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The school garden at the Great Yorkshire Showground

School Garden at the Great Yorkshire ShowAs a part of its charitable work, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society offers a range of courses to support teachers and assistants in their work. Here the garden pulls together a number of the courses to show what can be achieved and to serve as a resource to the courses.

One of the challenges of the garden is the choice of ground cover. Using grass requires regular cutting and manoeuvring around beds is not easy hence the use of bark, having the advantage of needing little maintenance.

Vegetables are grown in three raised beds and crops are rotated to prevent disease building up in the soil and to build soil fertility. The three rotations are:

  • Roots - beetroot, carrots, celery, chard, garlic, onions, leeks, parsnips and shallots.
  • Brassicas - broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohl rabi, swede and turnip.
  • The rest - broad beans, courgettes, French beans, lettuce, marrow, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, runner beans, tomato.

Planning is important in organising what needs to be sown when, so that crops are ready in term time.

In terms of shape fruit trees are often thought as being lollipop in shape, however there are other ways of training the trees. Around the garden apple trees have been trained as single tier espaliers, palmettes and compact pyramids. Currants are typically grown as bushes, here we have an example of a Blackcurrant grown as a standard and a Redcurrant trained as a vertical cordon.

The heart of the garden is the soil which is enriched by growing green manures and adding compost from the compost bin.

Courses offered by the Society to School teachers and assistants currently involved in practical work in school include:-

  • Bread Making
    Cooking Healthy Meals
    Introducing Fruit into the School Garden
    Keeping Poultry in School
    Land Art
    Outdoor Mathematics
    Outdoor Science
    Willow Weaving

More details can be found in the Education section at

The Composphere

Many a gardener will tell you that to get a good crop you need a good soil, and adding compost is one way of improving your soil.

Traditionally a compost heap would have been used to break down any organic matter, but there is a risk of rodents taking residence and some schools have had to remove their compost bins as a result.
Yorkshire made, from 100% Recycled, UV protected plastic, the Composphere solves this problem. Delivered in two halves, the assembled Composphere has a 315 litre capacity and can be rolled around the garden. This speeds up the composting process by aerating material inside when rolled. Access is via an easy to use twist-lid.

Priced at £89.85 available from Fruitscape. Read more here...

The Hens

The hens in the garden are Black Rocks, a hybrid hen, a first-cross from selected strains of Rhode Island Red (male line) and a Barred Plymouth Rock (female line) is good for free range outdoor living. Having a dense coat of feathers they withstand most conditions, wind rain and snow. They are also less likely to suffer from mite problems. Black Rocks also have a highly developed immune system which not only helps with their hardiness, but also provides a long productive life.

These hens are 11 weeks old and should come into lay at 23 weeks.

Your local supplier for various breeds of hen is:

  • Edward Bootham
    Howden Park Farm,Front view of hen house
    BD20 0LT
    01535 652222

The hen house was built by Andy Stewart

and is made from recycled and reclaimed timber. This particular hen house has been clad in cedar with a cedar shingle roof.



The Square Foot Garden.

Image of the square foot gardenNot everyone has the space to accommodate a full garden but utilising a space of just 4feet by 4 feet a range of crops can be grown through out the year. Developed in America, the square foot garden consists of a grid of 16 squares measuring 1 foot square.

In the UK timber is now typically sold in metric measurements and to save cutting the garden has been converted to metric; so using two 1.8m lengths of wood has given us sixteen 45cm squares.

Building is easy, just get your wood, screw the boards together and fill with soil with added manure or well rotted compost. Divide the square into 16 equal squares, using string, bamboo canes, thin pieces of wood, shoe laces - what ever takes your fancy.

Depending on the mature size of the plant, there will be 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants per square foot. If the seed packet recommends a plant spacing 12 inches apart, you'll plant 1 per grid box. If it recommends 6 inch spacing, you can plant 4, if it asks for 4 inch spacing, you can plant 9, and if it recommends 3 inch spacing, you can plant 16 per square foot grid.

Just as in the main garden, crop rotation is practised, so planning is as important as ever. So using a simple template a plan can be created for the garden.

