EduPlant School Competition finalists 2023

Creative thinking and the incorporation of circular economy principles form the basis of the Elufefeni Primary School (Eastern Cape) food garden. These learners and educators have succeeded in creating not only a functional, high-yield food garden but also one that is interesting to look at and learn in. Materials such as colourful tyres, bricks, ecobricks (bottles stuffed with single-use plastics) and rocks line these garden beds, protecting crops from flood damage and maximising the use of space. Currently, the garden contains a variety of produce such as spinach and cabbage. The learners have also been taught how to pickle vegetables.

Mfesane Senior Secondary School in the Motherwell township of the Eastern Cape stands out as an EduPlant finalist for their exceptional use of spiral beds that incorporate a variety of herbs, leafy greens, and pollinator-attracting flowers. The use of good composting, mulching and worm leachate has increased the school’s crop variety and yields. The learners have proudly taken part in the design and implementation of their garden since its inception and continue to nurture it through the establishment of an extracurricular garden club.

Another example of the creative use of various recycled and upcycled materials is Sidakeni Primary School (Eastern Cape). The school has made use of various plastic bottles, planting containers, and bricks to support the soil of their raised beds. The school makes use of guilds to increase biodiversity, herb spirals and incorporates foot paths for easy access to water sources, gates and garden beds. Some of the produce harvested from this garden has been sold to purchase additional resources as well as trees for the school garden.

The Ecopreneur responsible for mentoring St Colmcille Secondary School (Eastern Cape) noted that it was clear that the learners are very engaged in this food garden and participate in a number of practical activities. The school garden makes use of diversion drains and mulching for flood and drought proofing and has even incorporated a bug hotel as a natural pest management  mechanism. The school indicated that they had to plan and carefully map out the garden before they began, to take into account heavy rains and very wet, waterlogged soils. The results were excellent, with the school garden displaying healthy soils and crops.

Excellent mulching and water management techniques stand out at the Lerato Primary School food garden, situated in QwaQwa in the Free State. These learners have been so enthusiastic about their garden that over the course of a year they have managed to increase their production area from 288m² to 1250m². Their dedication to the garden was particularly evident when the school harvested water from a spring, and the learners implemented swales as a water management technique. The garden is both income generating and supportive of the school’s feeding scheme.

Ntediseng Secondary School (Free State) have nurtured their food garden into a flourishing, nutritious source of fresh vegetables which are cooked daily in the school kitchen for the learners to enjoy. The school has used their available space and resources very efficiently, with multiple raised beds containing lettuce, chard, cabbage, mustard and onions. The school practices seed saving and growing their own seedlings.

The learners, parents and community members that participate in the EduPlant food garden activities at Phomolong Primary School (Free State) have transformed the minimally used space into extensive, raised garden beds teeming with a variety of leafy green vegetables and herbs. Where possible, materials have been upcycled. Propagation, seedbeds and seed saving are regular practices. Approximately one kg of produce is harvested weekly, some is used to supplement school meals and some is provided to families and community members.

The Thari ya Tshepe Primary School (Free State) food garden can be described by its long, narrow raised beds demarcated by footpaths in between. This effective and efficient use of space has afforded the school the ability to grow its production area to 700m² over the course of a year. Cabbage, spinach and onion are harvested weekly and either provided to the learners to take home or used in the school meals. Various permaculture principles are evident including the use of mulch, composting, seed saving, and the use of recycled materials hung around the garden to ward off birds.

Boitumelong Secondary School is based in Tembisa, Gauteng. The learning garden is led by Miss Boniswa Tele, fondly known as ‘teacher farmer in high heels’ with a newfound passion for growing nutritious food. The learners involved in this garden have very enthusiastically implemented a number of permaculture methods such as raised beds, natural pest management and container gardening. There is evidence that the learners have made use of upcycling including tyres and bottles. The produce is donated to the learners and sold to purchase additional seedlings. Miss Tele always encourages the learners to view this as a lifestyle not just a task at school. She teaches the learners to follow a holistic approach to sustainability including healthy eating. This school has had many challenges throughout their journey with EduPlant, from theft to adverse weather conditions, but their resilience has paid off. They have worked hard to get the community involved and asked community members who stay close to the school to take care of their garden during school holidays. Their success is a testament to their teamwork, endurance and great passion.

