Top 10 Eco-School tips for Winter part 2

FEED THE BIRDS – You can create a haven for small birds by placing bird feeders with high energy foods. Place fatballs and nuts out but remember that not everyone will approve of pork fat and watch out for allergies. Maybe the school kitchen can help? Birds also need water so top up bowls and baths when it freezes.

Don’t place feeders too near to the school as they can encourage vermin and the birds may be scared to approach. And don’t invest too much in feeders as squirrels will be looking for lunch too and they often rip feeders apart.

CHRISTMAS TREES – Source trees from your local nursery to plant out for next year. Many organisations such as the Wodland Trust have schemes for schools to access free tress.

Winter to early Spring is a good time to plant. They’ve slowed down and their root ball is unlikely to dry out and damge the tree. Obviously you don’t want to be digging frozen earth so leave it for a warm spell. The best digging conditions is wet but not waterlogged.

Many trees such as apple trees like a good dose of manure around dug in around the root ball. Why not use your emptied composter or wormery? The same goes for fruit bushes such as raspberry and black current.

Why not plant a Christmas tree rather than buy one and don’t forget to plant holly so you can collect snippets for Christmas wreathes.

VEGGIE PATCH – No point doing any gardening in the school veggie patch right? Sorry! No plants doesn’t mean no work. This is a great time to add horse/chicken manure or other organic fertiliser as the frost will help break this down ready for a bumper crop next year.

If you prefer a more sanitised veg patch then plant out broad beans or peas. They won’t do that great but they will help fertilise the soil with nitrogen fixing bacteria in their roots and come the Spring they’ll be hardened off and have a head start for the growing season. Or just dig them in as a green manure.

Maybe you’ve got some of your crop left over from Summer. Root veg, particularly parsnips actually get sweeter if left into the frosty season so don’t clear the patch unnecessarily. Save them for the Christmas holidays and that important roast. If in doubt leave well alone and see if they Spring back into life come the warmer months.

COCK A DOODLE DO’S AND DON’TS – As it gets cold and the days shorter your chickens will stop laying. You can combat that by providing them with heat and light from old fashioned light bulbs but that pretty energy intensive.

Better to let them go into their natural cycle in which case they’ll moult to grow new winter feathers. They’ll huddle and roost more due to the cold winter nights which means they may pass on diseases more. Keep an eye out for mites on their legs and treat with Vaseline to discourage them. With more time indoors their sawdust/bedding will need changing more. Save it for fertiliser or if you want to just get rid then chuck it onto your veg patch and dig it in. Avoid putting it directly around plants because it’s very rich and can over fertilise.

If you have an automatic door with a timer on your coup then you may find your chickens locked out at night time if you don’t change the timer. The best automatic doors are solar powered and sense when it’s getting dark giving time for the chickens to come home to roost.

Sadly it’s in Winter and at night that elderly chickens clock out and roll off this mortal coil so it’s a good idea to check in the roost every day.

Chickens love to scratch the dirt but when your turf is wet they soon turn it to mud. You can move them around but before you know it you’re back to mud again. Try placing them on flags or concrete with a soft layer of wood bark. You can sweep this up – it makes great fertiliser.

FEEL COLD – Observe where the cold spots are in your school and let the caretaker/facilities know. If a room is cold its cold for a reason probably because its not insulated properly. All too often we assume that above the roof tiles everything is fine and dandy. Feel for drafts and report them. Insulation and draft proofing can save a school a fortune on heating bills.

One word of warning if you’re poking about is don’t disturb anything  that looks like insulation – many schools still have asbestos as part of the fabric of their building. Its safe as long as its occasionally checked and left alone.  Its usually marked with a warning sticker. If you have doubts then your buildings asbestos register should tell you where it is.