This talented teenager’s instinctive green fingers have earned him praise from the RHS. Shelley Carter catches up with the young gardener to find out about his latest projects
Thomas Cheshire is no ordinary teenager. The 13-year-old is more likely to be found constructing a polytunnel to grow vegetables in than playing XBox. Many youngsters struggle to find their vocation until well into further education. Not Tom. He knows exactly what he wants to do when he grows up. This impressive young boy is destined for greatness in the garden and his got started early. Tom has such a natural ability and remarkable knowledge that his teacher at Moreton Community School, Steve Keegan entered him into the RHS Young School Gardener of Year awards. Tom came an impressive second in the national competition and is cock-a-hoop. Mr Keegan found Tom to be an inspirational part of the team, often taking the lead. “He’s a shining example of a student who has wholly embraced the subject with a wonderful appreciation of the environment,” he says.
Tom’s flair and enthusiasm really are remarkable. Already he has proved to be instrumental in creating the school community garden and for one so young, his initial designs were incredibly well-thought out and inclusive. For instance, he suggested raised beds, so less able pupils could get involved in planting, harvesting and crop rotation. “I just wanted to make sure that everyone had the chance to enjoy and participate fully with the garden” says Tom. He also incorporated special areas, such as bug-friendly zones to allow pupils to relish studying wildlife. The progressive curriculum at Moreton already allows students to dedicate a couple of hours a week to gardening – clearly Tom wishes it could be more. “We’re given periods three and four on a Friday for the garden,” Tom chuckles “but I would be out there all day, everyday given the chance.” His daily commitment starts when he arrives at school and lovingly waters the hanging baskets that occupy pride of place in the courtyard. Next he maintains the compost bins that have produced a list of appropriate compostable materials for staff and students.
Even when he’s not actually getting his hands dirty, his thoughts are never far from horticulture. Current projects include researching a timed solar powered irrigation system that will water the polytunnel at night. He’s also hatching a plan to make fertiliser from the slurry created by wet grass cuttings. Woodwork classes have proved useful; he’s been able to knock up a ladybird hotel. To say this boy is focused is an understatement. So what about hobbies outside of the garden? Silly question. There are none of course. Where did this drive come from? Although Tom’s garden at home is small, his parents are keen gardeners and have allotted a ‘little corner’ for Tom where he is given carte blanche to grow whatever he likes. This year he’s plumped for tomatoes and peas. His sisters aren’t green fingered, so they leave him to it. When quizzed about his gardening heroes, Tom said he doesn’t have any. I suspect he considers it a daft concept. You see, Tom isn’t inspired by TV gardeners or passing trends. It’s more instinctive than that. He has found something that he genuinely loves, is great at and wants to do forever. There are a number of pupils at Moreton who are keen, willing contributors to the school garden, but Tom is different. His dedication and thirst for knowledge set him apart. It seems obvious that Tom will go on to enjoy a career in horticulture, but when put to him, he said quietly and sincerely, ‘I really wish.’