For the Gahlanso Primary School (Gauteng) learners, working in their food garden is the best part of their day. The school is so enthusiastic about its garden that it ensures permaculture concepts such as the food chain, plant nutrition, and plant varieties are brought into the school curriculum. The school shows excellent evidence of sector management including the implementation of windbreaks, hail damage prevention, frost blankets and drought planning. Much of the produce is used to supplement school meals, however, a portion of it is sold and the funds are used to buy additional gardening equipment and resources.

At Masizani Primary School (Gauteng) the Natural Science educator has been assigned a section of the garden for an outdoor classroom. Natural Science and Social Science topics taught using the garden include photosynthesis, the life cycles of plants, water management in plants, rainforest functioning, and plant reproduction. The community members assisting in the garden have been highly successful in composting, creating pit beds and raised beds, rockeries, mulch pits and water diversion drains. The garden now produces around 5 kg of fresh leafy greens every week.

MC Weiler School (Gauteng) is another great example of curriculum integration in a learning garden. Learners are provided with practical lessons in the garden which cover topics such as health and nutrition, environmental management, waste management and natural resources. The learners are then required to give their own presentations as they walk through the garden. Since its inception, this garden has increased in size by 60%, enabling the school to begin generating income from the crops as well as supplementing its feeding programme. The MC Weiler School garden also incorporates rockeries, raised beds, companion planting and mulching.

What started as bare, infertile land at the Peter Zongwane Primary School (Gauteng) has transformed into a functional, food-producing garden over the past year. The school garden supports 75 vulnerable learners.  Learners engage in activities such as making compost, earthworm farming, planting green manure and upcycling items for container gardening. The school indicated that a harsh winter has been their biggest challenge, but the use of mulch aided in protecting the crop’s roots in freezing temperatures.

Amanzimtoti Primary School found in the heart of the South Coast community of KwaZulu-Natal and boasts learners, educators and community members who have been exceptionally committed to their school food garden. These learners have managed to create a fruitful garden that now supplements the school feeding scheme more than three times a week. The school garden stands out as one that is well-managed, having implemented various water conservation practices and keeping good quality harvest, sales and cost records. The school has demonstrated a deep understanding of the permaculture principles taught during the workshops and has implemented techniques such as guilds to increase biodiversity, herb spirals, raised beds and the correct utilisation of space to maximise vegetable production. This school dreams of having its own fruit forest. Curriculum integration was a priority for the teacher who attended the EduPlant workshop. This has dramatically impacted the learners as some of them are considering agriculture as a career choice. When asked if they have any food garden skills and /or food garden at home one of the learners from Amanzimtoti Primary School said  “Yes, I did have a bit of knowledge before. Due to the Eduplant programme, I have decided to create a vegetable garden of my own and possibly some fruiting plants too.”

The Sinathing Junior Primary School (KwaZulu-Natal) gardens can be found nestled between the school classrooms where the learners and educators can easily access these throughout the day for outdoor learning activities. The school keeps track of harvest records, sales, income and expenses, planting schedules and maintenance records in order to continue making this food garden a success. Around 20 kg of vegetables are harvested every week including cabbage, spinach, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. Initially, water was a limited resource and posed a challenge to the sustainability of the garden, however, rainwater harvesting from one of the school building roofs has proven to be key in growing this garden.

With the help of the EduPlant Programme workshops, Thornville Primary School (KwaZulu-Natal) has transformed its ample fertile spaces into what is now a fully-fledged food garden. From grassy fields to neatly laid out rows of beds, the school garden is growing a variety of vegetables. They have established a lizard hotel and engage in composting, propagation, crop rotation and companion planting. Additionally, the school has used A-frames to mark contours and develop swales. A mulch pit in the garden slows down the flow of water.

The Grace and Hope Special School (Limpopo) team can be proud of their school food garden which began as little more than sandy soils. This school is also talented at recycling and upcycling and has incorporated their recycling initiatives into aspects of their food garden. This results in an exceptionally clean and neat garden with well implemented raised beds and herb spirals. The learners are also taught to grow their own seedlings to transplant into the garden.

