Six Whanganui schools have spent the past eight weeks growing a garden for the Springvale Garden Centre School Vegetable Garden Competition.
Logan Tutty visits Aranui School to check out how the students' gardening journey is going.
Aranui School hopes the groundwork they are laying in their gardening project will encourage future students to continue the programme.
Principal Maryann Roberts said a garden group of around 10 students from the senior class, Poutama, were in charge of the garden.
With planting, watering, weeding, composting and more involved in the project, Roberts said it had been a fantastic experience so far.
"It has been great, the children have really enjoyed it."
Their garden sits near the back fenceline of the school, with the supplies donated by the Springvale Garden Centre allowing them to expand on their two existing garden boxes with new and exciting vegetables.
Radishes, carrots, cabbages, lettuces, broccoli, spring onions, beetroot and more have all been planted and are almost ready to harvest.
Roberts said the group was currently trying to find out what animals were helping themselves to the gardens, with the students tossing up between rabbits or possums.
"First we were decimated by the caterpillars and the white moth. Now, they've got to do a bit of an investigation because they realise it is something a bit bigger."
Instead of dwelling on their lost produce, the group will now run a series of research projects trying to figure out what the culprit is and how they can stop it.
The whole project has turned into a fully educational process, from making compost bins and what can be composted, to what goes into the worm farm and why some plants may grow better than others.
"The discussions why this garden does better than this garden, it can all be turned educational," Roberts said.
Students go out a number of times a week to weed and water their plants, making sure they continue to grow.
Roberts said children took quite a bit of pride in being a member of the gardening group, and it had become a sought-after position among students.
"They want to learn about it and how they can be part of the gardening group. From this, we want to extend this throughout the school."
Roberts said they would begin instilling more responsibility into the younger year groups so they could continue the project after the senior students left for intermediate.
Being part of the competition has allowed Aranui to make the most of the entire gardening experience, from learning how to grow vegetables to utilising them in their final form.
"How can we incorporate that in our lunch programme so what they are producing can be part of their lunches. That's what we are wanting to achieve.
"They have taken their radishes into other classes for them to try, and explain what they are. We are beginning that process."
It had been great for the children to learn where food actually comes from, Roberts said.
"Understanding that it hasn't just come from the supermarket or we push the trolley through that part and not try something. It's a real garden to table process."
If Aranui were to win any prizes for the competition, re-investing in to the garden and ensuring it is there to stay will be paramount.
"We want this to be sustainable and long term for all of the children. All the students who got the planter boxes up and running have since left the school. These are the ones who remember them starting that and want to be a part of it.
"It might be a late lunch time programme or part of our daily programme."
• To vote in the competition, go to www.springvalegardencentre.co.nz