June 2019 Update

Luke and Sam have been busily tending their gardens and are currently growing potatoes, broad beans, carrots, onions and eventually tomatoes. Trying to avoid slug, snail and bird damage has, as always proved difficult!

Similarly, all of the Castle ARB students, plus mainstream pupils Ria, JT, Finn, Kayden and Kia have also been maintaining their own mini plots on a weekly basis. Sam now has his own vegetable plot at home where he is growing vegetables for the family. The greater confidence and know how that Sam and Dylan now possess was particularly evident when they trimmed our giant caterpillar topiary. It took the best part of an hour after which they were ‘zonked’!. Well done boys.

Year 7 students have been involved in sowing runner beans, as well as bivouac making and creating graffiti art, using nature as their inspiration, in the OL area, during IAG time. The beans, when strong enough will be transplanted into the growing beds and once harvested, will be used in the school canteen or made available for a small donation to keep things going. Year 8 will follow and will have the added challenge of making group tepees.

July 2018 update

By the end of term those students who had been tending their own mini gardens (Dylan, Sam, Becca, Rose, Lewis, Finn, Emily, Keira, Aiden and Seamus), all took home the remainder of their grown produce, including broad beans, potatoes, onions and herbs. The gardens have been dug over and composted before resting for a month. Before term starts Ms Unwin will plant out peas and students will need to tend them, including staking and tying up, when they return.

The main beds still contain potatoes and brown onions sown by years 7 and 8. These will gradually be harvested and replaced by leeks, kale and peas, which year 9 will plant out. All of our soft fruit (strawberries, red currants, plums and raspberries), have been eaten by the creatures that live here!!!! We will now put up a fruit cage to protect at least some of next year’s harvest.

Our old apple trees are suffering from brown rot and the number of apples produced is much smaller than last year, mostly due to weather conditions although our smaller and newer trees have produced as expected. This is part of a global trend.

“it is unlikely to be a bumper apple crop in 2018. This year the late Spring and recent hot and dry conditions are likely to reduce the number of apples on the trees.

“The current prolonged dry spell may have an impact. The ‘June drop’, where the crop thins naturally as small fruit falls from the trees, was slightly heavier than usual, due to the late Spring and later pollination. If rain remains in short supply between now and harvest it could have a further impact on overall volumes” (25 July 2018, by Matthew Appleby).

February 2018 Update

At present Sam Tancock 10 FCA, is the only one attending after school (numbers tend to increase with better weather), although Emily, Dylan and Hayden have attended periodically. January and February before ½ term, have been spent tidying, maintaining and repairing after winter storms. The growing beds are still protected by mulch bags, with only a crop of leeks in the ground.


Regular gardeners Sam and Max have attended after school sessions since the beginning of term. They filled mulch bags last term and laid them like duvets on each of the raised vegetable beds. As a consequence, the worms have done their job, aerating the soil and making it much easier to work now after recent frosts. Each of the boys has a mini garden to tend now in addition to weeding, digging, sowing, pricking out, planting, watering, harvesting and eating the produce from the rest of the beds. Keira, Louis, Emily, Anthony, Rose and David who work with Ms Unwin during the day are also starting to tend their own mini beds. Year 8 students (all 220), have visited the OL area this term and have also worked with Ms Unwin planting a mix of broad beans and potatoes as part of their tutor based IAG programme. As the days draw out after half  term, we hope that Frankie and Angel will also start to attend after school.

Yr. 8 successfully grew their broad beans, in IAG time, which were then harvested and some went home with pupil gardeners and the rest went to the school canteen to be added to lunches. Yr. 7 followed and planted runner beans. Unfortunately in spite of all measures the slugs and snails had virtually the entire crop as soon as the beans showed above the soil surface. A second hand poly tunnel is now a priority. Nevertheless a second crop was sown and most of that survived. Again some went home (pupils and staff) and some to the canteen. Some pupils were shown how to pickle beans to preserve them. The PMS group enjoyed their time at OL sowing potatoes and peas with Mr Egford but sadly both their pea crop and their replacements were lost to slugs and snails.

By summer term the mild but wet weather was disastrous for our tomatoes (kindly donated by Mrs Matthews), and potatoes which were both affected by blight. The toms completely, but potatoes saved. Even the Hawthorn tree saplings heeling in at the ALC ready for planting permanently on the school field, were affected by mildew.

There were some dry sunny days and by AL week ‘wild woodlands’ and ‘cooking alfresco’  sessions, were very successful as pics show. The apple trees were producing a good crop. The pizza/bread oven was lit several times.

During the summer holidays veg, bed boards were repainted, scarecrows repaired, beds dug over, weeds removed, hedges trimmed, grass cut (twice a week), blackberries harvested and frozen, plant signs/ trail signs remade and information boards put out.

