Six Whanganui schools have spent the last eight weeks growing a garden for the Springvale Garden Centre School Vegetable Garden Competition.
Ethan Griffiths visited Churton School to check out progress.
Nestled down a narrow alleyway next to the school pool lies a project that students at Aramoho's Churton School are pretty proud of.
For the last eight weeks, under the guidance of school principal and garden facilitator Andrew Spence, six students have seen a variety of vegetables grow from seedlings to fully-fledged plants.
The project is being led by the school's environment committee - six year 5 and 6 students passionate about protecting the planet and living sustainably.
Spence has been leading the project with the students, which has seen them take full responsibility for the garden, from putting together the raised garden bed to ensuring it remains wet and free of weeds.
"For us as a school, it's given us a bit of a focus and a purpose," he said.
"The educational perspective is about caring for something long term, perseverance by watering and weeding something, and responsibility."
In the garden is a variety of vegetables, including cauliflower, beetroot, lettuce, spinach and silverbeet.
One of the students, Braydon O'Reilly, says being involved in keeping the garden on track is always the highlight of his day.
"It's been really fun for us. It's cool to see how much they've grown."
While being predominantly led by the school's environment group, the project is popular among all students, with the idea of turning the project into a school-wide activity at the conclusion of the competition.
"When it comes to watering and weeding of the garden, that's been their priority. When that's working at that level, we're going to expand a little further into each class having their own responsibility within the garden."
The school is also exploring the opportunity of creating a worm farm and a larger-scale composting area, with students also pushing the idea of a chicken farm to utilise the "chicken poop" for the garden.
"I think that might be a bit of a pipe dream," Spence said.
For most of the students, the project has been the first time they've been involved in growing their own produce, with only a couple of the students already adept in some gardening concepts.
"I think it's pretty unique to them. A number of them do bring a certain amount of knowledge and understanding, but that can be limited."
And for Mr Spence himself, being involved in the competition has meant he's learning almost as much as the students, having had no prior experience in the garden.
"It's been really good. I've had to take on a new role of reading the packets, talking to other people and working out what to do."
Eight weeks in, the garden is already well established, and there were some fears that the students hard work might be undone.
"Our gardens are quite exposed to the community, and the community has access to the grounds after school and during the weekend," Spence said.
"My biggest concern is that someone might come and destroy the garden. No one has touched them, other than white butterflies and some slugs, which is pretty amazing for us."
As for where to from here, student Scarlett Brett said the group has no plans to give up on the garden, ensuring it sticks around for future students too.
"It's been really fun for us. It's a cool thing for us to be involved in."
• To vote in the competition, go to www.springvalegardencentre.co.nz