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

 

Four steps to managing your garden pests

Sharing your garden with nature is part of gardening and even in the best managed fruit and veg gardens, natural pests and predators will present themselves, but they needn’t be a problem.

Follow Capital Growth’s four simple steps to manage your pests: Protect, Remove, Repel, Prevent.

pests-and-diseases1. PROTECT your plants using cut plastic bottles around the seedling to prevent pests from reaching the plant.

2. REMOVE the pest by manually taking off those you can see.

By taking off the top of broad beans if they’re covered in aphids (greenfly, blackfly, plant lice) the plant has a chance to grow and produce beans.

Take a look at the RHS advice on Aphids.

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.

Make your own owl sun catcher to scare the birds
Make your own owl sun catcher to scare the birds

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.

Get rid of pests with garlic

Got a problem with the fast-growing fungus that is mildew? Powdery mildews attack a wide range of plants, causing a white, dusty coating on leaves, stems and flowers.

Use milk to prevent powdery mildew

4. PREVENT any more pests from coming in.

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.

Avoid pesticides, encourage wildlife

Get more great advice from Green Gardener and our friends at the RHS, who have a helpful A-Z of pests and solutions. And join a Capital Growth training session.

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!