Gardening: RHS School Gardeners of the Year competition seeks entries from the North East

RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year, Matt Willer. Picture by Jason Bye
RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year, Matt Willer. Picture by Jason Bye

With a massive skills gap in horticulture, the search to find the next generation of gardeners is on as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) launches its School Gardeners of the Year 2019 competition.

There’s no reason why a north east pupil or school can’t win – but we do have a very poor entry rate in national competitions, so this year, go the extra mile!

Now in its eighth year, the contest highlights school gardening, the youngsters and dedicated adults who teach them.

Prizes include a Hartley Botanic greenhouse worth £10,000 and Hartley Botanic patio glasshouses, National Garden Gift Vouchers and tickets to RHS Flower Shows.

There are three categories:

RHS Young School Gardener of the Year: For pupils aged five-16 who demonstrate a love of gardening, show gardening skills and have made an outstanding contribution to their school or community.

RHS School Gardening Team of the Year: Recognises an outstanding gardening team.

RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year: Celebrates teachers, leaders and volunteers who have inspired a passion for gardening.

Shortlisted applicants will be asked to produce a short video in support of their entry. The winners will be announced in June.

Winning schools will also receive a visit from competition judge and gardening presenter, Frances Tophill.

The competition forms part of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening which provides free resources and advice to more than 38,000 schools and groups across the UK.

Alana Cama, RHS skills development manager, said: “The competition highlights what a difference gardening can make to young people’s lives – whether it’s improving their health and mental wellbeing, enriching curriculum learning or opening their eyes to a love of gardening that will stay with them as they grow older.”

In 2018, 15-year-old Ellie Micklewright from Shropshire won the RHS Young School Gardener of the Year award after creating a school gardening club from scratch.

St Gregory’s Catholic Science College in London received the team award for their school garden which was once earmarked to extend the school car park.

Matthew Willer, a history teacher from Reepham High School, Norfolk was named RHS School Gardening Champion for his work to launch The Allotment Project on the edge of the school’s playing field.

Schools can enter at https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/sgoty19 with applications closing at 5pm on Wednesday, April 24.

GET IN TOUCH

l For more information, plus cook what you grow, recipes, environmental news and more, log on to the website at www.mandycanudigit.com – which is also now smartphone friendly.

You can also follow Mandy on social media platforms – on Twitter @MandyCanUDigIt or you can like her on her Facebook page at Mandycanudigit

JOBS TO DO THIS WEEKEND

Rhubarb can be forced for an early crop. Cover a crown or two with buckets or even an upturned large pot and insulate the outside with straw or compost for added heat. The stalks will grow in the dark. This takes a lot out of the crown and it won’t recover for a couple of years.

Lily bulbs can be planted in pots, for flowers this summer. After growing on in a cool greenhouse, they can be moved on to the patio when in flower.

Check on tender plants overwintering outdoors to make sure protective coverings are still in place.

Continue to deadhead winter pansies and other winter bedding. Pansies will carry on into the spring and even to early summer if attended to often.

Cut off old leaves of hellebores that produce flowers from ground level (including Helleborus x hybridus and H. niger) to expose the flowers and remove possible foliar diseases such as hellebore leaf spot.

Look out for rots (such as crown rot, Sclerotinia, delphinium black blotch, black root rot and Antirrhinum rust) on emerging perennials.

Many summer-flowering deciduous shrubs can be pruned now – those that flower on the current year’s growth, including Buddleja davidii, Ceratostigma, Hydrangea paniculata, Lavatera, Leycesteria, Perovskia, hardy fuchsias, and deciduous Ceanothus.

Prune Wisteria by cutting back the side shoots shortened by summer pruning to two or three buds (2.5-5cm/1-2in). Avoid cutting off flower buds.