Food Growing in Schools: Research Round-up

The benefits of food growing reach far beyond improving gardening skills and teaching children where food comes from and the FGSL partnership has gathered lots of evidence to show this.

Research round upTrees for Cities (TFC) have worked with 50 schools to create Edible Playgrounds. These spaces are a fun way to teach children new skills, enrich food education and get food growing into the curriculum.

TFC identify some of the key challenges that food growing helps to tackle:

  1. Children have a disconnect with nature and understanding where food comes from:

33% of pupils in UK primary schools believe cheese comes from plants.

25% believed that fish fingers come from chicken or pigs.*

  1. Mental and physical health problems are widespread:

Latest figures from Public Health England show that a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds are overweight or obese.

1 in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

So how are pupils benefitting from food growing?

Improved skills, knowledge and behaviour

Over 90% of head teachers said their Edible Playground had increased students’ gardening skills, knowledge of the environment and food origins and uptake of fruit and vegetables.

Lots of schools have been using the playground to run therapy sessions for SEN children or those with anger management issues.

70% of schools surveyed said the playgrounds have supported work with SEN students or those with challenging behavioural issues.

“It has a very calming effect on some pupils with significantly challenging behavioural difficulties”  Rockmount Primary School.

RHS research has also found that gardening can help children to develop ‘a more resilient, confident and responsible approach to life’.

Food growing used as a teaching tool

All of the Head Teachers surveyed use their edible playground for maths and science lessons, as well as for English and art (92%), design and technology (76%), geography (30%), languages (23%), RE and ICT (15%) and history (7%).

1 in 4 schools now link food growing to the curriculum**

These positive findings echo the results of the independent FGSL evaluation 2016, that also shows how food growing in schools increases links between schools and local businesses, organisations and volunteers and brings significant value to schools that are part of the programme.

Read the full FGSL report and more about the TFC research results.

*surveyed by the British Nutrition Foundation in 2013.  **FGSL Figures based on evaluation surveys with lead school teachers in September 2013 (n=504) and July 2016 (n=241).

Four steps to managing your garden pests

Sharing your garden with nature is part of gardening and even in the best managed fruit and veg gardens, natural pests and predators will present themselves, but they needn’t be a problem.

Follow Capital Growth’s four simple steps to manage your pests: Protect, Remove, Repel, Prevent.

pests-and-diseases1. PROTECT your plants using cut plastic bottles around the seedling to prevent pests from reaching the plant.

2. REMOVE the pest by manually taking off those you can see.

By taking off the top of broad beans if they’re covered in aphids (greenfly, blackfly, plant lice) the plant has a chance to grow and produce beans.

Take a look at the RHS advice on Aphids.

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.

Make your own owl sun catcher to scare the birds
Make your own owl sun catcher to scare the birds

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.

Get rid of pests with garlic

Got a problem with the fast-growing fungus that is mildew? Powdery mildews attack a wide range of plants, causing a white, dusty coating on leaves, stems and flowers.

Use milk to prevent powdery mildew

4. PREVENT any more pests from coming in.

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.

Avoid pesticides, encourage wildlife

Get more great advice from Green Gardener and our friends at the RHS, who have a helpful A-Z of pests and solutions. And join a Capital Growth training session.

Reap what you sow: Tips from Chris Collins

Chris Top tips resizedWe’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:

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

How to make your own compost

  1. Re-pot plants

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.

  1. 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.”

Also check out this advice on sowing indoors from The RHS and the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Happy Growing!

 

Slug it! Count the slugs in your school garden

RHS Slug it
RHS Slug It!

Slug It! is a brand new initiative to take a closer look at the nation’s most persistent garden pest – the slug!

FGSL partners RHS Campaign for School Gardening are working with the RHS Science team and the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) on a science experiment that will hopefully unearth a bit more about which control methods will help protect our gardens from slug and snail damage.

Hunt for slugs in your school
As part of this research, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) would like you to help them learn more about which slugs are currently terrorising the nation by taking part in their slug mapping activity. In simple terms, they want you to hunt for slugs and count how many you see!

Great for gardening clubs, after-school clubs or STEM clubs
This is a very simple activity to run with your pupils or students and is particularly great for gardening clubs, after-school clubs or STEM clubs. It will help your pupils work scientifically to gather data on the number of slugs in your grounds and also help them learn more about slugs including what they like to eat and the habitats they prefer to live in.

What you need
Anyone can take part in this activity and all you will need is some very basic equipment such as pencils, wellies and torches and our recording form. To go one step further, you can also use a Slug Identification Key to find out which slug is which or use different equipment to measure temperature, humidity and pH levels of soil to work out what conditions slugs like best. All data will be collected by IRIS and loaded onto an interactive map so that you can see how your findings compare with those of other schools.

If you’d like to join the RHS slug hunt, head to Slug It! Mapping Activity and start counting!

Discover FGSL learning resources, activity sheets and growing tools here: Resources

Apply Primary Maths & English Skills Outdoors

Maths and English. Photo: RHS
Maths and English. Photo: RHS

Have you ever thought about taking your pupils outside for maths and English lessons? Being in the school garden or a beautiful local green space will inspire your pupils to learn, enjoy and achieve in these subjects.

Last chance to book your place on this fantastic RHS Campaign for School Gardening workshop – at Hampton Hill Junior School next Tuesday 8 November 2016

Trees offer many opportunities for maths activities ranging from estimation to tessellation skills. Plant propagation offers pupils a practical way to understand fractions and decimals. The natural world can provide openings for discussion and creative writing on a range of subjects. Gardens encourage children to question and explore new ideas and build their skills through listening, talking, watching and reading. Seed packets are ideal for helping children to write instructions as well as giving them a flavour of the seasons. Flowers have been the subject of much poetry and creative writing over the years.

Key Stages targeted: Key Stages 1 and 2
Level of experience: Suitable for beginners and those with some experience.

Aims and Activities

  • Identify the outdoor places and types of activities that will inspire your pupils to become successful learners
  • Learn useful gardening skills which can be used to engage pupils with maths and English programmes of study
  • Write your own activities using the outdoors as a basis for teaching maths or English skills

Booking Information

Venue: Hampton Hill Junior School, St James Avenue, Hampton Hill, TW12 1HW
Date: 8th November 2016
Cost: £95 per person.  £170 if you book two separate courses or two places on the same course.
CPD Provider:   Chris Young

To book visit the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website.

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RHS Young Herb Photographer of the Year – last chance to enter!

RHS Herb Photographer of the Year. Photo by previous winner Indra Woodward.
RHS Herb Photographer of the Year. Photo by previous winner Indra Woodward.

There are now less than two weeks to get your pupils’ or students’ entries in for this year’s RHS young Herb Photographer of the Year!

RHS have teamed up with Vitacress again for this year’s competition – a great chance for your young photographers to win some fantastic prizes for them and your school or group.

They are looking for young people to send us their photographs of living herbs growing in the wild, a garden, a container or a setting of their choice. The photo can be of any herb(s) and could be growing in the UK or abroad. Photographs can also be from any season taken in the past or present.

Categories and prizes:

There are two categories for the competition: 5-10 year olds and 11-17 year olds. Two winners, one from each category, will be crowned RHS Young Herb Photographer of the Year and receive an iPad Air worth around £300 and £500 worth of horticultural materials for their school. One runner up from each category will receive an iPad Mini and £250 of horticultural materials for their school or group.

Find out more and enter here