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!

 

Local School Nature Grants Scheme

Learning through Landscapes Nature GrantsFood Growing Schools: London’s lead partner Garden Organic are delighted to be a supplier in the Local School Nature Grants Scheme, helping schools branch out into nature

What do birdboxes, bee hotels, den making kits and nature experts all have in common? They are all available free to schools as part of Learning through Landscapes’ new Local School Nature Grants Programme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery: http://www.ltl.org.uk/naturegrants/

Learning through Landscapes is a UK charity dedicated to enhancing outdoor learning and play for children. The grants provide an assortment of nature equipment and training up to the value of £1000. The packages are customisable, enabling schools to choose from a menu of items which best suit their learners and their setting. All schools in England, Scotland and Wales are welcome to apply.

For example the Garden Organic Get Growing Kit includes:

A great pack of resources to actually get you growing:
1 x Starter pack of seeds
(18 packets of organic fruit and vegetable seeds plus edible flowers. (Exact seeds provided will depend on the season))
1 x term time growing planner
1 x pack of 25 vegetable growing cards
1 x composting booklet
1 x soil information pack
(Total 23 items)

The other suppliers are Glasgow Wood Recycling, Outdoor People, RSPB, MindStretchers and Touchwood.

The aim is to make it easy to get young people in touch with nature, and so the application process is quick and straight forward. The programme launches in late January 2017 and will be open to applications for a full year.

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

This scheme does not provide cash grants for schools.

To find out more visit: Local School Nature Grants Programme.

To find out about more competitions, offers and funds on the Food Growing Schools: London website visit: Competitions

 

Soil is the answer

Ridan Compostingby Dan Welburn, Ridan Composting

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 see www.Ridan.co.uk or call 01598 751043. Ridan are currently offering a 10% discount to all ‘Food Growing Schools’.


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!

Discover more: FGSL competitions and offers

Lisa’s tips: how to start growing this Spring term

Lisa Grant, Engagement Officer, at the Food Growing Schools: London conference at Argyle Primary, Camden.
Lisa Grant, Engagement Officer, at the Food Growing Schools: London conference at Argyle Primary, Camden.

By Lisa Grant, FGSL Engagement Officer

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.

Find out what support FGSL can offer: Our Support.

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.

Discover more FGSL resources to help your school get growing.

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

We hope to hear from you!

New Year. New Resolutions!

It’s all getting a bit festive. Lights, Christmas trees, the smell of mince pies! But before we know it frosty mornings will soon turn to sunny, spring days. So, start 2017 with a New Year resolution! A school garden fit for growing healthy food, learning skills and sharing knowledge, whatever the size or space.

FGSL Spring into Growing 2017Spring into Growing 2017 – Plan it. Build it. Grow it!

Join Food Growing Schools: London and schools all across London for Spring into Growing 2017, from January to March 2017. With our expert guidance, learn the secrets to planning and constructing your school garden, working with recycled materials and nature, and developing a productive growing space, with the help of your local community.

A healthy start to the new year

But why grow? London schools are starting to see the incredible benefits of growing food in schools – benefits to health, education, the community, the environment and even the local economy. It’s a no brainer! Discover what they are here: Why Grow? 

Free food growing resources for schools

We’ve gathered together some really useful school activity sheets and growing guides to help your school, under the following themes:

Have a look at our Spring into Growing 2017 resources to get stuck in.

Gardening as a tool for teaching curriculum subjects

Food growing is also a great tool for learning, across a wide range of curriculum subjects – including Design, Engineering and Technology, Maths, Science and so much more. So growing food provides new ideas, to add inspiration to teaching and learning in 2017. Check out our Resources for ideas, tips, growing tools and activity sheets.

School food growing doesn’t have to cost the earth.

School gardens don’t have to be expensive. They can be constructed using reclaimed and recycled materials. With the help of parents, teachers and the local community it’s great fun collecting together all the materials, tools and knowledge you need to get started, together. Here are some ideas for working with your local community.

Planning your school activities for 2017?

Join in with Spring into Growing 2017 – Plan it. Build it. Grow it!