Nominations open for RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2018

Entries are now open!

The RHS Campaign for School Gardening are on the lookout for the most inspirational young gardeners, educators and gardening teams in the UK.

You can read about last year’s finalists and winners here.

Prizes for finalists and winners in 2018 include a stunning Gabriel Ash greenhouse worth £3,425, Gabriel Ash Coldframes, £500 in vouchers, garden tools and unique opportunities to work with RHS and TV gardeners.

See their website for full details.

Developing a whole school approach

If you’ve been following our recent blogs you may have plans for food growing, whether that is allocating some space for food growing, gathering resources, or planning food growing into the curriculum.

Wherever you are on your food-growing journey is very exciting, but the maximum benefits come from instigating a whole school approach to food education.

Essentially this is where understanding about all aspects of food (including growing and healthy eating) has senior management support, is throughout the curriculum and in the school development plan.  It is for all pupils and at all times of the day and even influences the wider community.

It may not be easy but it is definitely worth aiming for and we have some school stories to inspire you!

Rhyl Primary School has won numerous awards for the outdoor learning activities but started with just two small raised beds.  All pupils have regular weekly sessions in the garden and outdoor classroom and the school has plans to build a teaching kitchen giving access to community organisations and families, as well as to be used during the school day.

At John Ruskin Primary adopting a whole school approach has increased take up of school dinners and understanding of where food comes from.  Pupils have developed their social and team skills as well as the more practical gardening skills.

Tim Baker, Headteacher at Charlton Manor Primary is so convinced of the wider benefits of food growing that he is helping other local schools and community projects to grow, sharing allotment space and time with the school’s gardener and the school hosts a parent and child growing club.

Recipe for Success:

  1. Getting support from teachers and building their knowledge is key to getting food growing embedded into the school’s ethos.  There are lots of training events and workshops whether you’re a complete beginner or wanting to take your growing activities to the next level
  2. The Soil Association Food for Life Schools Award is designed to support schools to develop a healthy food culture
  3. The RHS School Gardening Awards help schools to work through five different levels, turning their garden into a valuable learning resource for the whole school and the local community

Put food growing on your curriculum

Looking after the seedlings
Looking after the seedlings

‘Lack of time in the curriculum’ came in the top three of barriers to food growing faced by schools in our schools survey. Schools have to achieve so much but instead of being an add-on, food growing can actually help to deliver the curriculum and has been known to increase attainment levels too.

Growing a few spuds or some tomatoes is fun and relatively easy, but it’s when food growing is linked to the curriculum, and ideally across the whole school, that the real magic happens.

At Charlton Manor Primary food growing is incorporated across all subjects and lessons are planned with a gardener and chef to revolve around the garden. Headteacher Tim Baker is convinced this ‘learning through doing’ approach has helped children to make sense of the curriculum as well as encouraging them to lead healthier lives. The school has reported better concentration and behaviour, and increases in attendance and attainment as a result of their whole school approach to food growing.

It’s not just the obvious subjects. FGSL partner Trees for Cities surveyed the 50 schools they have helped and while all Headteachers said that they used their edible playgrounds for Maths and Science lessons, schools were using the garden for other subjects too. English and Art were high on the list with 92%, followed by Design and Technology (76%), Geography (30%), Languages (23%), RE and ICT (15%) and History (7%).

Chisenhale School has made their garden a learning place for the whole school with classes across all subjects being held in their outdoor classroom. Children have also sold the produce, linking food growing to curriculum areas like marketing and enterprise. Parent gardener Cassie Liversidge has seen children who struggle to concentrate in the classroom, building confidence and skills through the garden.

Top ideas for curriculum-linked activities

  • Science – learning about growing plants, wild habitats and lifecycles
  • English – using the garden as inspiration for creative writing
  • Design Technology – constructing wildlife habitats like hedgehog boxes and bird feeders
  • Maths – counting birds and other wildlife, measuring beans or sunflowers
  • Geography – growing different foods from around the world
  • History – Foraging with stone age man, growing herbs for victorian remedies
  • Cooking and nutrition – using organic produce from the garden

Recipe for Success

  1. Build support for food growing with teachers and the management team – share FGSL research on the benefits of food growing.
  2. Take advantage of the huge amount of free resources available online to help link food growing to the curriculum. Start with the Termly Packs from FGSL and growing resources from FGSL Partners including these from the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.

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

Forget Halloween, celebrate Pumpkin day!

Your school grown pumpkins are plumping up and it’s time to harvest them.  You may want to help the children carve them with funny faces for Halloween but pumpkins are so much more than just a lantern, so don’t miss the pumpkin party and try out some of these ideas.

Once you have carved out your pumpkins, you can put the insides into a mystery box and have the children dig their hands in to fish out treats or identify objects just by feel.

Pumpkin is a really tasty fruit so don’t throw the flesh away, instead create a yummy base for soups by boiling the stringy insides in water, strain, then add any veggies from your plot to the broth to make a delicious soup. Or try roasting wedges with a bit of salt and cumin to make pumpkin chips the kids will love.

