How to: Plan your school garden
Assessing your space
In order to make a head start, ask your school gardening group some essential questions about your growing space or site. This will help you make efficient use of your growing year and resources, to create a productive school garden.
Here are some useful considerations:
- What people need - good access, space to move around, a safe environment
- What plants need – lots of sunshine, water, good soil, shelter from bad weather
- What grows success – time to grow in the curriculum, volunteers, growing plants you will eat or cook with
- Designing for your space – draw a large scale map to sketch ideas on, visit local gardens or allotments, look online
For more information about each read Where to Grow Plants, a Garden Organic Activity Sheet (B4.3), produced for the Food For Life Bronze Award Scheme. Where possible involve students in the decision making as part of their learning and curriculum activities (related activity checklists A8 and T5 may come in handy here).
Deciding what plants to grow
Once you have assessed your space, you can start to decide the type of edible plants you would like to grow. Use your research so far to help you decide which fruit, vegetables and herbs are suitable for your school, and of course your student’s tastes. You could even create a themed garden and plant with a meal in mind (healthy samosa, roast dinner or pizza garden). The following resources will help you decide:
- Creating a term time harvest plan (Garden Organic Activity sheet A35)
- Setting up a square foot garden (Garden Organic Activity sheet A59)
- Growing Vegetables in schools (RHS information sheet)
Growing Cards - Garden Organic have produced a fantastic range of Growing Cards giving you guidance on growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, edible flowers and green manures: Grow Your Own Cards
Herbs, Herbs, Herbs
A good way to develop any food growing project from scratch is to start growing herbs. Whether as a dedicated herb garden or scattered around in raised beds and pots, herbs are an invaluable part of any school organic garden. There to flavour meals and drinks, attract bees or confuse pests, try and get as many herbs around your school as possible. Many herbs can be gathered for free by asking parents to divide plants they may have in their garden, take cuttings, save seeds. Think about linking your food growing with a recipe you would like to cook, and grow as many of the ingredients as possible.
- Easy herbs to grow in schools (RHS information sheet)
Small space growing
Don’t worry about how little space you may have in your school grounds. An area for growing vegetables can be created in any size of space from a large sunny plot, to a few containers on a patio or a hanging basket full of herbs or tumbling tomatoes. Vegetables can be grown in a separate plot or integrated into flowerbeds. Start small, and don’t try and do too much at once. Think also about the vertical space in your school. Any walls facing south will be ideal places to put pots and planters as they will provide a sun-trap.
Growing in containers
- Planting in Containers (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A11)
- Growing Potatoes in containers (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A12)
- Container Gardens (RHS information sheet)
- Growing in container ideas (Vertical Veg)
Food growing in tbus and raised beds in the playground and on the roof has been so successful at John Ruskin Primary School that they now grow enough produce to use in their school lunches.
Sowing seeds and planting
Planting seeds in the Spring Term is a fantastic way to get your class engaged with growing to kick-off the new term, especially if you have a focus to aim for like a fete, getting your school chef involved in using the produce grown, or hosting a market stall! Grow Your Own Business ideas.
Timing - Starting early indoors helps have crops ready before the summer holidays. For instance sowing tomatoes and chilies in a small heated propagator in January and growing them on to be ready to put outside at the end of March; or growing small trays of salad leaves and sprouting seeds which can have a wide variety of flavours and helps develop pupils desire to eat more vegetables. Find out which seeds can be planted now by visiting the ‘Creating a term time harvest plan’ (A35) activity sheet (top of the page).
Garden Organic Activity Sheets:
- Sowing seed (A18)
- Making a paper pot (A19)
- Growing on the windowsill (B4.7)
- Making a light reflector (A13)
- Making a cloche (A60)
- Sourcing seeds, plants and growing equipment (pdf)