At Richmond Vale Academy (RVA) the students are an active part in the management of the vegetable garden. The garden in RVA provides daily fresh food for the kitchen.
The Garden at RVA
RVA believes that education is about practical experience.
So, the knowledge that the students get by spending active time in the garden will allow them to understand the principles and techniques of sustainable agriculture.
That’s why it is so necessary to have a garden in RVA.
Principles of the garden in RVA
The main principle that we follow in the garden is permaculture.
And, permaculture is a concept based on imitating nature, sowe need to increase the biodiversity of the cultivated area.
So, in the garden in RVA we plant different species of vegetables taking into consideration the synergies that can be obtained among them.
Also, there are different plant families that grow well together and other that compete for the same source.
So, a strategic management and accurately planned cultivation allow the garden to work as a resistant ecosystem.
Then, they are able to face the pests and limit their spreading.
In permaculture is important to keep the soil healthy and to do so we keep it always covered either with plants or with mulch.
And, in this way, the topsoil remains with moisture and the nutrients remains despite the rain or the wind.
Structure of the garden in RVA
In the garden, we have many areas.
1. A nursery area,
2. Four greenhouses,
3. Compost piles
4. Open air lasagna beds.
And, in total the garden occupies an area of about 800 m2.
The nursery area is a controlled environment where we grow seedlings for about two weeks.
After germination, the seedlings are moved to the Greenhouse "0" (GH0) where they keep growing for about one week.
At the GH0 we also keep young Moringa trees.
So, in front of the GH0, a banana circle is integrated with cucumber and eggplants cultivation is located.
On its side, a series of three lasagna beds host several species, e.g. kale, lettuce, asparagus, marigolds, etc.
But, the purpose of Greenhouse 1 (GH1) is to produce seeds.
Also, in this area, we do not collect the fruits for consumption.
And, we leave the fruits to get mature and afterward we collect the seeds.
That way, we guarantee a continuous supply of organic seeds.
Besides, the Greenhouses 2 and 3 (GH2 and GH3) are the food production.
From this area, we can give a daily supply of salad, spinach, and cabbage.
So, in some periods of the year, we give also other vegetables, e.g. eggplants, peppers, beans, etc.
And, to keep the structure of the soil and give essential nutrients to the plants, we have a weekly production of compost.
The compost is created out of garden waste, kitchen waste, and horse manure.
Besides, after seven weeks of maturation, the compost can be spread in the beds and provide a slow fertilizer which improves at the same time the soil characteristics.
Challenges in an organic garden
Organic farming does not have shortcuts.
So, we do not use mineral fertilizers or synthetic pesticides.
And, we rely on human work and constant observation of the plants.
But, sometimes we experiment new plant combination to see if we can get a better health condition of the plants.
Also, to fight the spread of pests, we rely on natural ingredients like a mixture of pepper, garlic, and organic soap.
We know that managing an organic garden is demanding but also rewarding.
In the moment when you can see a healthy community of plants and of course when you eat the delicious products of your work, everything ends up being worthwhile.