And don’t forget to use all those lovely seeds.  Separate the pumpkin seeds from the flesh by rinsing under running water. Pat dry with a paper towel then put some to one side for planting. (More on this in a bit…)

If you’re feeling crafty, colour some seeds with food dye then thread using a needle to create pumpkin bracelets and necklaces. Or poke holes in a plastic bottle to make a bird feeder for your garden, fill with the pumpkin seeds and watch the wildlife flock.

If you’d like to eat them yourselves, roasted seeds can be the best bit of a pumpkin – not only are they delicious but also nutritious.  Just boil in some salted water, then lay on a tray with a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of oil and bake on a high heat for about 20 mins (depending on the size of the seeds).

And lastly, make sure you store some of the larger seeds in a cool dry spot for planting next Spring – check out this guide to growing from one of our partner organisations, the RHS.

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

TV Gardener Chris Collins inspires at the First Food Growing Schools: London conference

16 March 2016

The very first Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) conference took place at Argyle School in Camden this week.

It was one of two schools conferences FGSL are organising this spring to bring schools from across London together with the aim of inspiring and supporting them to become food growing schools.

The FGSL North London Conference explored a variety of interactive and informative advice and hands-on activities led by London’s school food growing experts. After an inspirational welcome from Chris Collins, famous TV gardener and ambassador for lead partner Garden Organic, the schools conference took place with workshops led by a number of the FGSL partner organisations, including Capital Growth and the RHS Campaign for School Gardening, School Food Matters and Trees for Cities.

The event was also supported by Chase Organic Gardening catalogue, who provided seeds for delegates, and Abel & Cole, who donated fruit baskets for the conference.

The day included a keynote speech from Chris Collins and a “Gardener’s Question Time” where the audience had the opportunity to get valuable advice from the highly skilled panel. Top tips included how to engage teenagers and how to grow using horse manure in your soil, adapting small spaces and following the seasons in the year.

Chris Collins said: “I am delighted to be the keynote speaker for the Food Growing Schools: London Conferences. I really value the opportunity to share my food growing experience with teachers and younger generations. As a long standing ambassador for Garden Organic, I am always keen to support this kind of initiative and get more schools growing.”

A limited number of places are still available for the next FGSL Schools Conference which will be on Monday 11 April in Southwark. For each conference FGSL is offering 50 free places to the schools worth £150 per delegate.

Any London school, teachers and volunteers can access free support, tips and materials by signing up to Food Growing Schools: London.


Outdoor Learning Conference 2016

29 February 2016

Fancy a brilliant day of workshops on topics around outdoor learning, food education and school gardening? Join the 3rd annual Outdoor Learning and ‘Plot to Plate’ Conference – Monday March 7th, 9-3pm.

Special guests this year include The Eden Project from Cornwall, Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen Garden Project, The Royal Horticultural Society and The Garden Classroom. The price is only £50, including lunch and pizza from our wood fired oven. The school band will serenade attendees during the break.

Workshop topics include developing a creative curriculum outdoors, grow-to-sell and numeracy, early years gardening, plot design, cross-curricular links, forest schools in the city, quality cookery in the classroom and wildlife gardening.

Other speakers include Tom Moggach: author of The Urban Kitchen Gardener; Matthew Loveday: wildlife expert; Cassie Liversidge; Jules Rogers; Julie Riehl (Capital Growth) and Sally Stratton.

To reserve your place, please email: or telephone: 020 7485 4899.



FGSL News May 2015

30 May 2015

Michael Palin Launches first Edible Playground in Camden

Carlton Primary Tackles Food Poverty and Childhood Obesity at School

Edible Playgrounds (EP), a project led by Trees for Cities (TfC), to provide schools in urban areas the opportunity to grow food in their playgrounds, today launches an edible playground in Carlton Primary School in Camden, London.

EP benefits children’s health and education by offering those living in urban areas the opportunity to grow, harvest and eat good food, and integrate outdoor learning into the school curriculum. By transforming school grounds into fully functional food growing spaces, EP provides children the opportunity to be active outside – getting them excited about food growing and understanding where food comes from.

Over the last six months, working in partnership with Carlton Primary, Trees for Cities designed and constructed an edible playground in the Camden school. The edible playground contains a greenhouse, vertical herb garden, wormery and vegetable beds, supporting the school to utilise its outdoor space as a learning resource.

Michael Palin, Patron of Carlton Primary School, helped raise funds for the multi-sensory garden and officially opens the edible playground today. Governors, parents and children will attend the opening and explore the garden for the first time.

Jacqueline Phelan, Head Teacher of Carlton Primary School said: “Edible Playgrounds have transformed the outdoor grounds of our school into an incredible food growing space. Children in inner city areas often have limited opportunities to learn and play in natural environments so we are excited that our edible playground will provide our children and local Camden community the opportunity to grow, cook and eat healthy, good food. We are continually striving to encourage our children to be healthier and we view the edible playground as an opportunity to develop this further as well as bring learning outside the classroom.”

