Growing food to eat yourself gets us as close to nature as it is possible to be. Consuming something we have planted and nurtured, the rewards are amazing and the taste unbeatable, all you need for this is good soil, that’s where it all starts.
Good soil is full of nutrients and life, it feeds not only plants but insects, microbes, worms and small animals too. The way to make good soil is by adding compost, this enriches the soil making it nutritious and nourishing.
The best compost is home-made and free, school food waste, all of it, not just vegetables and fruit, but also cooked food, meat, bread, pasta, eggs and cheese can all be converted into great compost at school by using a simple machine, the ‘Ridan’.
In as little as 12 weeks all of that food waste can be turned into compost, then spread on the garden where it will feed your next crop of delicious vegetables and fruit. Turning all of the food waste into compost to grow more food closes the loop, it’s perfectly sustainable and it’s all down to soil.
Ridan food waste composting systems are designed to stand outside, they don’t use any power and they are a simple interactive way to recycle all school food waste on site. Already used by hundreds of schools they are a highly visible, educational demonstration of sustainability and recycling.
For full details please visit the Ridan website or call 01598 751043.
Ridan are currently offering a 10% discount to all schools involved with Food Growing Schools: London.
Spring is the perfect time to start a school garden
Join Food Growing Schools: London for Spring into Growing, and learn the secrets to planning and constructing your school garden, and developing a productive growing space – including how composting can have huge benefits to helping you grow food. Free resources, tips and ideas here: Spring into Growing – Plan it. Build it. Grow it!
Once you’ve got your food growing underway, why not celebrate your efforts by finding out the value of all that you’ve grown?
Food Growing Schools: London partner Capital Growth have developed a simple tool to track what your school grows in kilograms and pounds. It also produces graphs, perfect for motivating volunteers and pupils, and showcasing your work to the school and parents!
During the first two seasons of the Harvest-ometer over 189 growing spaces grew enough food to contribute to a whopping 502,000 meals, weighing over 40 tonnes and valued at £288k. Capital Growth also found an estimated £2.4m of food is being grown each year across their network, which includes community growing spaces, as well as schools.
Salads, squash, courgettes and potatoes are the most popular crops being grown in London.
The average yield per Square metre is just less than £3.50 per square meter.
Create a ‘slug and snail hunt’ and re-locate the culprits outside your garden- at least a few 100 yards away. Check out Garden Organic’s information on how to prevent and remove slugs, along with fascinating facts. Who knew there are over 100 different species of slugs and snails in the UK!.
Scare away birds by hanging fabric or CDs near your plants – we’ve found some bird control methods here.
3. REPEL using natural methods
Garlic spray is great for all aphids (and safe to use, just watch your eyes) and easy to prepare; put one crushed garlic clove with the skin left on into 1 litre of boiling water. Cool and strain and you have a very effective spray.
Limit pest habitats like planks of wet wood on the ground which harbour slugs and snails and promote pests by offering them habitats. Have a hedgehog house, a bat and a bird box nearby, make solitary bee boxes and leave an untidy patch to attract more beneficial insects.
We’re delighted to let you know that Food for Life has formally teamed up with Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen Garden Project to give all Food for Life schools and nurseries EXCLUSIVE ACCESS to their beautiful food education and growing resources.
The resources include delicious Jamie Oliver recipes for children, lesson plans, helpful teaching notes, growing units, curriculum-linked activities and nutrition information, all tailored to primary school-level cooking lessons and activities for garden-based learning.
A single subscription to both food education programmes means that you will have even more flexibility and support around practical cooking, growing and food-based learning. Schools who have already been working with Food for Life and the Kitchen Garden Project have told us how well the resources complement each other. We hope you think so too!
What better way to show off the school’s new-found gardening skills than to Grow Your Own Picnic to share with pupils, parents and the local community.
