11 June 2013
I've just finished for the day with the Level 2 Diploma group, who have only 2 weeks left before they complete their course. The practical tasks that need assessing have been completed so we have had a different sort of day. A bit of amenity horticulture, planting up the tubs at the farm shop and preparing the ground and sowing a wild flower mix on a new bit of banking we have on site next to our new yurts. The flowers we hope will encourage a variety of bees, butterflies and other bugs that will pollinate our crops and help control some pests, as well as giving us a colorful environment to enjoy whilst having our lunch outside, weather permitting!
At the beginning of May we moved into our new training yurt, the same size as the old one, but it has a white ceiling and clear central dome, it feels bigger and is definitely brighter, especially with the gorgeous weather we have been having. We also have a new wood burner, which is very smart and although it has only been lit a couple of times it seems to pump out the heat really well. Just what we need during the winter months. Although I still need to find a new bookcase and unpack some of our teaching materials, it is starting to feel like home. The students certainly like sitting on a level floor rather than one that slopes!
The Level 1 Diploma group finished last week with a practical day on tasks they had requested to do, strangely this included weeding the broad beans! They also planted up some decorative tubs with herbs which are now proudly standing outside the yurts further enhancing our environment.
As the courses come to an end, planning is underway for the next academic year. At the beginning of September the plan is to start both a Level 1 and Level 2 based Diploma course, so if you are interested please do contact me to secure a place. Its a strange time of year for me, its sad to say goodbye to a group of people whom I have got to know, and often become friends with, but at the same time its exciting when a new cohort of students embark on a new course with us. Horticulture is such a broad subject, we all learn from each other, even the teacher doesn't know it all!
By Hazel Sharples, 11 June 2013 –
18 March 2013
With our current Level 1 and 2 courses running along nicely, I had decided we should start a second Level 2 course this March which would run through to Christmas giving all the participants a chance to learn and be involved in a growing season at Growing Well from start to finish.
All was going well, marketing had been done, students had signed up, a tutor had been found, the sun was shining and I was certainly getting excited about having a new group starting at such a lovely time of year. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Just a week before the course was due to start I was informed that the Skills Funding Agency had restricted the funding for this academic year so I had to cancel.
To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Probably the worst part for me is feeling that I have let people down, promising them a course and then not being able to deliver.
However, on a more positive note, I have been assured that as of August funding will be available once again, so with fingers and toes crossed we will be starting more courses in September. Please watch this space!
By Hazel Sharples, 18 March 2013 –
22 February 2013
March is a fantastic time to start a horticulture course. You will experience a whole growing season from seed sowing for this year's crops, planting them out, caring and nurturing the plants then hopefully harvesting them too! I personally, get very excited if I have been involved with a crop from the start. There is something special and satisfying about watching seeds grow into edible crops, especially if you get a lovely leafy lettuce or a big fat juicy red tomato at harvest time. As well as watching our crops grow you will gain an understanding of why we do things in certain ways, how it benefits the plant and how to keep a good productive and healthy soil, amongst many other things. With our expert training team on hand all those questions you have wanted answers to can be unveiled in Growing Well's unique learning environment.
So if you are interested, or you know someone who might be, please contact me via the website, email or phone.
By Hazel Sharples, 22 February 2013 –
23 January 2013
Last week with my group we started a unit that covers botanical naming of plants and how to identify them. Each student needs to be able to identify and name 60 plants from the categories of food crops, weeds and trees and shrubs. As there are not many food crops above ground and many weeds have disappeared, I brought in a variety of twigs from trees around our site. The students were given a winter twig identification key and given the task of working out which tree each twig belonged to. It's amazing the number of trees the same piece of twig can belong too!!
I also had the pleasure of working with the Level 1 group, who were looking at how to care for seedlings. It's the beginning of the growing season, with peppers and tomatoes just being sown. One of our practical tasks was to clear and clean the heated bench so the newly germinated seeds have a pest and disease free environment, assisting them to grow into healthy plants on a cosy heated bench. It's a vital job but one that often isn't a priority. Later in the day we dug up, divided and potted up some herb plants which needed moving from their soggy, waterlogged position.
As I come to the end of the week I am thinking what else I need to do. The snow is still trying to fall, one of the volunteers is practising on the tractor as he takes his tractor driving test next week. Its the end of the week and enough work has been done this week.
By Hazel Sharples, 23 January 2013 –
17 December 2012
As we come to the last week before the Christmas break our students will be enjoying a fun day. My group will start with a 'What have you learnt so far?' quiz. Always a good one for me as it allows me to find out which students have been listening to the group discussions about topics we have been learning about and the practical tasks we have been doing. It also brings out the competitive nature of some students, especially if sweets are the prizes. I know the level 1 group have those!
As the growing season came to an end, the groups have been learning more about vegetative propagation. We have moved on from division to hardwood cuttings. This year, for the first time we have been able to collect 1 year old wood from our own black, red and white currant bushes so when our cuttings grow we will be able to add them to our existing bushes and produce more berries for harvesting.
I always feel vegetative propagation is exciting and often very easy. By using plants already in your garden or allotment you can produce more and it costs you nothing. If I got myself organised then all my Christmas presents for next year will be sorted!!
In the new year our existing courses will continue but due to demand we are aiming to start another Work-based Diploma course in the spring so watch this space and I will keep you up to date with what's happening. Do feel free to email or phone if you have any questions or queries.
Merry Christmas and lets hope for a slightly drier 2013.
By Clare Elleray, 17 December 2012 –