The Ledingwe Primary School (Limpopo) garden looks extra green and lush with a variety of cabbages, spinach, onions and beetroot thriving in raised beds, keyhole beds and mandalas. The school keeps detailed harvest, sales, garden costs and income records, indicating that a whopping 50 kg are harvested from this vegetable garden weekly. This garden also demonstrates interesting recycling practices, such as the use of plastic strips for pest control and recycled cooldrink bottles for drip irrigation. The learners also made a tiger mascot out of old wires and plastic to represent the programme partner, Tiger Brands.

Thanks to the effective and efficient use of the ample amount of space at Mbhureni Primary School (Limpopo), the food garden is flourishing with yields reaching up to 50 kg per week. Cabbage, onions, mustard, tomatoes and various herbs grown from well-nurtured seedlings are harvested on a weekly basis. The school demonstrates effective use of companion planting, intercropping for pest control, and raised beds methods. Thanks to the help and support of dedicated community members, this garden will continue to grow over the years.

The Ecopreneur who mentors Mookgopong Primary School in Limpopo had the following to say about the garden: “the schoolyard is clean and inviting with beautiful flowers mixed with herbs and medicinal plants. The school has created WhatsApp groups for educators, learners, parents and community members to share their ideas and experiences in the garden.” The school initially had a problem with birds eating their seedlings, however, the issue was addressed when the learners made several scarecrows from recycled materials for the garden.

Despite a challenging start with a number of pests, Namatsabo Primary School (Limpopo) garden has proudly sprung into an appealing, luscious vegetable garden characterised by good companion planting and a deep understanding of the permaculture curriculum. The school garden supplements the feeding programme once a week and the surrounding community often purchases vegetables from the school. There is ample evidence of good water management practices and natural pest management.

The vacant piece of land where the Enkhokhokweni Primary School (Mpumalanga) garden now stands was previously covered in weeds and garden refuse and had very poor quality soils. However, the use of good quality natural compost and the application of companion planting in the area has resulted in a healthy and fertile garden that can partially supplement the school’s feeding scheme. From the school’s Portfolio Of Evidence, there is an indication that educators from Enkhokhokweni Primary School have covered some permaculture topics when teaching different subjects at school. This has greatly improved learner involvement and participation.

Sifundzekhaya Primary School (Mpumalanga) boasts lush, green, neatly laid out raised beds that provide 12 different crop varieties for harvesting. The garden has a yield of about 3.5 kg per week, some of which is used to supplement school meals and the rest sold for income. The school makes use of their space very effectively, taking care of small beds which are easy to access. The beds are well mulched and crop rotation and intercropping are evident.

Umpopoli Primary School (Mpumalanga) demonstrates the exemplary use of old tyres. The school has positioned the tyres together in such a way that they create raised, contained beds with pathways in between for easy access. The creative use of tyres adds colour and dimension to the garden but also acts as natural floodproofing. Additionally, the school ensures that they mulch. The school has also established a lizard hotel, bottle watering/drip irrigation and uses manure from local kraals for composting.

Northern Cape based school, Ditshipeng Intermediate, are shining examples of what hard work can achieve. The learners have currently succeeded in growing spinach, onions, carrots, green pepper, and cabbage in hard, dry soils. Part of their success lies in the clever use of permaculture techniques such as mulch pits, A-frames, and herbs to repel pests. One of the challenges the school faced when they kicked off their programme was the invasion of the garden by wandering animals, however a fence was erected to protect the garden. They have also planted trees, grown their own seedlings and are saving seeds for the following growing season. 

Gaaesi Primary School in the Northern Cape also faced harsh farming conditions, with dry weather and hard, compacted soils. This did not stop them from thriving though. After meticulously implementing the concepts taught and skillful use of resources provided in the EduPlant workshops, the school now harvests 15 kg of fresh produce every week, having increased its production size by 20m² in the last year. A shade net structure was erected at the school and has helped the learners to grow cabbage, chillies, carrots, spinach, green pepper, pumpkin, watermelon and butternut. A fertility bed was also dug and is used to compost scraps, weeds and garden refuse.

The Good Hope Primary School (Northern Cape) EduPlant garden is one of the most interesting to look at. From creatively shaped bed layouts to vegetables growing out of sacks and bottles, this school has fully embraced the principles of permaculture and sustainability. The school has gone from growing only 3 crop varieties to intercropping with 14 varieties. The school also uses organic tea and natural pest management techniques to enhance productivity.

