Paignton Zoo: Sustainable gardening for schools

Paignton ZooPaignton Zoo’s gardens team set Devon’s primary schools the challenge of designing a sustainable school garden, and then headed back to school to build the winning design.

Keen to inspire local schools to take up sustainable gardening, Paignton Zoo launched the Grow Up! competition in 2009. Developed in partnership with NPS South West, who maintain most of Devon’s schools, the competition invited the county’s primary schools to design their own sustainable garden.

Paignton Zoo’s curator of plants and gardens, Kevin Frediani, explains the aims of the competition: “Plants and gardens have so much to offer schools and we’d love to see more children benefit from access to a school garden.

“As well as being a fantastic resource for learning about topics such as sustainability and biodiversity, gardens give pupils a chance to engage with the natural world, grow their own food and have lots of fun gardening.”

paignton_1The winning design

The Grow Up! judging panel, led by BBC Gardener’s World presenter and Devon resident Toby Buckland, chose Landscove Primary School’s entry as the winning design. Their garden features three ‘B’ shaped raised beds – representing birds, butterflies and bees – where vegetables and herbs can be grown in rotation throughout the school year.

The Landscove Primary garden was entered into the Devon County Show 2010, where it won a silver medal, before being installed as a permanent feature at the school.

Pupils at the school played a big part in turning their design into reality. They worked with local artists to make mosaics and tiles for the garden and grew annual crops in ‘zoo poo’ compost. Other sustainable features in the garden include the use of local and reclaimed materials, and a rainwater harvesting system.

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