The FREE Grow Your Own Picnic Pack from Food Growing Schools: London is jammed full of advice, tips and activities to help you plan and grow crops and then turn them into delicious home-made dips, sandwiches, salads and other delights to create a summer picnic feast.
The pack also includes advice for linking with your local community to generate support for your growing activities and to share the spoils of success at the end of the summer term.
So what are you waiting for? Download the Grow Your Own Picnic pack now and start to harvest the benefits of school food growing.
We’re delighted to be able to share some top tips from FGSL resident expert Chris Collins, to help you get the most from your food growing efforts this year.
“This is the busiest point in the garden and time to get cracking if you want a bountiful summer. Sowing seeds is currently the order of the day for me. This year I’m growing many heritage varieties that I got from Garden Organic, but use whatever you can get your hands on!”
For schools, there’s always the challenge of the timing of terms, particularly growing ‘tender’ crops such as tomatoes, runner beans or pumpkins. These are no lovers of any cold weather and need to be protected until mid-May before planting out. This leaves only a small amount of time for harvesting in the school garden before the summer break begins.
To get around this dilemma we need to sow these plants NOW, so here are some handy tips:
Invest in a few propagators (mini Greenhouses) like these.
Whilst they do require initial expenditure, they’ll last many seasons if cared for. If this is not an option, a pot with a perforated sandwich bag held in place by canes and a rubber band over it will suffice. This video might help!
Sow plants using a seed compost
Don’t skimp on compost, it’s important! But you can save money by producing your own compost by collecting leaves, raw food waste, such as fruit and veg peelings, and adding them to a compost heap in your garden.
In its incubation chamber, our propagator will soon germinate our seeds. Once this happens they should be taken out, potted into bigger pots if necessary and placed on a bright school window ledge, preferably out of long periods of direct sunshine which may bleach the leaves.
Grow, then plant out
These plants can then be grown until the safety of mid-May, at which point they can be planted out as nice sturdy specimens, giving them a great head start on the season.
“This will all be worth the extra effort. Tomatoes, beans and pumpkins are the fastest growing and fastest yielding of the edible crops, making them a real joy for the children to see them grow.”
Spring is on it’s way, and with it brings a fantastic array of competitions and funding for school and community growing and outdoor learning projects. Here is a list of some of our favourites in March and April 2017, from friends and partners of Food Growing Schools: London. Apply while you can!
First up, RHS Campaign for School Gardening have three exciting competitions for schools:
RHS Schools’ Scarecrow Competition
Take a walk on the wild side and design your best wildlife-themed scarecrow to go proudly on display at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. All pre-schools and primary schools in the South East and London are eligible to enter. Applications close on Friday 10 March 2017.
RHS Budding Gardeners 2017
All schools and groups are invited to design their best mini show garden based around the theme, Famous Five Go on a Garden Adventure, to be displayed at RHS Garden Wisley! Applications close on Monday 20 March 2017.
RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2017
Do you have students, staff or volunteers who are dedicated and passionate gardeners? Nominate your gardening stars for one of three RHS awards:
RHS Young School Gardener of the Year 2017 (a young person aged 5-16)
RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year 2017 (an adult within your school)
RHS School Gardening Team of the Year 2017 (a team of young people)
Prizes include a Gabriel Ash Classic Eight greenhouse worth £3,425, or a fantastic cold frame worth up to £699! In addition there are vouchers, gloves, tools and more to win. Nominations close on Friday 28 April 2017.
Next up, Soil Association Food For Life have a fantastic competition for member schools:
Grandparent Gardening Week Competition 27 to 31 March 2017, Nationwide
Food for Life’s (FFL) Grandparent Gardening is a great way to involve your community in school life and kick start your garden into action after the winter. Plus, FFL member schools can win a polytunnel, roll out sensory garden or Veg Trug! Just share your Grandparent Gardening Week photos on Twitter using the hashtag #FFLGGWeek. Competition deadline Friday 28 April 2017.