The success of Maruping Primary School’s (Northern Cape) food garden is the result of much hard work and dedication by learners, educators and community members. The garden hosts a diverse range of crops including beetroot, chillies, tomatoes and green peppers. The school utilises recycled plastics to repel birds and natural pest repellents are prepared to manage pest invasions. The garden demonstrates good water management practices and includes a mulch pit and compost heap.

Poelano Secondary School in the North West Province has always been passionate about agriculture and has two teachers trained in agriculture. These teachers have both benefited greatly from the EduPlant programme and identified learners who have a passion for practically implementing the taught techniques. Some of the grade 11 boys who live in close proximity to the school play a major role in maintaining the garden during school holidays. The neighbours around the school have started their own gardens after seeing the great work and harvest at the school. 

The Rekgonne Bapo Special School (North West) harvests on average of 40 bunches of spinach, 20 onions, one box of tomatoes and 10 bunches of carrots every week from their school garden. These vegetables are often provided to about 20 learners as food parcels to take home to their families. The integration of permaculture teachings into the school curriculum has led to topics such as plant nursery skills, transplanting seedlings, mulching, watering, and compost making being taught in the outdoor classroom. The school makes use of greywater and diversion drains as part of its water management practices. The learners also ensure that compost heaps are well maintained to increase soil fertility.

Despite the coarse, sandy soil at Toevlug Primary School (North West), the garden has bloomed into one that is productive and diverse. The school built up the soil health by using dry organic materials, manure, and recycled paper to bring texture to the soil. Ten bunches of spinach, cabbages and multiple onions are harvested weekly. Other interesting permaculture techniques employed include a lizard hotel and the use of wood ash as a soil additive to increase potassium and trace elements. Learners are also active in turning the harvested herbs into ointments.

The learners at Welgevonden Primary School (North West) are highly involved in harvesting, watering and transplanting seedlings in their EduPlant school garden. They make use of A-frames and rockeries and have used wood ash to aid in warding off moles that were damaging their produce. There are also three community members involved in this garden. They reside at the school and take care of the garden during the school holidays, helping to create good relationships between the school and the surrounding community.

Walking through the Caradale Primary School EduPlant garden is such a pleasure. Despite the Mitchells Plain (Western Cape) area being characterised by sandy soils, the garden is in full bloom and currently producing 2 kg of fresh produce every week. In just one year, the school has gone from having 15 learners involved in the garden to 140 learners as well as 2 community members. The school began selling some of its produce this year and also supplements its feeding scheme from its harvests. The garden boasts neatly sectioned footpaths and garden beds teeming with spinach, cabbage, nasturtiums and other leafy greens. Planter bags made from recycled materials have been used to create raised beds on concrete areas. This school has embraced the presence of the garden by incorporating it into its image and culture.

Dennegeur Avenue Primary School (Western Cape) stands out as an EduPlant participant that has been both creative and effective in using their space and resources. The school clearly demonstrates the use of various permaculture zones and mapping, has utilised windbreak techniques and implemented drought planning. The garden is exceptionally well laid out and the production area has tripled in size from 313 m² to 939m² in just over a year. The learners proudly harvest around 5kg of fresh produce from their garden every week. Currently they are intercropping with the likes of beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, chard, fruit trees, and even strawberries.

The neatly arranged garden beds, sectioned by wooden poles at Montagu Drive Primary School (Western Cape) are something for the learners who work in the garden to be exceptionally proud of. The school has gone from growing 3 crop varieties to 15 in the last year. They harvest approximately 5 kg from the garden each week and have plans to expand it by 100m². The foundation phase learners involved in the garden have also been taught the value of composting and manure teas

The quaint yet booming school garden at Springdale Primary School (Western Cape) is tended to by enthusiastic learners. The educator who leads the garden project has spent plenty of time with the learners demonstrating activities such as bed preparation, seed sowing, transplanting seedlings, pest control, plant care and maintenance. He indicated that he hopes to incorporate maths, physical and life sciences into the outdoor learning environment. Since its inception, the garden has grown by more than 100m² and currently has corn, chard and cabbage thriving. A number of old tyres lying around the school have been repurposed to form a windbreak around the garden and act as a barrier for potential wandering animals.

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