Sunday, 24 November 2013


It's the time of year to give the beds a much needed digging over and a tidy up. The sage bushes had gone a bit crazy so I chopped those back with a spade.
I also transplanted some sturdy rocket which may or not withstand the predicted artic blast.
Number two son Tommy Dutton (3A) helped with the planting of  the garlic leaving me to plant onions (both red and white).
Hopefully there should be some neat rows of shoots to provide a little interest in the winter months. I'm currently looking out for some winter cabbage and broad beans as well, but if these aren't available it would be a good opportunity to dig in some well rotted manure to the beds that aren't in use. The rest would probably do them good.

Friday, 14 June 2013


I havested and sold the lettuces yesterday (there were more than those shown above) and they seemed to be popular with Belleville parents. I was surprised how quickly they grew, but on reflection realised that everything planted at Belleville seems to do really well. 

Now that I have my own allotment at Garratt Park it´s possible to compare growing speeds at the two sites, and Belleville is by far the faster of the two.

The brassicas, parsnips and carrots are the easiest to compare as I bought these in trays at Homebase (they had a special offer I couldn´t resist, and it saves time compared to growing everything from seed) and planted them out at the school and the allotment at roughly the same time.

The parsnip shoots [below left] are enormous and probably ready to harvest, whereas at the allotment they´ve struggled to get going. The same applies carrots, but the red cabbage provides the most extreme example.
Allotment Parsnips

Allotment Red Cabbage

Belleville Red Cabbage
I suspect the reason for the relative success of the Belleville site is that it is a real suntrap, being sited on a tarmac playground and surrounded by brick. The buildings also provide shelter from the wind, whereas the allotment is far more exposed. It´s also possible that the allotment soil might be depleted of nutrients, as vegetables have been grown in the same soil for a many years.
Or it could be that the noise the kids make in the playground makes the plants happy. Perhaps Prince Charles was right all along? 

Continuing the positive vibes, we´re in for a bumper crop of strawberries. I´ve covered them with fleece to keep the birds (and children!) off, and put straw under them to stop the strawberries rotting when in contact with damp soil. I´ve also removed the snails that were looking forward to a nice feast.

I planted a couple of sage and thyme plants about six weeks ago, and these are available for any Belleville parent who would like to snip off a few pieces if they need some for a recipe. No charge for this of course, but if you feel like making a donation to the PTA there´s a box in the main entrance hall.

And if you´ve ever wondered what happens to a potato after you plant it (and which one of us can honestly say we haven´t) here´s a photo that shows how and where the roots form. The shoot is growing nicely from the top of the spud, and the roots are forming nicely just underneath it. Useful info for kids who might be studying Biology in the future!
Fascinating stuff as I´m sure you´ll agree!

The aliens have landed
We're looking for volunteers to help with the garden next year. Contact Jim Dutton if you'd like to get involved, either by leaving a comment on the blog, or through Baki, or through the school.

Monday, 13 May 2013


Well it's taken long enough, but spring is finally here. [STOP PRESS: SINCE I WROTE THIS, IT'S BECOME COLD AND WET AGAIN. GRRR!]
It had better be a decent summer. We certainly deserve it after the long and cold few months we've put up with.
The poor weather over the last year or two has effected farmers and food prices have increased as a result. The Belleville veg garden suffered too. It was all a bit bleak.
The effect of climate change and global warming isn't being kind to us in the UK if you believe the experts. Which I tend to do.

Broad beans

Parsnips enjoying some sunshine
The strawberries aren't ready yet Tommy!
Lettuces growing super fast
Cabbages netted to keep pigeons at bay
Should be a bumper strawberry crop

Red onions


Belleville volunteers helping with the planting

Lollo Rosso Lettuce, Sage on the right

Brussel Sprouts, planted in time for an Xmas harvest

Fleece to protect against any surprise frosts

Netting to keep the pigeons off the chard

Two rows of parsnips in the foreground

Strawberries in the Year One bed

Monday, 10 December 2012



Today at Belleville we held a Gardening Sunday. We dug, raked, weeded, sieved and swept to the point of exhaustion. Well, until the place looked all tidy at any rate.

Many thanks to the volunteers who showed up and ensured that we could get all of the tasks finished in the time available.
We put leaves and some of the plant debris in the composter, and filled up about eight sacks with random rubbish, broken plant pots and other gardening detritus.
The strawberry plants we left as they'll die back but regrow next spring. The swiss chard in the Year Four bed is still going strong so that was left alone.

The raised beds are just awaiting a topping of compost, as over the years the soil has settled about six inches. Compost would also add nutrients to the soil as nearly five years of crop growing will have taken their toll.

We're now looking for volunteers from each year group to look after the beds.
Volunteers will be able to grow whichever vegetables they like and we hope to hold further 'Gardening Sundays' to help with this process. 
Once planted the veg plants can be looked after at drop off and/or pick up quite easily. Watering and weeding is all that's really required until they're ready to harvest.
Contact Jim Dutton through the school if interested, or leave a comment below.

Friday, 15 June 2012


A happy band of gardeners (and harvesters) on a rare sunny day!

Well the scheme to dedicate each raised bed to a single Year Group has started working pretty well with the help and involvement of our dedicated teams of gardeners! Here are some photos to show you how each Year Group is getting on....not that there's any pressure or anything!
Considering how terrible the weather has been it's all looking great!

Year 1 - a wide variety of crops!
Year 2 - awesome use of the available space

Year 2 broad beans doing very well!
Year 3 - again, very productive
Year 3 lettuces have been a big hit - & no slugs!

Year 4 the wild rocket has gone a bit wild.
Year 5 - post harvesting of the leeks
Year 5 - Roma tomato plant placed between the courgettes
Year 6 - also post harvesting of the leeks
Year 6 - 'Sweet Million' cherry tomato plant between the courgettes

Year 6 - runner beans (and French beans?)

One failure has been this rotating compost bin. It's an excellent machine and would be ideal for a small garden where it could be looked after and rotated properly. If anyone wants it they could have it for a donation to the PTA. It needs to have brown  matter (cardboard, paper etc) added along with the garden waste, and it need spinning every day. As it has been neglected it's just made a bit of a smelly mess. More details about the composter can be read here.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Raised Beds For Each Year Group

From next week, and in readiness for the forthcoming revamped Peaceful Area, each raised bed in the Belleville Vegetable Garden will be allocated to a Year Group.

We're aim to get a team from each year that will include teachers, students and parents, and they will look after their own raised bed from now on, although I'll happily help and keep an eye on things.


Yellow bell peppers and sunflowers

This bed is the closest one to the artroom. Most of the beds already have things growing in them as shown in the photos, but some of these are ready to crop and will need replacing with new seedlings.

 [Left] YEAR TWO

Aubergine, chilli, parsley

In reserve we already have some seedlings: Curly kale, carrots and leeks, and most of these are almost ready for planting.


Swiss chard ('Bright Lights'), parsley and coriander.

All students will be encouraged to take care of their year groups's raised bed, whether they're on a gardening team or not.

Nicola Hedley has a fund donated by Waitrose (which can hopefully be topped up by the PTA if requested) for buying further seedings and tools if required.


Self seeded cougette plant (touch and go - we need a little more warm weather!), chilli, yellow bell peppers, rocket and dwarf runner beans


Aubergine, tomato, chilli, strawberries and three pots of baby leeks. These need to be about the thickness of a pencil before transplanting into the ground


Ready for action!