Tara with her group of TV students delivering a workshop in a polytunnel in Ardscoil Phádraig, Granard.

Getting schools growing

Our gourmet gardener Tara Kate Linnane has taken her passion to the classroom (or students in the school polytunnel at least) ...

The pursuit of environmental sustainability has gained more interest and momentum since the pandemic. The nation has more time at home to notice and develop an awareness for our surroundings, something that may not have been as prominent before.

We are becoming more accountable for our actions and, with that, comes an undercurrent of enthusiasm to do better. Teaching young people how to grow and how to become more self sufficient is a wonderful life lesson to impart. Recently, I was given the opportunity to visit a secondary school and give a workshop on growing in a polytunnel. I found this to be an inspiring and rewarding experience and a service that I am working to develop further, in the hope of offering more of these kinds of workshops to different schools and communities.

Getting ready

Incorporating a polytunnel or simple veg patch into a school’s development plan has a wide range of benefits. Apart from the sustainability factor, there is also an important social element.

Working together to clean, grow and maintain a plot can lead to groups experiencing rewarding outcomes together and a fantastic shared sense of achievement.Through growing, schools can learn first hand about nutrition, science, wildlife, organisation and planning. Growing vegetables in school can teach young people the seasonal nature of food and different varieties of crops. They can also learn about the importance of composting, water conservation and wildlife conservation. A polytunnel or veg patch can serve as the focal point that links all of these areas together.

A dedicated area for growing vegetables or herbs can be created in a garden of any size, from a large sunny plot, to a few containers on a school yard. The important thing is that the groups are getting their hands dirty as they gain confidence in growing.

Setting a growing goal

Setting a goal keeps everyone focused on what the group wants to achieve. Whether it is to attract more pollinators into your plot, or to grow fruits and vegetables to eat at an end of school year harvest party, having a goal can help you to plan your activities to reach it.

My advice is always to start small. Grow just two or three crops at first, peas and beans are good options for this time of year.

Another consideration is harvesting time – some crops may not be mature until into July, so planning the right fruits and vegetables is important so the students can enjoy the produce at the end of the process.

If you are interested in organising a workshop please get in contact with me via Instagram @twopeas_inapolytunnel.

Get growing!

Tara Kate Linnane is from Kilnaleck in County Cavan. She is a horticulturalist with a passion for growing vegetables at home. Tara recently was runner up in RTÉ's Super Garden competition.

She has an Instagram page with her husband Barry @two peas in a polytunnel.