Children at St. Therese’s Primary School, Lenamore love Thursdays.
Every Thursday, local horticulture lecturer and gardener Gareth Austin visits children in primaries one, two, three, five and six.
Gareth, who is well known in the local community, teaches the children how to grow vegetables and herbs and explains to them how best to look after them.
The project is part of the Western Education and Library Board’s Extended Schools Programme.
Six year-old Orran Mullan is in Miss Montague’s P2 class. Orran says that his favourite vegetable is a carrot because it helps him to “see in the dark”.
“Gareth [Austin] knows so much about plants and vegetables. He has taught us so much.
“It’s great fun and I like looking after the vegetables with the rest of the class.
“My favourite vegetables are carrots because they help me to see in the dark. It’s very important that I am able to see in the dark.”
In recent weeks Gareth helped Miss Montague’s class to plant pumpkins and several different varieties of potato.
“I can’t wait for the pumpkins to be ready,” says Orran. “Hopefully, they’ll be ready in time for Hallowe’en in October.”
Six-year-old Dylan McKinney is Orran’s classmate.
Dylan says that working with Gareth has helped him to understand vegetables and herbs. Dylan’s love of all things green and tasty has caught on at home in Glenowen where he helps his father pick herbs for dinner.
“My daddy has a pasta making machine and when he needs herbs for his pasta he asks me to go into the garden and pick some herbs. I think we have some basil growing there at the minute.”
Dylan added: “My favourite vegetable would have to be broccoli but I really like them all - I get to eat them every Sunday.
“I am also looking forward to the good weather because then my uncle will invite me round to his house for a barbeque. Hopefully I will be able to take around some of the vegetables or herbs we have grown in school - it’ll be amazing fun.”
Gareth became involved with St. Therese’s after he facilitated the Guildhall Gardens Project this year. He says that St. Therese’s PS are amongst the best schools in Derry at growing and maintaining vegetables.
“I got involved as a direct result of the Guildhall Gardens project through Leafair Community Association.
“After talking to Patrick Duddy from Housing Executive, he told me about the successful junior warden programme he runs here at St. Therese’s so that’s when I thought that this was the kind of school that I wanted to work with.
“Although I’ve only been with the school for two months we already have a new herb garden planted, we’ve planted 200 onions, 150 garlic bulbs, 18 spud bags, pots upon pots of Dahlias and Gladioli for summer, bed full of spring cabbage, Savoy cabbage, broccoli.
“We’ve created a special garden for pumpkins (the kids enjoyed spreading the manure that day, even if there was a bad smell.
“Every classroom has some kind of seed germinating in it and we’ve installed a school composting system, which the P6 classes maintain.
“They’re a busy bunch in St Therese’s.”
Miss Beresford’s P3 class helped Gareth out in the school’s Mediterranean herb garden on Thursday.
Six-year-old Branna Grieve is a lettuce lover and she says that both she and the rest of class love nothing more than getting their hands dirty on a Thursday morning.
“A few weeks ago we helped Gareth to spread some manure on the place where we planted our pumpkins.
“Apparently, the manure will help the pumpkins to grow really big. Only time will tell.”
Seven-year-old Oisin McCourt says that gardening has helped him to see the importance of team work.
“It’s all about working in a team. The thing I liked most was helping my friend plant a flower. He wasn’t able to hold it up by himself so I helped him and we got our work done.”
Oisin and Branna’s teacher Ms. Beresford says the project helped the children understand the environment.
“The children love Thursdays because it’s the time they get to go outside and work with the vegetables and herbs.
“It’s a fantastic scheme and one which is certainly benefiting the children here. Hopefully their vegetables will grow to be big and tasty.”