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Silverdale’s not so secret garden

Posted at 12:28pm Tuesday 01 Oct, 2019 | By Dee Pignéguy Author

I was asked by Silverdale School if I would be the gardener for their Garden to Table programme. 

One look at the unlikely site that the school wanted to develop into a garden would have had most gardeners quickly departing. The area was covered in kikuyu grass, boggy in winter, on the south side of the building, and prone to winds that whipped around the school.

Every school is a unique environment, but given a chance nature can be very creative.

We decided to be bold and with a mountain of cardboard, 35 cubic metres of bark chips, a couple of dedicated volunteers, extra parent help and nine classes of kids excited to be outside, we began the process of transforming the site.

Now, six months later, the garden is flourishing, keeping the earth healthy and the children have learned some valuable life skills.

Once the cardboard was laid thickly on the grass – small sections at a time – the bark chip brigade arrived with wheelbarrows, trugs and buckets of bark to layer on top. We had access to frames which were placed on top of the chips and filled with many of the resources we had gathered such as fish frames, seaweed, manure from a goat and sheep farm, compost from the school's worm farm and compost mix from Daltons. 

After planting seedlings, we watered them with liquid manure made with comfrey and horse poo.
Children tried their hands at sowing seeds of carrots, parsnips, peas and asparagus. We planted garlic and potatoes, made special beds for herbs, and put in a row of bananas along the fence to help reduce the wind damage in the future.

The children learned how to take cuttings and filled many containers with slips from herbs, scented geraniums, small shrubs and fruiting plants. They planted many large seeds from fruit trees, and one of the major successes was the ice cream bean. Those that succeed will be planted out in the orchard we are now creating.

Our newest construction is a chicken pen, which will work well for our planned orchard – the chickens will manure the soil and keep pests at bay while the trees grow.  We already have some trees that are waiting to go into the soil.  With the expanse of fencing we now have, there will be plenty of room for blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries and the passionfruit which love to climb.  The fencing will also allow us to cover the fruit with netting to keep off the hungry birds.

We are not using any sprays and are teaching the children about integrated pest management.

Because of this, everything is edible straight from the garden and ends up in the school kitchen as for chef Kelly Strong, a parent and dedicated Garden to Table volunteer, to turn into delicious food with the help of the children.

Silverdale School's Country Show Day is next month, and the garden will be on display. Vegetables and plants will also be on sale – the money will be used to support our hens which will require some bagged feed as well as bales of straw.

Both the children and I would welcome any more parents or grandparents who would like to be involved with our garden adventure. Info: contact Silverdale School.

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