Grow a School Garden – Spring, Soil and Design

Grow a School Garden – Mar/April 2018

Monthly blog by Chris Collins on How to Create and Grow a School Garden

Late frosts

Despite the fact that it feels like a late spring, especially in a school gardening calendar when time is everything, let me reassure you that this is most definitely an illusion. It is quite normal to have frosts and cold snaps as late as April.

Winter has a late kick but the important thing to know is plants will always catch up. The only down side is spring will be quicker this year. Nature will get a wriggle on and you need to be on your toes to make sure you enjoy it in all its glory.

Sturdier seedlings

Your more tender crops that have been grown inside will be growing away, either on a classroom window shelf or a glasshouse. Remember it’s still too early to plant them out. Grow them on, making sure you turn them away from the light every day. This stops them stretching and becoming too tall and skinny (elongating is the fancy expression).

I also like to stroke or lightly tickle any young seedlings that are growing in a protected environment. I know that sounds strange, but this mimics the outdoor elements and encourages your young plant to become more stocky and resilient and will make for a better plant in the long run. It’s also a great way for the pupils growing the plants to bond with their new plants .

If you have already sown some crops outside, please don’t worry; plants will bide their time and soon appear when conditions are more favourable. Don’t be afraid to re-sow another line if you feel that’s better. Now that the weather is changing, everything will shift quickly.

Sowing tips

Remember the rule of sowing in a straight line. Weeds will be on the march, they have waited for their moment and you need to be able to tell what is a Carrot, Lettuce, Rocket seedling, etc. and what is a weed. Sowing your crops in a straight line, in your raised or open bed will let you tell your plants and weeds apart.

Remember also to always label your rows/plants. Good record keeping is a great curriculum activity and makes your crop growing easier.

Planting in wet soil

Just a quick word if you’re growing in open beds, in borders for instance (rather than raised beds). There is a good chance that the soil is very wet, don’t worry, you can still sow seeds, just get an old scaffold or wooden plank and stand on that instead of the soil. This will stop the soil becoming to compact and then not draining properly.

Explore your soil

So, as I’ve mentioned, standing on soil when its wet will make your gardening more difficult but what type of soil do you have?

Get pupils to get their hands in the soil. Does it stick together, even form a ball? Then it’s a clay soil. Find out what that means – in science clay behaves different to a sand soil.

A sandy soil will be fine and run through your fingers and will drain quicker. It’s also much better for Carrots. Understanding your soil will make you a better gardener. It will also make you wiser about the soil you have in any raised beds your school may have. Remember all soils will improve by adding good compost.

Having fun in the garden with designs

It’s still time to think of fun ways to garden. What are your classroom or gardening club’s ideas? How can we make our growing and outdoor spaces more fun?

The outdoors should always be a place of discovery, of mystery and should be a place for hands on teaching.

My project for this blog is to make, using recycled materials, something completely unusual for your school grounds. Have an art competition, have a collection point for materials and grow some plants to bring it to life. The imagination is the most important tool.

Are your pupils designers? A project like this will soon see. To get you started have a look at my Ogre’s face we designed and built. I look forward to seeing your gardening pupils’ creations.

Happy Gardening everybody. Spring is here!

Chris Collins
Head of Organic Horticulture – Garden Organic

ccollins@gardenorganic.org.uk

New Honey Bee Programme gets London schools buzzing

School Food Matters are excited to be launching a brand new programme with Whole Kids Foundation all about bees.

Based on the successful grant programme in the US, The Honey Bee programme is designed to raise awareness of the vital importance of honey bees in food production and to introduce teachers to the wonders of keeping bees at school.

School Food Matters will be offering three avenues of exploration for schools that are considering introducing honey bees as a fascinating and uniquely different learning resource:

  • Visit from a bee-keeper with observation hives.

In June, six schools will have the opportunity to host a visit from an experienced bee-keeper from London Beekeepers Association. These sessions will be for up to 30 children and will include topics such as: honey bees and other bees, anatomy, the nest and life cycle; bees, the importance of bees in food production; products from the hive; honey, wax and propolis.

  • Taster session for teachers.

Inspired by the visit from a beekeeper, teachers will attend a taster session in September to be delivered by London Beekeepers Association to carefully consider the big step of introducing bees into a school environment. Teachers will be signposted to the bee-keeping training required to keep a colony at school and will understand how the school site needs to be prepared to accommodate a colony. The session will include information about planting for forage, colony management throughout the year (including school holidays) and the budget required for both set-up and operating costs.

  • Apply for a honey bee grant.

Schools that fulfil the criteria below can apply for funding for equipment to set up a project at school. Grants of up to £1,500 will be available from a funding pot of £9,000. Schools will only be able to apply if they have:

  • commissioned a risk assessment/feasibility study
  • completed a bee-keeping course with a local bee-keeping association (BBKA Bee Basic or equivalent) with a minimum of two members of staff
  • formed a ‘bee team’ of at least three members of staff
  • identified a ‘bee mentor’ from a local bee-keeping association to support the project throughout its first year.

Schools with established honey bee projects, who wish to develop their projects further, may also apply if they fulfil the requirements above.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

School Food Matters are piloting the Honey Bee Programme in 2018 and have funding for the following:

  • Visits by London Beekeepers Association to six schools in London
  • Places for 12 teachers from six schools on our taster session at a London apiary
  • Six grants of up to £1,500 for equipment.

To apply, simply download and complete all the sections on this Expression of Interest form and return by Friday 11 May 2018 to gaby@schoolfoodmatters.org

Visit the School Food Matters Website for more details.

Project Learning Garden prepares for first growing season in London

The Project Learning Garden team have been busy recruiting and training schools in Merton, Bexley and Southwark while gearing up for the first growing season of the project in London.

