Grow a School Garden – Sunshine and summer holidays

Grow a School Garden – June/July 2018

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

Summer sun and watering advice

Well, the word at the moment is definitely sunshine and it really is beautiful weather. What a great time to be outside and enjoying all that nature offers!

It is though quite a tough time for plants and the dryness causes plants to feel stressed. This is not a problem as long as you’re doing your job as a gardener and seeing to their needs.

Watering of course is the job of such importance at the moment and it’s vital we get this job right.

First thing is – no hosepipes! Not because they are a banned, it’s just it’s not a good way to water in this heat. Water your plants by catering can and water to the base of your plants. Scorching can occur on the leaves if they get wet. Also spraying with a hose tends to just water the air as this heat soon soaks it up. You can use your hose, if you have one to fill your watering cans.

The other vital aspect of watering in this weather is the timing. Make sure the temperature is as cool as possible when watering your plants; early in the morning is the best time for a school.

Composting and weeding

Composting around your plants will also help keep those fine roots near the surface, especially the larger ones.

Remember also, to keep pulling those weeds, they will compete for water in this hot weather and many of then set their seeds much quicker in the hot weather.

Looking ahead – using curriculum activities

As the term comes to an end it’s also maybe a good time to think about what next for your garden area.  You have your raised beds up and running so how about thinking about the design of the area.

A great Maths class is to measure your area and produce a scale drawing.

A great Art class is to sit down and design the garden, you could give a theme or think about connecting it to the school, its history or any stand out projects the school may have done.

This is great fun and a fantastic way to learn.

Harvesting your hard work

Hopefully you will now also be picking some of your crops. All your hard work will now mean you get to enjoy and maybe eat your produce. Remember when picking crops like Runner beans, to twist them first, so they snap cleanly from the plant. This avoids infection and fungus getting into the plant if it is damaged.

Similarly, when digging plants out, like Lettuce, remove the plant as cleanly as possible, don’t leave old leaves and refuse on the beds to encourage slugs and other problems.

How can parents, guardians and volunteers help?

However, the biggest challenge over the summer, is that schools break up.

How do we water the plants that have not been cropped? Hand watering is always best. Can you raise volunteers to help you with this?

Produce a newsletter with all your great work. Send it out to parents and grandparents to see if they would like to help and get involved.

Producing this newsletter would also make a great end of term project for the children and again could be tied in with the curriculum.

Another watering trick

There are some tricks you can use to help you with thirsty plants over the summer. We have already mentioned mulching and composting.

You can also use old plastic water bottles.

Remove the lid and fill the bottle with water. Then cover the mouth of the bottle with seven or eight layers of cling film, which then should be pierced with a sowing needle. Place upside down at the base of your plants and the water will slowly drain over a number of days, thus reducing your watering.

Well, I hope that helps and happy gardening and I wish you a great summer hols!

Chris Collins

Head of Organic Horticulture. Garden Organic

RHS Green Plan It challenge

The annual RHS Green Plan It Challenge is back for another year and they are on the lookout for teams of Year 8-9 / S2-3 students to take part.

This is an exciting project designed to get young people thinking about the roles plants play in our lives and why green spaces are so important to us.

What is it?

Green Plan It is a ten week challenge in the Autumn Term, which encourages Year 8 and 9 students to imagine a garden they would like for their school or community.

Your students will work with an industry mentor to carry out research before building a model to bring their ideas to life.

At the end of the challenge, students will compete against other local schools and present their garden designs at a celebration event.

To find out more, please visit the RHS website here or send an email.

Open Farm School Days coming up in June

What are Open Farm School Days?

Open Farm School Days is a nationwide initiative to get children out onto farms and learning about where their food comes from.

Throughout June, farms will be opening their gates and hosting educational visits for children to learn about how their food is grown, where it comes from and meeting the farmers who grow it.

Open Farm School Days run alongside the annual Open Farm Sunday and a number of farmers do both.

Open Farm Sunday 2018 is on 11 June.

Schools can register their interest here: https://farmsunday.org/schools

Open Farm School Days are supported by FACE and LEAF.

Find out about Skype A Farmer/#FarmingFriday here.

New mural celebrates food growing at Fleet Primary

Fleet Primary School in Camden won our autumn mural competition and we worked with Alessandra Tortone  to bring the pupils sketches to life as a backdrop for Fleet’s new growing space this spring!

The two days of painting were quite chilly (we even had to reschedule because of snow) but the pupils had a great time pitching in, mixing paints and bringing colour to their school ground.

Big thanks to Alessandra and to Garden Organic for making this possible.

Take a look at this photo gallery below:

Discover more Food Growing Schools competitions here.

See more of Alessandra Tortone’s work here.

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.

Organic Farming Opportunities for Young People

Great news for young people

WWOOF UK has reduced the minimum age limit for people who want to volunteer on organic farms and as a special promotional opportunity, is offering ten £50 bursaries. If you are aged 16 or 17, live in the UK and would like to try WWOOFing (as volunteering with us is affectionately known), you can apply for a bursary at: http://www.wwoof.org.uk/ before 16 April 2018. The £50 bursary will cover your WWOOF UK membership fee and contribute £30 towards your travel expenses.

What is WWOOFING?

WWOOFing offers hands-on experience on organic farms, gardens and smallholdings – all provide food, accommodation and learning in exchange for practical help on the land. WWOOF UK holds a list of hosts who range from a low-impact woodland settlement to a 600-hectare mixed holding with on-site farm shop, cafe and education centre. Today in the UK we have  680 hosts and 4,700 volunteers.

WWOOF UK Co-ordinator Scarlett Penn says: ‘WWOOF has been facilitating amazing, life changing opportunities for people for more than 45 years and we are delighted to now offer opportunities to younger people too. We hope the bursaries will incentivise them to give WWOOFing a try and then spread the word about their experience to their families and friends.’

Join in!

If you are interested in getting practical experience of organic growing and farming, want to meet and get inspired by like-minded people, and understand more about the relationship between local food production and community spirit, then this project could be for you.

Visit their website for more.

Could your school be a food growing Training Hub?

Capital Growth are recruiting Training Hubs for 2018, to host food-growing training, Big Dig and Urban Harvest events.

Feedback from 2017 hubs has shown this was a great opportunity to “share knowledge”, “be part of a London wide network” and reach out to “people new to the garden”.

Find out more and download the application form at http://www.capitalgrowth.org/london_grows/.

Deadline:  Monday 15 Jan