Autumn 2017

The vegetable beds were gradually cleared and rested under leaf mulch bags, although leeks were rotated in the areas where potatoes had been growing. Any curly kale planted remains a S/S target. The autumn raspberry canes donated by Mr Glen flourished and produced a good crop, albeit a handful every two days or so for students and staff to eat.

The apple crop was harvested by SPRU students and used for making toffee apples, freshly pressed juice, apple and blackberry tarts and sold at the school canteen, offsetting expenses. Again some produce was preserved by freezing or storing in sugar solution. At least the netting put on the trees ensured that apples were protected from squirrel damage this year.

Students working with Ms Unwin during OL sessions re-laid 5 tons bark chippings to allow subject staff, their classes and any visitors to walk around the whole OL area without getting muddy underfoot. Thanks again to Glendale’s for supporting us.

Individual SSC and OSSSC students started tending their own mini gardens again, now containing leeks, and erected front retaining boards so that a deeper layer of soil could be added to their plots.



The autumn term (2015) saw carrots, curly kale, pumpkins, apples, onions, peas, broad beans and sunflowers being harvested from the prepared beds during Garden Club and the students (Tom, Max, Emily and Shannon) who helped grow them were able to take home the ‘fruits’ of their labours. The sweet peas put on a really good show against the wire mesh fencing and the ‘caterpillar’ hedges have proved a good back drop to the front lawn, which has greened up nicely. We had a splendid apple crop and Yr.10 and 11 CAU practical maths groups made good use of them, but birds and mice got to the strawberries before we did!!!!

The Shakespearean herb garden designed by Ms Staples yr. 10 English group has flourished, but the overgrown blackberry ‘dome’ was disappointing and yr.12 tutor groups EH and MJM have worked (2016) this spring to raze it to the ground. The area will be re nourished and new growth will come through again.

Gardening Activity 2015

Students attending gardening activity during the summer of 2014 successfully grew a range of fruit and vegetables (in an exceptional growing season) which they were able to harvest and take home. Each week students were able to eat school grown apples and carrots as part of their refreshments. In addition, 6 organic produce baskets were sold to staff which helps towards funding the activity. The ‘Castle’ seat was finished in time for Open Evening and has been sown with grass seeds. (Thanks to ‘Men for all Seasons’ of Tavistock for supplying us with turves. Although not finished, most of the outside wall was painted in green, orange and blue (depicting garden, forest and adventurous activity). The BBQ name board was completed using pyro-graphics and varnish and willow whips have been planted in the adventure learning forest area.                                                                                                                                                       Tom, James H, Max, James B have begun to clear the garden for its rest period and have been collecting leaves for the mulch bags which will encourage worms to create new soil.

Since the new year (2015) Jess Reardon and Stuart Colwill have taken an interest in horticultural matters and have joined the boys in not only tending the Castle Garden but also the new Adventure Learning Area beds. This has involved a huge amount of effort and hard work on their part as the land has been severely neglected and overgrown for many years.

As of April, 4 x house beds have been dug out to allow a growing season to take place this academic year. Potatoes, onions, beans, peas, strawberries and pumpkins have been sown by pupils in those houses and Mr Glen (retired) has donated some raspberry canes. The ALA also is home to apple trees and pear trees and well established blackberry briars. Primroses, bluebells, daisies and celandines carpet the ground where sunlight breaks through the tree canopies. Ivy is gradually being removed from the pine tree trunks, thus extending their lives and new mixed woodland saplings  nurtured over the past year, by Ms Unwin are ready to be transplanted  as the undergrowth is cleared.

May 2014 Update

At the rear of the front of school field students attending the club have been planting tree saplings. These are a mix of Ash, Blackthorn, Cherry Plum, Wild Rose, Hazel. They are marked and protected by orange netting so please avoid as much as possible, until they grow sturdier.

April 2014 Update

All of the seeds sown in early spring 2014 by students are up and busily growing in their trays, some of which sit on the wall outside the subway. The rest have been planted out (now the frosts have gone) in the vegetable beds. They are still covered by polythene tunnels to protect them from cold nights. New willow hurdles have been formed around the trees and in front of the compost bins to mask their presence. This summer term students will be providing a ‘finish’ to the BBQ they have constructed, erecting a poly tunnel and constructing a willow feature. This in addition to tending the rapidly growing plants

March 2013 Update

Gardening activities continue apace in March with Ms Unwin and the boys sowing new vegetable and flower seeds in trays, cutting the grass, pruning shrubs, watering seedlings, weeding and re-waterproofing wooden sheds, seating and planters.