Spring is here at last – and it's time to do battle.
Schoolchildren across Northern Ireland are rolling up their sleeves and cleaning off their trowels as they prepare for a series of gardening challenges at this year's Garden Show Ireland.
Northern Ireland's biggest gardening festival moves to a new home this spring, changing from its traditional Hillsborough venue to the spectacular Antrim Castle Gardens.
It comes as the Belfast Telegraph launches Blooming Marvellous, a drive to inspire readers to pick up a trowel and transform their surroundings with a little green-fingered magic. The campaign this spring and summer will feature a wealth of gardening coverage, horticultural offers and a series of competitions.
Green-fingered pupils all over Northern Ireland are now busy working on designs for the Schools Garden Challenge, Scarecrow Square and the Edible Containers Competition, all sponsored by Allianz, a long-term supporter of Garden Show Ireland.
The theme of the 2014 Allianz Schools Garden Challenge is 'An Edible Garden' and teams from schools and colleges can design and build a garden to be displayed at Garden Show Ireland in May with the winning school receiving a trip for 30 pupils to the Omniplex courtesy of Junction One.
New for 2014, primary schools are invited to design An Edible Garden In A Container with the winning schools receiving a Buzzy Bees Gardening Kit and trees provided by CAFRE Greenmount College.
Nicholas Crawford from sponsors Allianz said: "We are delighted to be involved again with the schools activity at Garden Show Ireland. These initiatives provide a fun way of teaching children about the world around them and encourages them to get active in their own school gardens."
Coordinated by the Integrated Education Fund, primary school children from integrated schools throughout Northern Ireland are also invited to create colourful scarecrows which will surround Allianz Scarecrow Square. Inhabitants will include sporting heroes as well as eco-friendly, scary and traditional scarecrows.
Claire Faulkner, director of Garden Show Ireland, said the schools activity is a vital part of the show.
"It is important to us that young people have the opportunity to experience the benefits of gardening and especially the value of growing your own food. It is also great fun working with the next generation of gardeners," she said.
Taking place in a brand new venue for 2014, an expanded new-look Garden Show Ireland will include appearances by C4's River Cottage team, Alys Fowler from BBC Gardeners' World and world-renowned Irish plantswoman Helen Dillon.
With thousands of specialist plants, great garden shopping, garden designers and show gardens, a craft village, a free design pavilion, artisan food stalls, live music, garden gourmet, garden challenges, a dedicated kids zone and more, the event promises to be the ultimate garden show experience for gardeners of all ages.
The 2014 Garden Show Ireland will run from May 9 to 11 at Antrim Castle Gardens and is open daily from 10am-6pm with parking adjacent. Adults are £10 (conc. £8) and free for children under 16. There is a reduced rate for online booking. For more, visit www.gardenshowireland.com.