Ground-breaking primary school sets up allotments for local community

Pupils at St Francis' PS ready to get gardening at their new allotment
Pupils at St Francis' PS ready to get gardening at their new allotment

A ground-breaking school project has led to the creation of Lurgan’s first community allotment at St Francis’ Primary School.

The eco-award winning school is to set up the new allotment in the school grounds and hopes to facilitate community groups and members of the public with an interest in gardening.

All geared up for gardening at the new allotment at St Francis PS

All geared up for gardening at the new allotment at St Francis PS

St Francis’ P.S. received a £22k grant last June from Groundworks NI through their environmental grants project, known as the Alpha Programme.

Since then the school has been beavering away planning and preparing the site for an early Spring build.

When the allotment is complete it will host a large greenhouse, poly tunnel, 30 beds measuring 4m x 2m, water facilities and an outdoor classroom which can double up as a dry work area for potting.

The proposed site will run adjacent to the back playground, and connect to their small heritage orchard which already hosts a range of fruit trees and bushes. The allotment will also benefit from the school’s resident honey bee hive, which has successfully overwintered, and will provide a high density of pollinators to ensure the allotment’s crops bear fruit.

Pupils at St Francis' PS ready to get gardening at their new allotment

Pupils at St Francis' PS ready to get gardening at their new allotment

The diverse range of allotment plants will similarly benefit the honey bees in their foraging and hopefully help with honey production.

The school intends keeping 15 beds for school use to ensure every class has an opportunity to grow their own foods and develop skills that are dying out among the community.

The other beds are hoped to be rented out to local groups or individuals who are willing to collaborate with the project and pass these skills on to a new generation.

“What we intend to do is quite unique in that we are hoping to get our teachers and students to work alongside people who have a great enthusiasm for growing. We want to close the gap between generations in a productive way, developing these valuable skills and help strengthen our pupils’ awareness and respect for the wider community,” Dwyer Coleman explained.

Pupils at St Francis' PS ready to get gardening at their new allotment

Pupils at St Francis' PS ready to get gardening at their new allotment

“We are hoping to donate three beds, free of charge, to some individuals who will be willing to become Allotment Mentors. These members will then be linked with different classes and work alongside the teachers, demonstrating the skills required to sow, cultivate, transplant, maintain and eventually harvest crops. We hope that these skills will be imbedded with our teachers and pupils over the upcoming years.”

The beds will be available initially to community groups, then remaining beds will be offered out to individuals who have expressed an interest. The school will be asking allotment holders for a small annual fee which will go towards maintenance of the allotment, and 10 maintenance days whereby allotment holders will be trained up in Woodland maintenance to help manage the school’s impressive Woodland.

“We have been working closely with the RSPB to develop a maintenance programme which we feel will offer anyone with an interest of the outdoors a great opportunity to develop new skills and help us maintain a place where children really get a connection to the natural world.”

The maintenance project will allow volunteers to learn skills such as wildflower and pond maintenance, wildlife habitat building, tree pruning and ground cover clearing.

Pupils at St Francis' PS ready to get gardening at their new allotment

Pupils at St Francis' PS ready to get gardening at their new allotment

St Francis’ Primary school are currently collecting names and contact details from any community groups or members of the public who would have an interest in obtaining an allotment bed. Appointment of any bed will be subject to contractual agreement and an enhanced criminal records check to ensure the school adheres to safeguarding laws. Please leave contact details with St Francis’ Primary School on 02838 323163.