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 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 into Growing – help to get growing this term at your school
At Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) we encourage and inspire schools to start growing their own food, no matter how big or how small a space you have. As Engagement Officers, my colleague Paul and I can support you in getting started. We can give you advice on the phone, run a workshop at your school, or share resources.
A great way to get started this term is to join us for Spring into Growing 2017 – Plan it. Build it. Grow it! With our expert guidance, learn the secrets to planning and constructing your own school garden, work with recycled materials and nature in order to develop a productive growing space; all with the help of your local community.
Which Engagement Officer works where in London?
Lisa Grant – I cover these boroughs – Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Greenwich, Haringey, Havering, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets.
Paul Sadler covers these boroughs – Barnet, Camden, City of London, Croydon, Enfield, Harrow, Hillingdon, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest and Westminster.
An example school growing food – Smithy Street Primary School in Tower Hamlets
I met with the Early Years and Foundation Stage Phase Leader, Christine Hopes, at Smithy Street Primary School in Tower Hamlets towards the end of 2016. She had the intention of starting to grow with her team of teachers and their students, in a small dedicated space outside in the playground. Christine and I spoke about what she wanted me to cover in a bespoke workshop, and we looked at their growing space to see what was possible. Here is some advice on how to get started:
Top tips for getting started
1. Where – Decide on an outdoor area where you would like to start growing food. Does it get lots of sunlight?
2. Who – Decide on who is going to take a lead in this. Is it a gardening club at lunchtime or after school? Is it a phase group? It is a parent volunteer or a member of school staff?
3. What – Do some research. Is there a local farm or a local community organisation that could support you in starting to grow your own food? Have you filled out our online FGSL survey so we can help you get started?
4. How – Get in touch with either Paul or myself after checking which boroughs we cover. We can have a conversation by email or by phone in the first instance to get going with this great adventure in growing food.
During the workshop, with another local school called Redlands Primary School, I worked with the staff to look at what plants were possible to grow at this time of year, and what small steps could be taken to start growing successfully in a manageable way. The two schools worked together to plan how they were going to start growing and I facilitated discussions about this.
Get growing in your school this Spring
If you wish to start growing and would like support from our team, please complete our online survey FGSL survey to tell us what support you need. Then, check out our online resources this term: Spring into Growing 2017 – Sow it. Grow it. Build it!
This includes information on:
• How to: Plan your school garden
• How to: Construct your garden
• How to: Work with nature in your garden
• How to: Get help from your local community
• Competitions and giveaways