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.

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.

Grow a School Garden – Seeds and Spring Planting

Grow a School Garden – Feb/Mar 2018

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

Spring is nearly here

It is this time of year that suddenly a day will come when finally after a long winter, everybody will feel the warmth of the sun on their face again. It’s such a welcome feeling and also very exciting time for our outdoor spaces.

This is the time to get busy in the garden, particularly for producing plants. Seed sowing is the one thing that can really get children hooked on growing plants . Watching a seed come to life and grow into a plant is a wonder that never gets tiring.

Tips for seed germination

So here are some ideas for getting your seed going.

Firstly if there is a budget, I really recommend investing in a couple of propagators . These are basically mini greenhouses that can be kept in the classroom and used to start all those tender crops that will need protection from the spring cold.

Tomatoes, Broad Beans, Courgettes, Squash and Pumpkins will all germinate well in a propagator, which can then be grown on indoors until its time to plant out.

Starting these plants like this means that you will be planting out strong healthy plants. It will extend your growing season, hopefully meaning you will get plenty of crops before the summer term ends.

History and science lessons with seeds

Growing seeds in the classroom like this also lends itself to the opportunity to studying how seeds work. They are truly incredible things, a couple of examples of this could be the Giant Redwood, the biggest living plant on Earth that has a seed that is a billionth the size of a fully grown tree . Or why are Poppies associated with Remembrance day. Its because Poppy seeds only germinate when they are exposed to light . The artillery fire unearthed Poppy seeds, some of which may have been underground for over a hundred years and then they proceeded to grow and flower. This example can also be used to teach some of the history of the first world war.

Raking and treading soil

Seeds, however also give us the chance to get outside and get our Carrots and Broad Beans growing. The soil will be all nicely dug from the winter gardening, now we can rake and tread it.

This entails using the rake to create a soil as level as possible . Use it to take out any lumps or dips. Treading means to use the back of your heels to firm down the whole area. It means a funny walk across the soil but it takes out all the air pockets and allows smooth capillary action enabling water movement in the soil.

Sowing carrots

Once you’ve done this, Carrots can be sown in drills. Put down a line of string across your plot, make a small trench along the line (use a piece of bamboo) and sow your seeds (check the packet for spacing tips), cover over, water and label.

Watering tips

A good tip is to use a watering can with a rose head, turn the rose so its facing upward, this will create a fine water spray when poured and thus prevents you washing out and displacing those carefully sown seeds. Using a line (drill) to sow seeds like this means when they grow into seedlings you will know what they are and distinguish them from any weeds growing at the same time in the surrounding soil.

Veg writing project idea

A couple of projects for early spring could be Veg writing. How about sowing some Salad leaves with your name or the school name? Mark out the name with sand and make a small trench in the sand and sow in Rocket or Green salad leaves. Then using drills surrounding the sown Rocket, sow red leaved Salad. When it all starts to grow you will see your school name. Clip with scissors from time to time and use the clipped salad leaves in sandwiches.

Window ledge herb garden

On the topic of edible plants, a small herb garden can be made and sit outside the classroom on a window ledge.

You can get yourself a pot or is there something we can recycle?

You can use many things for a pot just remember that it will need drainage, so make sure you can put holes in the bottom of it. Herbs don’t like wet feet, so mix peat-free compost with some gravel or sand. Maybe put some gravel in the bottom of the pot too.

If you are putting it on a window sill make sure it fits before adding the compost.

Then start to collect and plant your herbs. Small herbs like Parsley and Coriander can be grown from seed. Larger herbs , like Lavender and Rosemary can be bought, quite cheaply from the garden centre and why not see if anyone has Oregano or Lemon Balm as these can easily be divided up – maybe someone’s Grandma has some in her garden somewhere!

Happy Gardening!

Chris Collins
Head of Organic Horticulture – Garden Organic

ccollins@gardenorganic.org.uk

 

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!

 

Grandparent Gardening Week!

Grandparent Gardening Week. Soil Association Food for Life. shutterstock_180987194It’s that time of year again. Every Spring FGSL project partners Soil Association Food for Life (FFL) encourage schools around the UK to get growing – with the support of grandparents! Grandparent Gardening Week takes place from 27-31 March 2017.

For beginners, food growing in school can seem a little daunting, but with the right support from the local community it can be surprisingly fun, and a great opportunity for all generations to learn together using the garden. Grandparents often come with bags of gardening enthusiasm, knowledge, experience and time to share with the younger generations. That’s why they’re perfect for helping in schools too.

Hosting a gardening activity
Ask  a team of students to lead the Grandparent Gardening Week activities, involving your school cook and DT lead. Ask what crops they would like to see grown, think about where they might plant them or how your school cook could use them in their recipes, linking the crops with the kitchen and classroom learning. Share ideas and plans across the school to involve everyone in the fun! The Food for Life Awards Package provides plenty of expert growing resources, including Garden Organic growing cards. For a template poster, media invite and press release visit: Grandparent Gardening Week.

Spring into Growing – Plan it. Build it. Grow it!
You can also dip into FGSL Spring into Growing 2017 resources to help you get growing together on Grandparent Gardening Day. For more ideas on how to work with your local community visit FGSL Support.

Get your grandparents involved – happy growing together!

Grandparent Gardening Week