The Monastery School Herb Garden is a newly planted garden area within the Monastery National School Ardee, County Louth. The herb garden will contribute to the idea of a monastic style garden being cultivated in the school, with vegetables, fruits and wildlife garden walks all forming an integrated garden for food, well-being and contemplation. Historically monastic gardens were examples of sustainability, grown as enclosed areas where prayer, horticulture and physical labour were combined. “Monasteries were used to treat the sick and the garden of medicinal herbs is usually shown in manuscripts as a small, neatly ordered area of narrow beds” (The Herb Garden by Sarah Garland).

“Herbs have been cultivated for thousands of years as medicine and as food, but they were also used as part of religious rituals. By 1066 European monasteries were the custodians of medicinal herbs. The gardens were laid out in simple rectangles, and a dedicated physic garden was a feature within monasteries. Herbs have a history that is steeped in myth and magic.” (The New Book of Herbs by Jekka McVicar).

Boys from 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Class helped to prepare the soil, plant a variety of herb plants and seeds, and water the herbs with seaweed liquid feed.

The following herbs were planted in four diamond shaped beds:

Dill, Corianer, Salad Rocket, Pot Marigold, Borage, Chervil, Summer Savory, Caraway, Good Kind Henry, Caraway, Sweet Cicely, Rosemary, Oregano, Angelica, Tarragon, Applemint, Spearmint, Peppermint, Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Chives, Sage, Fennel and Feverfew.

The American garden artist Fritz Haeg, in his book Edible Estates, challenges the idea that front gardens are composed of lawns. He believes that vegetable gardens should not be located in back gardens, but instead be moved to the front of houses where they can replace unproductive areas of grass. Fritz Haeg has developed a number of these visible vegetable gardens for homes, located within housing estates in the United States. He has also been commissioned by the Tate Gallery in London to design a community garden within an urban area surrounded by high rise apartments.

Haeg creates vegetable beds as art. They are not rectangular, but expressive lines of drawing, densely planted with a variety of herbs and vegetables. His message is that vegetable beds are aesthetic, not purely functional. As such their shape can be expressive, and their content grown not in rows, but in drifts and textures of edible growth.

The ideas of Fritz Haeg are being applied in Ardee County Louth, as part of a project to celebrate the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations, 2012. In collaboration with Ardee Tidy Towns and Ardee Active Retirement sections of grass are being transformed into both vegetable/herb gardens and flower gardens for the residents of Moorehall Village (a retirement villlage). Moorehall residents will work with 4th Class students attending Scoil Mhuire na Trocaire (the girls school in Ardee).

Organic gardening, ecological garden designs, and sustainable food growing are some of the topics the students are exploring in conjunction with this project. However, the conversations between gardeners of different ages are the central feature of the endeavour. Sharing stories of childhood and the history of Ardee are two topics of conversation that carry on beside the planting of broad beans, lettuce, leeks, swiss chard, garlic, onions, potatoes, gooseberries, currants, strawberries, and herbs.

Growing Through the Ages is a project supported by The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Louth County Council, Environment Section.  The purpose of the project is to celebrate The European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Between the Generations.

St. Peter’s National School, Dromiskin, County Louth has been chosen to participate in the promotion of this year. The school has begun an intergenerational garden planted by former students of the original school (now senior citizens) and current third class students. The garden will be planted with traditional flowers such as peonies, lupins, delphiniums, heathers, irises, forget-me-nots, sweet williams, wallflowers, cornflowers and wildflowers.

Pupils past and present also participated in a living history project at the school to discuss changes in childhood and school life, comparing the past to the present. The design of the garden was drawn from ideas contributed by the principal, Pat Mulligan, school children, and local community gardeners.

The chosen design is symbolic of two strands of history meeting in a common circle of community. Public community gardens are located within the thoroughfares of everyday village life, and are part of the community’s landscape. They breed a sense of collective responsibility and ownership, with the added benefit of being nurtured by many hands.