Sharon Johnson, Chief Executive of Trees for Cities said: “With increasing concerns around food poverty and malnutrition, the next generation is in danger of losing touch with nature and not knowing why a healthy diet is important. Edible Playgrounds show children how rewarding it is to spend time outdoors and get them excited about where their food comes from. With 37 per cent of children between ages of 5 – 12 not eating enough every day and 20 per cent obese on leaving primary school, more and more schools are now educating their children on how food is grown and on making healthy eating choices. We are delighted that the school community at Carlton Primary has come together to support the launch of an edible playground.”

Michael Palin said: I’m so pleased that Carlton School has been chosen to take part in the Edible Playgrounds project.  It will give the children here, in the middle of a busy city, the chance to learn how food is grown and to help grow it for themselves”.

Trees for Cities has been working in schools to plant fruit and nut trees since 2000. With this track record and experience, TfC’ technical expertise in the delivery of Edible Playgrounds and operations is well established and highly regarded. The first Edible Playground was created in 2003. There are currently over 25 Edible Playgrounds in the UK with a further 50 to be rolled out over the next three years.
The project has also been supported by City Bridge Trust, Mayor of London, Ernest Cook Trust, Volunteer Centre Camden, Ernest Cook Trust.


Media Contacts:
Samantha Lagan: / 020 7820 4426

18 May 2015

Rocket Science

RHSRocket-Science_May2015Turning half a million pupils into space biologists

The RHS Campaign for School Gardening has partnered with the UK Space Agency to embark on an ‘out of this world’ educational project. The project, Rocket Science, will give around half a million UK children the chance to learn how science in space contributes to our knowledge of life on earth, using the invaluable expertise of the European Space Agency (ESA) and RHS Science team.

Two kilograms of rocket seeds will shortly take off from Florida bound for the International Space Station as part of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s six-month Principia mission. After several months on board, the seeds will return to land in the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 2016. After return to the UK, they will be packaged up with identical seeds that have stayed on earth. Participating schools will each receive two packets of 100 seeds to grow and compare, and a collection of fun and inspiring curriculum linked teaching resources and posters, tailored according to the age of your pupils (Key Stages 1 and 2 or Key Stages 3,4 and 5).

Using these resources, we want pupils of all ages across the UK to embark on a voyage of discovery to see what growing plants in space can teach us about life on Earth and whether we can sustain human life in space through the production of our own food. Schools will be invited to input their results into a national online database so that results can be compared across all schools in the UK. The project is aimed at inspiring pupils to think scientifically and helping them to see the potential of future careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and Horticulture.

Schools, community groups and educational groups of all ages and abilities will have the chance to apply for a Rocket Science resource pack and take part in our nationwide science experiment from September 2015.Be the first to hear more about the project, including when applications open for resource packs, by registering your interest here:

Schools that register their interest will be the first to know when official applications for the seeds open.

13 May 2015


Michael Palin to Launch Camden’s first Edible Playground

Carlton Primary Tackles Food Poverty and Childhood Obesity at School

When: Tuesday 19th May 2015
Where:  Carlton Primary School, Grafton Road, London, NW5 4AX
Photocall: 2.00pm

Edible Playgrounds (EP), a project led by Trees for Cities (TfC), to provide schools in urban areas the opportunity to grow food in their playgrounds, is launching an edible playground in Carlton Primary School in Camden, London. Michael Palin, Patron of Carlton Primary School, helped raise funds for the multi-sensory garden and officially opens the edible playground on 19th May. Governors, parents and children will attend the opening and explore the garden for the first time.


Email  if you would like to attend the opening and if you are interested in an interview with Sharon Johnson, CEO of Trees for Cities. A photo-call with Michael Palin at the Edible Playground is at 2.00pm, please confirm attendance.

7 May 2015

Schools head to market with School Food Matters

FGSL SURVEY 2016With the help of our fantastic partner School Food Matters, London schools have some enterprising projects up their sleeves this summer term. Follow their progress and buy school-grown produce near you on market day. Schools Food Matters reports:

Young Marketeers – at Borough Market
This project allows children from 16 schools to sell food they have grown at school at Borough Market, the proceeds of any sale going to the charity Fareshare.  May sees the project get started, with Fareshare running assemblies at the schools to introduce the programme, followed by training at Borough Market itself on 14th May 2015. This training will include a hands on gardening tutorial run by TV gardener Chris Collins and a talk about Market trading by some of the stall holders at Borough Market. Over the course of the project, schools will also visit Fareshare to see where the money they will raise is put to use, as well as a visit to the schools by a gardener to see how their growing is going. The project culminates in two sales days, with half the schools selling their produce on the summer sale on the 2nd July and the other half at the harvest sale in September. Young Marketeers.

Schools to Market – at Whole Foods stores
We are starting our great Schools to Market with Whole Foods programme in May, with 36 schools involved across the country. We are now in the third year of this great project and over the this term schools involved will have an assembly run by Whole Foods at their school, a jam and chutney making masterclass by a chef, a visit to a farm and a marketing workshop with Whole Foods. This will culminate in Schools to Market Day in September, where the children sell jams and chutneys they have grown, made and marketed! The purpose of the programme is to teach children all about the value of food and where it comes from. Schools to Market.

To find out more visit the School Food Matters website here