Over the forthcoming year we would like you to get to know our Grounds and Gardens team and read about some of the work they do in and around campus. We also want to show you some of the exciting projects the team are working on! As Lisa Owen Grounds & Gardens Apprentice explains…
Let's begin back in October, which was a very busy month. You may have seen us all on our hands and knees planting hundreds of packs of winter bedding plants and spring bulbs. It is lovely to see around campus that our efforts are now paying off, and despite the very changeable weather the first of the bulbs such as crocus and daffodils are coming up and providing a pretty splash of colour.
In November we put our creative skills to the test and launched a new Bug Hotel project which will carry on throughout this year. The team has already completed two bug hotels and the first one has now been positioned in our newly created woodland seating area. The hotels are made entirely from reclaimed and recycled materials found around the campus and the local area, including jetsam and shells from Thurstaston beach. The hotels will provide a haven for many types of insects such as ladybirds, butterflies, moths, solitary bees, bumble bees, spiders, and beetles. Insects are a vital part of our ecosystem for many different reasons. They are an important source of food for birds, bats and other animals, and also predate on other insects such as aphids which keeps our gardens and crops pest-free. Insects help with the decomposition of soil making it rich in nutrients and are essential for pollinating plants and flowers.
December saw the launch of another new project for the team: the clearance and creation of the woodland viewing point and seating area which is the home of our first bug hotel. This once abandoned and unloved patch of ground is located at the far end of the car park by the woodland walk, close to the greenway cycle-path exit. Several weeks of very hard work by the team has now completely transformed the area (check out the photo above)! We now plan to create a peaceful garden which looks down onto the woodland, where everyone can sit and enjoy the wide variety of wildlife our campus has to offer. We have already installed a recycled bench made entirely from unwanted wooden pallets, and the next step is to work on more furniture, create a planting scheme, and put up some bird feeders. Prior to the Christmas holidays we also carried out some essential maintenance and clearing of the green waste bays in the far car park. They have now been sectioned off into specific areas for recycling our waste including ones that contain leaf mould, branches and also wood chippings. We have just taken delivery of a brand new wood chipper which will enable us to efficiently produce chippings from waste wood to use in planted areas. This organic material will slowly break down and release nutrients back into the soil.
As a team we are always looking at new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and we have recently been lucky enough to receive two brand new electric vehicles! The first is a mini E-truck which is great for travelling around campus, and the second is a Nissan 100% Electric Zero Emissions van. Along with our new vehicles we are also using a selection of eco-friendly electric garden tools including long and short arm hedge cutters and strimmers.
Since the Christmas break much of our time has been spent carrying out essential cold weather tasks and dealing with the icy conditions on campus. But now as we head into March, the first signs of Spring are now appearing and we begin to focus our attention on making our green areas look their best for the months ahead. A wide variety of seeds has now arrived which we will start planting in the greenhouses soon, along with edibles such as herbs and salad crops which will hopefully benefit the campus catering facilities over the Summer!