Garden Organic are pleased to announce that they are suppliers in Learing through Landscape’s new grants scheme:
Local School Nature Grants Programme
What do birdboxes, bee hotels, and den making kits all have in common? They are among the assortment of nature equipment and training available free to schools who enter Learning through Landscapes’ new grant scheme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Garden Organic is a supplier in this exciting new programme which is open for applications throughout 2017.
To discover more competitions, offers and funds with deadlines in March and April 2017, visit: Competitions
During February Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) teamed up with Author Ben Raskin and Leaping Hare Press to launch an exciting prize draw. For London schools to win ‘Grow’, a fantastic new illustrated book helping children to get inspired to grow food. We received a huge number of entries from primary schools all across London, with many sharing their exciting plans to grow food with students this year.
Announcing the ‘Grow’ book winners
Congratulations to the following schools who won ‘Grow’ the book:
St Leonards Church of England School, Lambeth
Linton Mead primary School, Greenwich
Cranford Primary School, Hounslow
Stoneydown Park Primary School, Waltham Forest
Streatham Wells Primary School, Lambeth
Akiva School, Barnet
Reay Primary School, Lambeth
Gilbert Colvin, Redbridge
Marner Primary School, Tower Hamlets
Three lucky schools were also picked to receive ‘Grow’, and a visit from the Author Ben Raskin to bring the activities in the book alive. Congratulations to you too. We will be in touch soon to arrange a time to visit your school:
St Joseph’s Primary School, Wandsworth
King Athelstan Primary, Kingston Upon Thames
Abbotsfield School, Hillingdon
We were particularly excited to hear lots of exciting plans to grow food in your schools this year, including:
” We are starting the Edible playgrounds project in February, so we are expecting the whole school to be involved in growing. We will be including parents and making sure that all classes are using the garden for lessons across the curriculum.”
” In Year 3 [we will be growing] pumpkins to look at how feeding the soil helps hungry plants, in Year 4 herbs to support learning about the Romans, peppers in Year 5 to learn about the Americas and in Year 6 [growing] tomatoes and cucumber to make Israeli salads! “
First one hundred schools – win a ‘Grow’ activity pack
If you were quick off the mark you may be one of the first 100 schools to enter who have won an exclusive, limited-edition ‘Grow’ activity pack. Keep an eye out for one winging its way to your school. It includes games such as Worms and Ladders, Compost Bingo, seeds and stickers! Fingers crossed!
There are lots of competitions, offers and funds available to help schools grow food this Spring. Find out more here – good luck: Competitions
FGSL support and inspiration to grow
We hope that our ‘Grow’ book competition has inspired your primary school to grow food. If you are looking for help or ideas to get started FGSL can help. We provide the following support and more:
It’s that time of year again. Every Spring FGSL project partners Soil Association Food for Life (FFL) encourage schools around the UK to get growing – with the support of grandparents! Grandparent Gardening Week takes place from 27-31 March 2017.
For beginners, food growing in school can seem a little daunting, but with the right support from the local community it can be surprisingly fun, and a great opportunity for all generations to learn together using the garden. Grandparents often come with bags of gardening enthusiasm, knowledge, experience and time to share with the younger generations. That’s why they’re perfect for helping in schools too.
Hosting a gardening activity
Ask a team of students to lead the Grandparent Gardening Week activities, involving your school cook and DT lead. Ask what crops they would like to see grown, think about where they might plant them or how your school cook could use them in their recipes, linking the crops with the kitchen and classroom learning. Share ideas and plans across the school to involve everyone in the fun! The Food for Life Awards Package provides plenty of expert growing resources, including Garden Organic growing cards. For a template poster, media invite and press release visit: Grandparent Gardening Week.
Spring into Growing – Plan it. Build it. Grow it!
You can also dip into FGSL Spring into Growing 2017 resources to help you get growing together on Grandparent Gardening Day. For more ideas on how to work with your local community visit FGSL Support.
Get your grandparents involved – happy growing together!