Rachel Borrows, School Horticulturist, works with the children to promote sustainable garden practice and provide an appreciation of our school’s biodiversity.

15th October 2021

This week has been our final week of harvesting for the season.  The Year 1 and 2 gardening club enjoyed pulling up the last of the carrots in the vegetable garden, and snacking on the peas as they worked!

Our pumpkins are now all harvested and the Year 3s and 4s have been busy carving them into ghoulish creations for the Halloween competition.  Huge thanks to Naomi Sinclair and Emily Everist for their skills with the carving knife!

Year 5 and 6 gardening club created some lovely seasonal art using leaves we had collected.  We cut the leaves in half and then tried to copy the other half to complete the picture.


8th October 2021

This week has been our harvest festival and a wonderful way to share and celebrate our successes from the garden with the whole school! Our various pumpkins, beetroots, carrots and green beans adorned the stage in the theatre. Well done to all our young growers, but especially to the Year 3s and 4s who have tended their pumpkin plants from sowing the seeds back in the spring right through to harvesting some pretty impressive produce.

The Year 3s have also been creating their very own biome experiments this week to link in to their humanities topic. We now have our very own mini rainforest, desert and tundra set up in room 4. They are heated or cooled accordingly, and each have three different plants growing in them – a cactus, an alpine sedum, and a fittonia from the tropical forests of Peru – to see which plants will thrive in the different conditions.

The Year 5 and 6 gardening club have been collecting and identifying autumn leaves and seeds from the grounds this week, which we will use next week to create some leaf drawings. Their favourite find was of course the seeds from the Horse Chestnut tree!

1st October 2021

There has been more harvesting fun this week with the beetroot crop ready to be enjoyed by the Year 5 and 6 gardening club, and also our Reception class who came and had a go at pulling up their very own ‘giant turnips’!
The canes of green beans are dripping with pods, much to the delight of our Year 6 classes who were able to harvest a bagful each to take home with them.
Some of our youngest growers in the Pre-Prep have been sowing cress seeds to link in with their topic of ‘watch me grow’. They decorated paper cups with pictures of themselves which we then sowed the seed into so that it will grow into cress ‘hair’.

24th September 2021

This week, for Recycle Week, the Year 5 and 6 gardening club have been learning how so much of horticulture is to do with recycling. Nutrients are naturally recycled by plants, as demonstrated by the green manure seed mix that we have sown this week in the vegetable garden. Our green manure will take nitrogen from the atmosphere and store it in the root nodules until we dig the plants back into the soil, releasing the nutrients into the soil ready to be used by the next crop plants that we sow there. We have also been actively recycling some of our household plastic waste by turning milk cartons into watering cans.

Our Pre-Prep gardeners have kicked off the bulb planting season this week by planting daffodil bulbs into the Pre-Prep garden, learning which way up to plant them! We look forward to a colourful spring display.

17th September 2021

It is harvest time in the vegetable garden this week, with the Year 5s enjoying bumper crops of mangetout and green beans. The sweetcorn that they sowed last term unfortunately succumbed to rabbits but failures are all part of the gardening learning journey!

The junior gardening club have been exploring the school grounds, finding dried seed heads to help start an ongoing seasonal display table in room 4 in the De Beer block (the new gardening classroom).

The Year 5&6 gardening club have been introduced to the manual labour of horticulture, as we began weeding and digging the empty bed in the vegetable garden in preparation for the sowing of a green manure to improve the soil for us over the winter.

10th September 2021

We have all been very excited to get back to school and see how much everything has grown over the summer holidays!

The veggie patch has really filled out and there are plenty of mangetout for snacking on as we tend the garden.  However, the real stars have been our pumpkins, which the current Year 4s planted before the holidays – some of them are looking very impressive already!

Our Year 3 and 4 gardening club has been busy this week planting out young strawberry plants (which were propagated from the Pre-Prep’s plants) in the De Beer garden, and the Year 5 and 6 club has been helping to re-pot some of the school’s spider plants, learning about the growing conditions that these indoor plants require.

9th July 2021

This week the Year 5s were able to enjoy the fruits of their labour by harvesting their peas! We sowed them all the way back in March – the very first crop of this year to be sowed. The children were very excited to find out how many peas were in each pod; the record was set at ten and a half! And they all enjoyed eating these little green sweeties straight from the plant!
Elsewhere in the De Beer garden, the French beans are maturing nicely and should still be cropping on our return in September, and the pollinator bed has really filled out, with achillea, buddleja, erigeron, salvias and verbena all in flower. The other plants will come into flower later in the summer to extend the season, ensuring the supply of nectar and pollen for as long as possible into the autumn months.
The Year 2s made their first contribution to the Prep veggie patch this week as they brought their pumpkin seedlings up with them to Mrs Everist as part of their transition morning. We hope that their little plants will grow and flourish, just like them, in their new home!
In the Pre-Prep garden the Year 1s were amazed to find new little strawberry plants growing on long ‘arms’ stretching out from the mature plants in their patch. We have pegged these runners down into pots filled with compost so that hopefully they take root to form strong new plants that we can plant out in September, thereby populating the school grounds with our own home-grown strawberry plants!
As we leave school for the summer, we can take a moment to appreciate the beautiful plants that have grown for us this year. The lovely wildflower area on the main drive outside the music block, that Sue Glossop painstakingly added hundreds of plug plants to back in the spring, is looking glorious and is full of bees!
We look forward to seeing how everything has grown and changed on our return in the new academic year – and don’t worry – there is a dedicated team of waterers to see the plants through the summer break!

