The Coláíste Chríost Rí Horticulture Project in Turner’s Cross was opened by Lord Mayor Cllr. Mary Shields in 2014. Since 2011 we have been developing a patch of waste ground behind the school into an award winning Horticulture initiative. Now a cross-curricular module for the Transition Year has been developed and Agricultural Science made available to the Leaving Certificate students.
The school garden began with six raised beds and an eighty foot polytunnel at the back of the school, while several planting containers around the school yard allowed students to pick and nibble tasty herbs like mint during their break. This year the true capacity of the project was realised with a truly diverse range of produce. It includes broadbeans, peas, chard, ruby chard, parsnips, beetroot, radish, lettuces, sunflowers, pumpkin, butternut squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, mange-tout, basil, mint, onions, sage, chives, courgettes, kohlrabi, cabbage, sprouts, red cabbage, currants, strawberries, raspberries, Orla, Sarpo Mira and Tibetan potatoes, Brussels sprouts.
Herbs available include Lemon balm, Chamomile, Bronze and green Fennel, Rosemary, Bay leaf, Comfrey, Mallow, while hedging such as Rosa Rugosa, Hawthorn, and Elderberry are now maturing well. All of these are 100% organically grown!
The students learn about planning, planting, composting and maintaining the crops. They learn about organic methods of horticulture, how to develop good soil, and how to set up their own raised beds at home. They also learn how to work in teams and as individuals and how attention to details pays dividends when it comes to harvest time. They have also come to respect the school environs more, compost lunch waste and reduce litter. Through involvement in horticulture the school fosters meaningful links to the local community, parents and students in a way that is not usually possible within the normal curriculum.
Today the teachers are working in a cross-curricular way with several departments involved. Courses have been run for the wider community and they look set to continue due to the high level of interest. The harvest is shared with a local retirement home and the local Primary school have also become involved. Hen and duck are also available.
The funding for the start-up project came initially from a cookery demonstration hosted by chef Neven Maguire. “We reached out to Neven Maguire who agreed to be our patron” says Frank Mulvihill, a member of the Horticulture project team.
Principal Mick Carey tells how the school recently ran a horticulture evening class which was very successful and how more are planned. The Project was recently commended at the Cork Environment Forum awards while Biology teacher Sinéad Ryan has completed a Master Composting course. A lot of credit must go to Jan Van Soest who travels from Kenmare every Tuesday with his assistant John. Jan is the resident Horticulturist and has developed the project from the outset. A lot of students have benefitted from the project and have got really involved in it.