Project Learning Garden provides starter kits to schools with everything they need to start or refresh a food growing garden and use it as an outdoor classroom. Project Learning Garden provides schools with hands-on training, curriculum linked resources, raised beds and gardening tools, a fully equipped mobile cooking cart and ongoing support and guidance.

Despite the snow in March, they held two training sessions to meet with teachers and other school staff to start to work on planning how to link a school garden to their curriculum. The sessions covered curriculum, organic gardening, basic cooking skills and working with groups outside. The team running the workshop were joined by former Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins and Master Gardeners in Southwark.

The schools will soon be receiving their ‘kits’ which include a selection of cooking and gardening items as well as raised beds and lots of activities and resources to deliver the curriculum.

Schools also have access to a range of lesson plans and activities which link to environmental themes and subjects across the curriculum.

Delegates at the training session were enthusiastic and went away feeling positive about the whole day and being involved in the project. One delegate said:

‘I really enjoyed the day and found it useful and very helpful’

‘It was good to be reminded how important the soil is in or garden – easy to forget!’

To find out more about PLG visit the Garden Organic website here.

Garden Organic, the UK’s national charity for organic growing & the Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) a charitable organisation based in Atlanta, USA, are working in partnership to bring their successful Project Learning Garden programme to the UK.

Seeds of Change®, who donate 1% of sales to research and promotion of biodiversity and sustainable organic practices, are generously funding this pilot project, making this new partnership possible.

Young Marketeers get expert growing advice at Borough Market

Students from 19 schools across London will be heading along to Borough Market on 1 May to receive specialist training as part of the annual School Food Matters Young Marketeers programme.

Horticulturalist, Chris Collins from Garden Organic will teach the primary school children the art of growing veg from seed and experts from Borough Market will share their tips and tricks on becoming successful market trades.

In May, schools will receive a visit from a horticulturalist to tackle any veg related problems and to ensure a bountiful crop to sell at Borough Market on July 4th.

Find out more about School Food Matters.

Food Growing Across the Secondary Curriculum – Croydon session

Food Growing Schools Engagement Officer, Lisa Grant will be delivering an afternoon session in Croydon on 24 April from 1.00 – 3.30pm on Food Growing Across the Secondary Curriculum – sharing ideas on how to infuse food growing into your everyday teaching and learning in an outdoor classroom setting.

Open to teachers and school staff in Croydon and the surrounding area.

The event will be held at Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College for Girls.

Please sign-up in advance with Croydon School Food Improvement Officer Laura Flanagan

Email: laura.flanagan@croydon.gov.uk

Tel: 020 8604 7459

The Big Dig is back!

Saturday 21 April 2018

” The spirit of the Big Dig is what community gardening is all about “

Join Capital Growth and gardens across the capital to kick off the growing season on this annual volunteer open day. Every spring, hundreds of volunteers pull on their wellies and head outside to help community gardens get ready to grow.

Find out more and register your school here.

The Big Dig across the UK

In 2016, in London over 40 gardens took part, welcoming over 750 volunteers to help shovel compost, build trellises, plant seedlings and enjoy a hard day’s work in the company of friends and neighbours.

The Big Dig started as an event run by Capital Growth in 2012 to engage volunteers in their local food-growing space. It was initially funded as a nationwide project, managed by Sustain, recruiting 7,500 new volunteers to take part in community gardening.

Find out more and register your school here.

Local School Nature Grants – back for second year

Second year of Local School Nature Grants Scheme

What do birdboxes, seeds, den making kits and nature experts all have in common?  They are all available free to schools as part of the Local School Nature Grants Programme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The grants provide £500 of nature equipment and 2 hours of training to schools in England, Scotland and Wales.  The packages are customisable, enabling schools to choose from a menu of items which best suit their learners and their setting.

For example, schools looking to start growing food or develop their school gardens can select Garden Organic‘s Get Growing kit to receive seeds, growing cards, a term time garden planner and more.

Nature Grants, Garden Organic’s Get Growing kit available to select.

Launched on 21 March 2018, this second phase of the scheme builds on the huge success of phase one, which bought benefit to  300 schools and over 20,000 pupils in 2017.

The project is funded by Postcode Local Trust, which receives funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

To apply for a grant visit Learning Through Landscapes’ website.

Find out more information about Postcode Local Trust and People’s Postcode Lottery.

 

 

School Garden Grants from School Food Matters & Whole Kids Foundation

School Food Matters have partnered with Whole Kids Foundation to provide School Garden Grants for schools in the four London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Newham and Waltham Forest. Whole Kids Foundation is offering a total of £40,000 in grants of up to £2,000 per school to create new edible gardens or to enhance existing ones within the schools grounds.

The School Garden Grants are open to:

  • all schools in the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Newham and Waltham Forest
  • applications for grants up to £2000

Schools can apply for funding for a whole range of food growing projects from building raised beds or adding greenhouses, to completely revitalising neglected allotment spaces or creating sensory gardens for special needs students. Schools can also apply for a grant to provide food growing training for staff and students.

Applications must be submitted by 5pm on Friday 20 April 2018. The grant programme will close on that date or when they have received 80 applications – whichever is sooner.

To apply, download and complete the application form from http://schoolfoodmatters.org/projects/school-garden-grants

Spring garden tips infographic from Asgard

Would your school garden benefit from a new storage shed?

Asgard Secure Storage have kindly donated this shed for our spring Prize Draw – any London school participating in a Food Growing Schools partner activity can sign up for a chance to win here.

For helpful tips on creating a stable base or assembling your garden shed, see this article.

In the meantime, below are a few tips for what to do to prepare your garden for the growing season ahead in this handy infographic:

For more like this, please visit Asgard’s website here.