2nd July 2021

This week Years 3, 4 and 5 have been busy designing their own bee friendly gardens for Radio 2’s Big Bee Challenge competition. The winning design will be made into a real garden and installed at an NHS Trust site to be enjoyed by children at the hospital. The children have learnt about what bees need from a garden (food, water and shelter) and have visited the different garden areas at Vinehall for ideas and inspiration.

The Year 8s have been making labels for the apple trees that they planted earlier in the year, to commemorate their time at Vinehall. Many thanks to Ollie Dorman for helping them to complete their designs. The orchard is looking lovely at the moment with the grasses and wild flowers being left to grow and flower, attracting many bees and butterflies!

25th June 2021

This week in the Pre-Prep the lettuces are looking delicious, ready for their first tasting.
The pollinator bed in the De Beer garden is coming into flower, providing any passing bees with a welcome meal. Maybe some will even choose to stay and set up home in our bee hotel that we have ready to install.
We have also planted out the tomato and courgette plants that were generously donated by the local charity Hands of Hope as part of their ‘Get Growing’ scheme. Thanks to Aly O’Sullivan for coordinating this. The tomato and courgettes have been added to the Pre-Prep bee garden as both can be pollinated by bees. Tomato plants in particular rely on bumble bees to pollinate them.

18th June 2021

Everything has been growing well in the Vinehall gardens this week thanks to the warm weather and rain. The runner beans that the Year 1s planted in the Pre-Prep garden have germinated already;  Year 5’s peas in the De Beer garden have some promising looking pods on them; and our new vegetable beds received their first plants which the children have grown themselves from seed – the Year 3’s pumpkins and the Year 4’s sweetcorn.

The Pre-Prep enjoyed their first harvest of radishes! Like Maisie Monkey, they were all very good at trying something new by tasting them. There was a mixed response, with some children not convinced, but others ate lots.

11th June 2021

Our reception class have created their very own bee garden to support their classroom learning topic. We planted some bee friendly flowers, sowed some wildflower seeds and also made a bee drinking station using a shallow dish filled with pebbles so that our bees can safely quench their thirst without the risk of drowning in deep water.
We noticed that bees are already happily using the Pre-Prep garden, visiting our flowering herbs and also the beautiful alliums in the Year 2 bed.

21st May 2021

This week there has been a lot of horticultural activity in our courtyard garden.  Year 5’s peas have been given some twiggy supports to climb up as they are growing nice and strongly now.  Our first tender crops, the dwarf green beans that 5F sowed back in March, have been planted out and, because they were sown in biodegradable newspaper pots that we made, we were able to plant them pot and all!

To complement the drought tolerant Mediterranean herbs that were planted a few weeks ago, we now also have some herbs that prefer slightly damper, cooler conditions such as mint and parsley growing happily in their separate bed.  And finally the Year 3s took part in the Open Week activity, focussing on sustainable horticulture by planting up a pollinator bed consisting of drought tolerant perennials. They learnt about the different adaptations that flowers have to suit different types of pollinators, and that therefore it is important to grow a variety of flower shapes and forms to support as many different pollinating insects as possible.

14th May 2021

Now that the weather has warmed up a bit, the Pre-Prep have been busy sowing some vegetables that are quick to mature, such as radishes and lettuce, so that we can hopefully harvest them before the end of term. We were very excited to see that already some seedlings are starting to appear!

7th May 2021

The first buds on the new apple trees have broken out into blossom. Do take a stroll down by the astro to see them.  The soil has arrived to fill the new vegetable beds and they are beginning to look nearly ready to receive their first plants. We just need to get the rabbit proof fence up to stop our furry little friends feasting on them all.

30th April 2021

This week the children have been learning about the adaptations of drought tolerant plants, and how to identify some of the flora and fauna found within the school grounds.

Sustainable Steps Started

Identifying trees by their leaves

The children used an identification wheel to compare leaf shapes and identify some of the many species of trees in the Vinehall grounds.

Pond Dipping

The Year 4 children visited the Vinehall pond armed with nets and buckets to see what they could find.

Herb Planting

Filling the fixed beds in the newly refurbished De Beer garden was the perfect opportunity for the children to smell, taste and touch different herbs.