Various plans can be made so that crops or green manures can be grown throughout the year.

Living Willow Structures.

These screens where created as part of the practical Living Willow course, run by Geoff Norton of Yorkshire Hurdles. The course delivers the basic principles to produce a living hedge and by adapting the techniques tunnels, domes or arches can be produced.

Willow will grow in semi shade but grows best in full sun and tolerates a range of soil conditions from dry, nutrient poor soils through to moist soils. Willow is also tolerant of air pollution.

Planted in the dormant season (November to March) through a weed suppressant membrane pegged to the ground, the structures consist of hazel stakes which are used to provide the support framework. Various coloured willow withies were woven to create the living fence panels.

From a maintenance point of view there is not much to do except to weave new growth into the structure. Any long top growths can be cut back in the autumn to preserve the shape. These may be used as cuttings to grow on to generate new structures or for weaving into artistic designs.

Not only are willow structures fun for children's play areas but they can be used in the curriculum too - in design, construction, art, English or out door mathematics.


The Rhubarb Triangle in the Nectar Meadow.

How can you be in Yorkshire and not grow some Rhubarb in your schools garden?

Originally the rhubarb triangle referred to the area between Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield which became a centre for growing rhubarb for a number of reasons. Rhubarb likes cold, moisture and is a hungry plant and Yorkshire weather combined with mill waste, horse manure and the "night soil" from the growing cities provided the high nitrogen feed. Today the Rhubarb Triangle now refers to a much smaller area between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell where Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is grown, but using modern fertilisers.

Our nectar meadow provides a mix of nectar sources for bees, butterflies and moths. Sown in early April 2011, the seed mix consisted of a blend of six non-aggressive grasses and a mix of wild flowers including field scabious, lesser knapweed, self heal, birdfoot trefoil and ox-eye daisy. Other flowers and plants have emerged from the soil.

Wild flowers prefer infertile soils, so do not thrive in areas of high fertility. As the soil around school is often poor, creating a wild flower area is practicable. Having prepared the ground for autumn or early spring sowing, seed is sown thinly at around 2.5g per square meter. Sowing thickly leads to too much competition which reduces the success of the flowers. In the first year the ground can be mown, this helps to reduce competition from aggressive grasses. In subsequent years, the grass is cut after the flowers have set seed. The cut grass is removed so as not to return the nutrients back to the ground, thus maintaining the poor soil conditions.

Insect habitats

As gardeners insects are often seen as pests but that is not true of all insects. A tidy garden is often not a friendly place for wildlife to live as it lacks diversity. Creating a range of habitat niches provides different areas and opportunities for wildlife to live and feed at different times of the year.

Log Pile

In a wild wood a fallen tree will often die and become home to a host of wildlife including beetles, toads and fungi; hedgehogs may even hibernate in them.

The log pile is a simple way to replicate what happens in the wild. Ideally log piles should be located in a shady area, so that they remain damp and decay. Logs, with a minimum diameter of 10cm, of oak, beech, ash or birch with the bark still on are particularly good stacked and left alone. Leaves can be put in between the logs to help the decaying process. Over time the logs will break down and new logs will need to be added.

The insect hotel

This simple structure consists of a stack of light weight pallets, into which an assortment of materials have b

een place to provide homes for insects.

Made entirely from recycled materials each section is filled with different materials which can include

  • Cut old bamboo canes provide nesting locations for solitary bees.
    Dead grass, straw or reeds provide places of insects to hibernate in.
    Dead wood for crawling insects.
    Dry leaves at the base of the hotel which mimics the woodland floor.
    A pop bottle with rolled up corrugated cardboard for lacewings. The adults eat only honey, pollen, and nectar, which they need to reproduce. The larvae, on the other hand, consume aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, leafhopper nymphs, caterpillar eggs, scales, thrips, and whiteflies.

As most insects prefer cool damp places, the insect hotel is best located in a cool semi shade location, which in time will come from the apple tree.

On the Education Pavilion other examples of ladybird and lacewing houses can be found.


Fruitscape maintains the garden throughout the year and delivers a number of courses on behalf of The Yorkshire Agricutural Society.