPa went out to the garden to carry on digging up the weeds surrounding the plots, and this morning we met students from other tutor groups for the first time this year. This is the first morning we have met up with another group, and it has reminded us that we have to share the equipment in the garden shed. Well it was a bit of a wake up call. Now we have to make up a rota for the new tutor group so that we aren't going to the OC as whole group. Otherwise we will take all of the tools so that there is nothing left for the other tutor groups or we share (begrudgingly) the tools and have students with nothing to do.

Today is the first attempt at a break time visit, the weather is looking promising, if cold and grey can look promising (haha). We plan to meet at 11 at the tool shed and go on from there. I shall let you all know how it goes.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Moon planting

I don't think we can trace moon planting back to it's original source, but the ancient Egyptians were known to use the lunar calendar when farming as well as the Babylonian's. Man has used the sun, the moon and the stars to tell time, days and to navigate so it is not much of a jump to hear that the moon could help you farm.

It is apparent the different plants grow better in certain phases of the moon. In the same way that the moon affects the tides, it affects the moisture in the soil, pulling it to the surface. Some plants need to concentrate on the root system more than others and some have to put more effort into the leaves or fruits above ground.

A rough guide:

There are three methods for planting by the moon. The Synodic, or waxing and waning cycle, the Sidereal, and the Biodynamic cycle. The simplest one being the Synodic method. This is the only one I have ever used, I have had success with this method, and I often wonder when friends tell me something along these lines: 'The first seeds I planted grew really well but the next lot were small and some died' if it was just down to the moon phase.

At the new moon (cannot see a moon, or only a small crescent on the right), the lunar gravity pulls water up, this is good for above and below ground growth. This is the best time for planting above ground annual crops that produce their seeds outside the fruit. Examples are lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and grain crops. Cucumbers like this phase also, even though they are an exception to that rule.

In the second quarter (right hand side crescent moon up until full moon) the gravitational pull is less, but the moonlight is strong, creating strong leaf growth. The types of crops that prefer the second quarter produce above ground fruits with their seeds inside, such as beans, melons, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Also this is a good time to mow your lawns if you are trying to increase growth.

After the full moon, as the moon wanes, the energy is drawing down. The gravitation pull is high, creating more moisture in the soil, but the moonlight is decreasing, putting energy into the roots. This is a good time for planting root crops, including beetroot, carrots, onions, and potatoes. It is also good for perennials, biennials, bulbs and transplanting because of the active root growth. Pruning can be done now as well.

In the fourth quarter (crescent moon on the left) there is decreased gravitational pull and moonlight, and it is considered a resting period. This is also the best time to cultivate, harvest, compost, transplant and prune. Mow lawns in the third or fourth quarter to retard growth.

I recommend giving this a go, I think it speeds things up and gives good results. For example if you plant carrots after the full moon the root system is drawn down sooner, and the root just happens to be the desirable part of the plant.


Leafmould is a brilliant soil replenishment. Used on its own makes a brilliant compost to plant seeds in, dug into the plot brings nourishment and mixed with sharp sand makes good potting compost. The best bit about leafmould is it is free!

Basically collect lots of leave that fall from trees in autumn and store them, slightly damp for two years either in holey bin bags or in a purpose made compost bin (it needs to be aerated so a compost bin like the council sell might not be ideal) using chicken wire or something similar nailed around a wooden frame. After the two years are up the leaves should have rotted down nicely and are ready for use.

The best leaves to use (because they rot down quickest) are Oak, Beech and Hornbeam. I'm not sure about the other trees, but I know for certain there are Oak trees on school property and we walk underneath one on the way to the OC.

I think I need to have a word with the 'powers that be' if this can be done, either somewhere we can store/hide away the bin bags or maybe convince Resistant materials so make us a leafmould bin. Cross your fingers for me.