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Schools Competition Blog

Composting in schools:

Any school could, and perhaps should, practise composting on site. There is, among some people, a certain but usually exaggerated fear of problems with rodents. These problems should not arise if the composting system is managed properly.

For any school with its own garden, making compost is a great boon in providing high-quality fertiliser and soil improvement from what are otherwise treated as waste materials. The children's and teachers' fruit peels, tea bags, ends of sandwiches etc. can all be converted into a valuable compost. This will also help the school's environmental performance, and can reduce waste costs.

A lot of schools use one or more plastic compost bins, which often become clogged up with an excess of soft, wet fruit and other food. These tall, narrow bins are not very suitable for this type of material as it compacts and becomes anaerobic very easily, hindering the composting process.

Composting requires a mix of soft moist "green" materials (such as fruit peelings and other food and canteen waste, and also grass cuttings) and drier, crisper "brown" materials (such as autumn leaves, straw, hay, sawdust, shredded paper, and cardboard) to work effectively. This requires a level of know-how and diligence within the school staff or Green Schools committee that may be difficult to maintain.

 

A much easier and more satisfactory solution for most schools would be a wormery such as the one pictured. This is a simple wooden box, filled with moist bedding material similar to the "brown" materials mentioned above, and stocked with composting worms, also known as tiger worms. These tiger worms are easy to acquire - they can be bought, or even found naturally in a pile of compost or animal manure. They eat steady amounts of soft material such as fruit peelings, tea and coffee grounds, and will also eat their bedding, turning it all into compost.

 

 

 

 

 

The advantages of a wormery include:

Easy and effective management of school's food waste

Can be kept in a shed or outdoors in a sheltered spot

Can easily be sheathed with wire mesh as extra precaution against rodents - though this should not be necessary

Produces a very high-quality compost

Great educational and nature awareness tool for children. A compost bin can be a "black hole" for dumping waste, while a wormery raises awareness of the ecology and importance of a usually unseen little creature.

 

Of course, composting is great but reducing food waste is more important. A glimpse into the typical school's compost or waste bin reveals whole uneaten apples, oranges, bananas and sandwiches that have been discarded. The Stop Food Waste campaign www.stopfoodwaste.ie helps children and adults to become aware of food waste and how to reduce it, saving themselves money while helping the environment.

The Stop Food Waste website also offers lots of valuable information on composting, for example the excellent "Composting - A Household Guide" booklet which can be downloaded at

http://stopfoodwaste.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2017-Compost-Booklet-Web-Version.pdf

Paper copies of this are also available by contacting Stop Food Waste.

 

For school visits on food waste and composting, including information on wormeries, contact Donal O' Leary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 087 7409304.

 

Article and Images by Donal. 

 

 

 

 

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After all the snow and sleet of the previous week, the beast from the East was finally banished and there was an air of spring in the air and the sun shone brightly.

The team at Griffins in  Dripsey pulled out all the stops to get everything ready for the official Launch of the Muintir na Tire Cork School garden Competition. Muintir na Tire, Cork County Council Environment and Heritage Sections and Griffins Garden Centre have all come together to organise this exciting competition and the sixth annual competition is now officially open and many primary schools across the County have already entered.

 

 

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Speaking at the Launch County Mayor Declan Hurley spoke of his own love of gardening and praised this great initiative that helps children to learn the importance of nature while staying active

Special guests included the children and teachers of Skibbereen Boys National School Overall winner in 2017 and Coachford and Aughabullogue National Schools. These schools got the opportunity to meet and chat with local beekeepers and learn the importance of Bee friendly Gardening. 

 

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Margaret Griffins and the Local beekeepers are asking schools to help protect our bees and Plants Bee friendly gardens. Her message is simple. Plant flowers and bees will follow. This year Griffins are again awarding a special award for the best Bee friendly Garden.

Margaret and her team also gave the children and teachers lots of invaluable advice on recycling and potting up old wellies, old handbags and even using their new compostable coffee cups, which can be planted directly into the soil.

 

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Dr. Mary Stack encouraged schools to rethink, repair, refurbish along with reusing & recycling items in their garden, as this is very important for the environment.

