Our grounds and gardens team have been hard at work on a range of projects this year, all designed to enhance biodiversity and improve the environment across the College site. From wildflower planting and grass management to the development of our student vegetable patch, find out more about the projects underway and the positive impact they have already made across the site!
Wildflowers form an important part of the bid to increase biodiversity and earlier this year the Grounds & Gardens team planted 2,000 plug plants at the edge of the football field with the help of student volunteers. This added to the previous year’s planting of around 7,000 wildflower plug plants. The team also planted further areas this year including the garden of 68 Storey’s Way where you can now find ox-eye daisies, meadow buttercups and knapweed as well as yellow rattle to keep the grass in check.
Since planting these wildflowers and letting the grass grow longer we have seen lots more and different varieties of butterflies in our lovely meadow areas.
The Grounds & Gardens team plans to keep adding to the wildflowers across the site, introducing them to areas they have determined can be left to look more natural. Next spring, they are looking to plant & sow wildflowers around the top of the sports field where the daffodil bulbs were planted last autumn. In the gardens of 68 and 70 they are also planning to add more wildflowers every year on a rolling basis and undertake an annual maintenance programme to ensure thistles and other vigorous weeds are kept under control to help our meadow areas establish successfully.
Alongside this proactive approach, the College site has also benefited from “natural” arrivals over the years including pyramidal and bee orchids, whose seeds only germinate if it finds the right fungal partner, subject to suitable habitat being provided. Hawkweed, oxtongue and cotton-thistle are also natural arrivals. Allowing the grass to grow long in some areas, for example under the fruit trees in 70 Storey’s Way, has also encouraged the growth of other new arrivals including Lady’s Bedstraw, with its honey scented frothy, yellow flowers. When dried, the flower has the scent of new-mown hay and it’s believed the name is derived from the tradition of stuffing straw mattresses with it, particularly those of women about to give birth.
Another area of activity has been around the student vegetable plots. The student gardening beds were first put in place around 2012 for the MCR but some years later were made into raised beds and a greenhouse was put up around 2014 for the students to use. These were extended further a couple of years ago with another two raised beds due to popular demand and any students or families are able to join the gardening group at Churchill.
We now have the Wellbeing Seed Library at Churchill and the Grounds and Gardens team have been growing a few seed library seeds themselves and a few tomato and cucumber plants alongside the vegetables that our student gardeners have been growing, to encourage other students to get involved. Currently in the beds we have sweetpeas, corn chamomile, cornflowers, courgettes, nasturtiums, potatoes and sunflowers, as well as the tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse.
Looking ahead, there are plans to potentially create some more raised bed areas to increase the number of beds available and open up more gardening opportunities for the wider college community! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Katherine in the Grounds & Gardens team if you are a student interested in taking advantage of the opportunities available to grow your own at Churchill.
And finally, Dr Joshua Fitzgerald, one of our JRFs living in the Sheppard Flats, shared his son Liam’s recent experience growing potatoes and you can read his story below. Growing your own vegetables or flowers really can provide a great deal of joy and wonder!
My son, Liam (10 years old), had a fun time growing some new potatoes and harvesting two weeks back. His class had a module on plant biology, and the odd vegetative propagation process for potatoes excited him. He and his mom got to work, and he grew a good crop in a little planter trough/box in our back courtyard. He and I put together a short video about the experience to share with his Year 5 classmates at Mayfield Primary.