THEY are very much a sign of our times.

Empty patches of ground all over Huddersfield are being transformed, by an army of volunteers.

And now it is time to honour those behind the rash of community gardens springing up in schools, housing estates and communal areas.

This year’s Examiner Garden of the Year competition includes, for the first time, a category for community gardens.

Judges were faced with a hard task in picking winners in this new category, which along with the overall Garden of the Year competition, is sponsored by Armitage’s Garden Centres.

Armitages put up an additional £500 to be shared by community gardening projects. It is part of their commitment to supporting local initiatives.

Judges had the tough job of choosing just four from the 12 schemes entered.

The results will be announced next week but here are details of the projects that are up and running, and some future plans.

Colne Valley Specialist Arts College: The college joined forces with MASTT (Marsden and Slaithwaite Transition Towns) to form a community garden at the school.

The idea, backed with a Kirklees Council grant, saw the grounds of the former caretaker’s cottage converted into a vegetable and flower garden, along with a wildlife garden and an orchard.

Now students and the community work together with lessons for pupils.

Dial Wood Stables: The Flockton-based stables host riding lessons and carriage-driving classes for disabled people and are creating a sensory garden.

It will be ideal for the disabled riders who are waiting their turn to ride.

A patch of wasteland outside New Hall Prison is to be turned over to the garden with raised beds for wheelchair users and a water recycling facility to collect and re-use rainwater.

Purlwell Infant School, Batley: Teachers and pupils have spent almost five years developing their vegetable and flower gardens.

The youngsters at the 357-place school, many as young as four, have learned to plant vegetables and grow them on. They have grown cabbages, potatoes, carrots and courgettes.

The next project is to build raised beds and a sensory garden.

Berry Brow Infant & Nursery School: Year 1 children work with local allotment holders to develop their gardening skills.

They have learned about composting and about growing vegetables in land at the side of the school.

The next step is to fill small planters and create a “small story world” in which plants are used as part of lessons.

Christchurch Woodhouse School, Deighton: The Friendship Garden at the school was created on the site of the former boilerhouse.

Cummins Turbo Technologies funded part of the project which saw 450 tonnes of hardcore brought in to create the new garden area.

Now elderly local residents are invited in to work alongside the children.

Millennium Garden, Springwood: Residents in Springwood set up their community garden in 2000 and over the years volunteers have maintained the Spring Grove Street site.

Now the local Tenants and Residents Association is taking over a communal garden in Lower Prospect Street and plan to improve planting and fill hanging baskets to improve the look of the area.

Roundway Tenants & Residents Association, Honley: The group, formed in July last year, includes about 100 properties in parts of Honley and are involved in a three-year project to improve communal gardens in Roundway and Stony Lane.

They are creating borders outside houses and encouraging tenants to plant tubs and containers as well as plants and shrubs to give a welcome look to the area.

Newsome High School: Students, staff and local residents have got together to run a great community project.

The garden club was set up at the school five years ago, originally for a Duke of Edinburgh project but now encompasses not only a “working” garden but also a pleasant area for staff and students to relax.

Vegetables grown in the garden are sold to the school kitchen for meals.

Highfields Community Orchard: It was Spring 2010 when 40 residents in Highfields got together and planted six apple trees on unused grassland.

They were later joined by local children who planted out soft fruit, while other residents have donated more fruit trees.

People of all ages and backgrounds from the area have got involved and now work and play in the orchard space – even though its long-term future is insecure because of possible development plans.

Linthwaite Ardron CE Junior & Infant School: The school has come up with an idea for a community garden and hopes to develop small gardens outside each of its seven classrooms.

Pupils would then grow flowers and vegetables in a project, which it is hoped can start in September.

Holmfirth High School: The school has two different community projects under way.

One involves a garden club which has been running for five years and uses land in the school grounds to produce plants, vegetables and jams. Their next plan is to develop an orchard to produce fruit for the local community.

The school is also developing an Interfaith garden, which is effectively an outdoor classroom which could also be used as a quiet area for reflection. Tragically, several staff and students have passed away and the garden is also intended to be a memorial to them.