 

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Conor Nelligan Heritage urged schools to think Biodiversity when gardening. He particularly suggested the inclusion of natural hedges, log piles, bird boxes, bird tables, wildflower meadows, nature-trails and the use of native flora. This year being Blian Na Gaelige Conor urged schools to use Irish in their school garden, maybe highlighting the names of trees and plants as Gaelige. He also suggested that schools be creative

 

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The main theme for this year is Climate Change and the Garden Categories include Edible Gardens, Biodiversity/Wildlife Garden, Up-Cycling, Art and colour Garden, Mixed Garden,   Small Garden, Best New Garden , Creative Ireland Innovation and Creativity, use of Irish in gardening and the overall best  Pride of County Cork Garden  All  schools all automatically judged for this Award.

 

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Log on now to www.muintir cork.com to register your school for The 2018 School gardens competition.  

 

 

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Muintir na Tire Launch Cork School Garden Competition at Griffins Garden Centre.

Pictured at the Launch of the Muintir na Tire Cork School garden competition. Included are Margaret Griffin Miriam Dillon and 'Queen Bee' Jennifer Cotter of Griffins Garden Centre, Bee keepers Ben Philpott and Noel Riordan. Cork County Council officials Louis Duffy, Dr.Mary Stack and Conor Nelligan. Deputy County Mayor Kevin Conway, Donal O'Leary Macroom and District Environmental Group, Pupils and teachers of Scoil Chroí Iosa Blarney, Banteer NS and Aghabullogue NS. Sean Holland Denis Kelly and Seamus Forde Muintir na Tire.

The Muintir na tire Cork School garden competition was officially opened by Deputy County Mayor Kevin Conway last monday in Griffins Garden Centre Dripsey and many primary schools across the County have already entered their school garden in the competition. Muintir na Tire, Cork County Council and the team at Griffins created a Real buzz at the official Launch of the Competition.

Ted Walsh Emma Hughes and Erin Hickey and Deputy Mayor Kevin Conway having fun making 'Bee Friendly Seed Bombs' with Queen Bee Jennifer Cotter at the Cork School Gardens Competition Launch

 Deputy Mayor Conway  said he personally and the County Council were delighted to be associated with this great initiative that helps children to learn the importance of nature and growing your own food while at the same time staying active. Margaret  Griffin and and her team were on hand to gave the children and teachers lots of invaluable advice in Fruit and Vegetable Gardening ,

Pupils from Aghabullogue NS Anna O Leary James Lane and Michelle Murphy learn how to grow potatoes in containers watched by Queen Bee Jennifer Cotter and Dr. Mary Stack Environmental Awareness Officer Cork County Council at the launch of the Muintir na Tire Cork Schools Garden Competition
Erin Hickey Emma Hughes and Ted Hickey show Louis Duffy head of the Environment Directorate Cork Council the art of growing potatoes in a bucket.

Special guest included the children and teachers of Scoil Choí Iosa Blarney, and Aghabullogue and Banteer National schools where they got  the opportunity to Meet and chat with local beekeepers Ben Phillpott and Noel Riordan and learn the importance of Bee friendly Gardening. The children  learnt the fun of guerrilla gardening. The queen Bee Jennifer Cotter taught the local kids how to make bee friendly seed bombs. When they throw the these bombs in to wasteland, the seeds will germinate into a wonderful bee friendly flower patch .

Queen Bee Jennifer Cotter with Pupils of Banteer NS. Rachel Collins Aoife O Connor and Nicola Corkery learning how to make Bee Friendly 'Seed Bombs' with Deputy County Mayor Kevin Conway

A real Favourite with the children was the Bee Mobile at Griffins.  To celebrate the work of the bees and pollinators the vibrant bee mobile at Griffins was unveiled. This is a fun bright display that portrays the importance of bees to our environment. This year Griffins are awarding a special award for the best 'Bee friendly School Garden' and the Bee mobile was a great attraction to all at the launch. Margaret Griffin and the Local beekeepers  have asked all schools to help protect our bees and Plants Bee friendly gardens. Her message is simple. Plant flowers and bees will follow. Through the Cork Schools garden competition , Muintir na Tire Griffins and Cork county Council will  reward schools for their hard work with biodiversity and bee friendly gardening

