The course, provided by Hadlow College, is based at the new Greenwich Horticulture Centre at Shooters Hill, Greenwich. The Horticultural Centre along with the Equestrian Centre, further down the road, is a part of the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games and is funded by the Royal Borough Greenwich.
Throughout this year I have attended quite a few short courses offered at the Greenwich Centre and thoroughly enjoyed all of them, e.g. Introduction to Horticulture, Twilight Gardening, Container Gardening and Wildlife Gardening. But this is the first time that I have attempted a course at the centre that offers an actual qualification at the end of the programme.
I have always been a keen gardener but I must admit that I was a little apprehensive at the start of the course. Questions kept running through my head – ‘Do I know enough about gardening?’ ‘Will I need to have a science background?’ ‘Will other people on the course have more knowledge than me? But, as it turned out, my worries were unfounded. We were a mixed group of people, all from different backgrounds and different age groups but we all had one thing in common, we all wanted to improve our knowledge and skills.
Aimed at people living in the Royal Borough of Greenwich this course is excellent for people want to gain a qualification while serving an apprenticeship in the horticultural industry, or for those who want to gain a qualification in order to go on to do other things. It also provides a great sound base for people like me, who just want to improve their knowledge and gardening skills.
Our tutor, Phil Thursby, was excellent and very experienced in his field. The course was comprised of a mixture of practical sessions with classroom-based theory and visits to relevant horticultural sites. We only had to attend the centre one day per week and every other week we were taken by mini-bus to various enterprises in Kent where we gained first-hand experience of working within the horticultural sector.
At Gunyon’s Orchard we were trained and gained first hand practical experience of pruning pollinator trees. I also took advantage of the free bramley apples that the owner offered us and, when I went home, made some spicy apple and apricot chutney made in cider.
We saw Thanet Earth’s research unit at Court Lane Nurseries where new varieties of tomatoes and peppers were being trialled. This gave us an insight into Hydroponics, an alternative method of cultivation that produces crops in a controlled environment. This is a soilless method of production whereby the roots are inserted into a medium of rockwool which soaks up a nutrient rich water solution The vegetative process is continuous and vegetables can be grown for 12 months of the year.
At Coblands Nursery we were given training in hand potting and also in the use of a potting machine. This was a very busy unit and in the season they pot 8,000 plants per day The Health and Safety in the Work-place training we received throughout all aspects of the course was second to none. The need for safety when using tools and equipment, when and where to wear protective clothing, the safe use of chemicals and fertilisers, methods of disposing organic and inorganic waste, and minimising damage to the environment couldn’t be emphasised enough and was a vital element of our training.
We learnt about grafting scions and rootstocks and the need for the cambium of the rootstock to match that of the scion. We were given an excellent demonstration of various grafting and budding techniques by Terry Parrish, the Head Nurseryman at Court Lane Nurseries.
I so enjoyed this course and can’t recommend it enough. Hadlow College offer a wide range of courses at various levels. An apprenticeship is an ideal way for young people to gain a nationally recognised qualification while earning money at the same time.
Hadlow College offers Intermediate Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships in Agriculture, Land-Based Engineering and Horticulture, with a variety of pathways that can be tailored to suit the employer needs and resources. Those in suitable employment can, with the approval of their employer apply for an apprenticeship. If they are 16-18 years old the tuition and examination fees are fully funded, or, if they are aged 19+ there will be an employer contribution towards the cost of tuition.
If you are interested in this course, an apprenticeship or any other short courses available at the Greenwich Horticultural Skills Centre, please go to the Hadlow College website: http://hadlow.ac.uk/