Buzzing about bees  Local Beekeepers Noel O Riordan and Ben Phillpot take a well earned rest by the 'Bee Mobile' during the launch of the Cork School Garden Competition for Primary Schools in County Cork 
Dr. Mary Stack Environmental Awareness Officer of Cork County Council pictured at the 'Bee Mobile'

Dr. Mary Stack Environmental Awareness Officer of Cork County council encouraged schools to rethink, repair, refurbish along with reusing & recycling items in their garden as this is very important for the environment. 

Conor Nelligan Heritage Officer and Dr Mary Stack speaking at the launch at the Launch


Conor Nelligan Heritage urged schools to think Biodiversity when gardening. He particularly suggested the inclusion of natural hedges, log piles, bird boxes, bird tables, wildflower meadows, nature-trails and the use of native flora.

Mr Séan Holland of Muintir na Tire who heads up the organising team speaking at the Launch

Sean Holland of Muintir na Tire who co-ordinate the competition thanked Cork County Council and Griffins Garden Centre for all their support in organising the Competition. He said that Garden Categories for 2017 will  include Edible Garden, Biodiversity/Wildlife Garden, Up-Cycling Art and colour Garden, Mixed Garden,   Small Garden, Best New Garden , Innovation and Creativity and the overall best  Pride of County Cork Garden  for which  all  schools will be automatically judged.

 He said children and teachers can  Log on now to www.muintir cork.com to register your school for the 2017 School gardens competition. He said the website  and the School Gardens Blog are filled with great advice and inspiration for school kids and teachers alike. Sean said that all schools big and small should enter the competition. 'dont worry if your garden is in its early stage you should still enter and learn as you go along'.

All photos by Timmy Griffin

For more information please contact Denis Kelly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 0872034876

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret to Success:

Ensure the soil is warm. Warm up your soil by covering it with black plastic a few weeks prior to planting. Those extra degrees will translate into earlier tomatoes. If you are planting in a pot or growbag, put a sheet of aeroboard/polystyrene underneath. This is a much warmer environment for the root system by creating a barrier between cold soil and roots (and also a great way to re-use aeroboard).

An exception to the rule, tomatoes can be buried deeper than they come in the pot – all the way up to the first few leaves. Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. If you can't dig a deeper hole, simply dig a shallow tunnel and lay the plant sideways. It will straighten up and grow towards the light!

Pinch and side shoot tomatoes regularly. Remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches (picture)

 

 

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Mulch your tomatoes after the soil has had a chance to warm up. As tomatoes love heat. Mulching conserves moisture and prevents soil and soil-borne diseases from splashing up on to the plants.

If planting in a pot, Place pot near warm wall as the heat is reflected from this

Remove leaves from the bottom 1ft of the stem. These are usually the first leaves to get disease and fungus problems.

Water regularly to keep the soil/compost evenly moist. Feed every 10-14 days with a good organic tomato feed , changing to feeding every 5-7 days once the first fruits start to set. Grow Basil at the base of your tomato plant! This will act as a mulch, and is naturally a great combination plant for tomatoes.

A few marigolds planted in close proximity will help keep your tomatoes free from insects Greenfly & Whitefly If you do happen to get a few insects on your plants, you can boil up some garlic from your kitchen in water, allow to cool and use this as a spray.

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Growbags can be difficult I'm not a big fan of growbags for the growing of tomatoes, especially when the growbag is left flat and is planted with three tomatoes. To me, it's far too shallow and plants are difficult to maintain from the point of view of watering. A far better idea is to grow the tomato plant in a pot, approx 50cm in diameter, and use John Innes multipurpose compost. For better depth, cut growbags in half and you have two upright plastic pots.

Sungold - yellow fruit, medium sized, fantastic flavour!

Alicante - medium sized, good old fashioned flavour!

Money Maker - red medium sized, very hardy

Shirley - medium sized with a great taste!

Tumbling Tom - trailing variety, great for containers!

Try a hanging basket of tumbling toms. A great way to grow this little beautys

tumbling tom red tomato

 

 

blueberry plant

 

Blueberries So simple to grow and so good to eat. These berries are absolutely delicious whether eaten fresh or cooked. They grow to approximately 1 metre high, or a little lower if grown in containers. The best soil to use grow the plants in is a lime free compost, with some slow release tablets added. Here's a useful tip: it is best to grow two varieties of blueberry to get good pollination! Always plant your blueberry in Ericaceous compost. This is really the only requirement. It is such a hardy plant that it will survive what ever our weather throws at it Go on! Rediscover the good life – growing fruit is easier than you'd think!

 

Strawberry Strawberries large

Anyone for Strawberries? Homegrown strawberries taste amazing and are so easy to grow – but, not in the ground! I have found it much easier, and an abundance of fruit had grown, when I grew my strawberries in growbags, in hanging baskets and in raised beds. When strawberries are grown up high they won't get attacked by slugs. Why not grow a few strawberries in a high plastic container, recycle an old drum and cut holes in it and plant strawberries through the holes on top of the container as well. You will have a wonderful crop of great tasting strawberries in no time! A really tasty variety is Elan. This is a professional variety for the demanding amateur grower. It has been given the title of gourmet strawberry. Up until recently, this variety was exclusively available to the professional grower, so it's a real delight to finally be able to offer this on the domestic market! Both of these fruits are Granny Griffins favorite ingredient for her scones. If you would like more advice with tomatoes or any gardening advice, please feel free to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hello Spring.

Spring has arrived and it is time to begin preparing your school garden. Through out  the school year Griffins Garden Centre, Muintir na Tíre and Cork County Council will be posting various blogs with quick top tips, proven winning formulas and advice for  School Gardens in Cork . If you wish for advice on any part of your school garden, please feel free to email Margaret or Miriam in Griffins Garden Centre, Dripsey at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. or call us on 021 7334286

Each year we all ask, Where to Start?Take a walk around the School Garden, take photos, notes and be creative.  
Many garden projects are created with a Mood Board for your Garden. This is just a board with pictures of your space and images you find of garden ideas that you would like to do in your school garden.  Then decide how to get this project done, who can we get materials from, can we get external help with the manual labour, what can we plant and when to start planting. 

 Sow and Grow 2017 is open now and accepting applications from schools across Ireland! This is a primary school based campaign. Early registration gives teachers the best chance of receiving a free growing kit, with seeds,soil and instructions and, of course, loads of support from GIY.  Apply now at giy.ie 

Ask the local commuinty groups if they would like to help, Mens shed, tidy towns and active retirement as well as the parents can be a great local resource. 
Also you maybe able to get older compost for local fruit and vegetable growers. 
What to do in your Garden over the next few weeks?
 
Get Organised
Collect Toilet Roll Inserts for biodegradable pots , plastic water bottles  for watering or for upcycling Containers. 
Get Cleaning, spring clean glass houses, polytunnels, raised beds etc. 

If you already haven't, get well rotted  (at least 2 years old) farm Manure or Fresh Compost into the Garden Beds

Do you have a compost heap? Its a great time to get one started.

 

Have you a water butt? Is it near the School garden? What can we use as a Water Butt?Start Chitting you first early Potatoes 

  • Chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting. 
  • Start chitting from late January in warmer parts of the country or in February in cooler areas, about six weeks before you intend to plant out the potatoes. 
  • Each seed potato has a more rounded, blunt end that has a number of 'eyes'. 
  • Stand the tubers with the blunt end uppermost in trays or old egg boxes, with plenty of natural light.

 

 

Save the bees with seed bombs:
Make a seed bomb with soil, compost and bee friendly seeds. allow them to dry. when it gets alot warmer, get the kids to throw these seed bombs into a Wasteland  area and watch these bloom 

 

DIY Pebble Art 5 2
Be creative and start making your labels for flowers, trees shrubs and plantsI hope this will help you to get started in your school garden and remember please reach out to Griffins Garden centre if you would like any advice at all. 
Happy Gardening from all the team at Griffins

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