Warren Street Primary wins Garden Site voucher prize

This term pupils at Warren Street Primary, winners of our summer Grow Your Own Picnic competition, gratefully accepted a £500 voucher prize donated by Garden Site, to put towards their school food growing efforts.

Warren Street Primary – a food growing school in Bromley

“We grow vegetables in the school garden and when we have a good harvest, we sell the food to the school kitchen as well as to parents after school,” said Tom Bateson, Sustainability Leader at Warren Street Primary.

“This means that we can return the money back into the Eco budget to grow more plants the following year.”

But Mr. Bateson explained,”the door on our current greenhouse has broken and is too dangerous for children to go into now, so we’ll be unable to grow plants over the winter.”

“Now thanks to this prize, we’re looking to get a brand new greenhouse and some other items  from Garden Site to allow the pupils to keep growing food and to support outdoor learning all year round.”

  • See the benefits of food growing and outdoor learning for schools, pupils and the wider community here.
About the prize donated by Garden Site
Members of the Garden Site team who arranged the gift voucher for the competition prize.

GardenSite, one of the UK’s leading online garden retailers teamed up with FGSL during the summer term to offer a generous prize of a £500 voucher, which can be used to purchase gardening items from their range of around 10,000 products.

Whether it be a new greenhouse or shed for the school grounds or even a selection of garden planters perfect for growing a wide variety of fruit and veg, the £500 can be spent on a huge variety of products to help maximise the school’s growing potential.

Growing your own, all year round

If you’re in need of inspiration on what to grow, GardenSite have a handy guide on What to Grow In Your Greenhouse which covers the entire year.

  • See Garden Organic’s month by month guide for what to do in your garden here.

Thanks to all the schools that participated in our competition – we wish you a fantastic year.

Happy gardening!

 

Grow a School Garden – Autumn planting

Grow a School Garden – Oct/Nov 2018

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

During the end of the summer months, though days are shorter, there is still plenty to keep us busy in our gardens.

Summer crops can be removed and dug into the compost bin and soil dug over and made ready for a fresh crop of plants for both winter and next spring.

What to plant now

Broad beans are a great crop to get in now, as the soil is still reasonably warm.

Quicker crops like Spinach, winter mix salad leaves and Chard can all be sown in open ground and can be grazed through the late winter months.

It may be worth investing a small amount of money in a roll of fleece from the local garden centre, this can be pinned down over your newly sown seeds and will protect them on cold nights and give them a strong start.

Any ground or raised beds you don’t plan to use over winter should be sown with a green manure. A mustard crop, sown thickly on empty ground can prevent weeds colonising your ground   and can be dug into the soil, in spring to keep your soil healthy.

The onset of the dark months is no barrier to growing fresh food – don’t miss out on those beautiful autumn days.

Planting bulbs
Colourful bulbs in spring (click image to enlarge).

The autumn is also the time of year to plant bulbs. These are the Jack-in-a-box of the plant world, staying low below the ground they are spring loaded to appear in the spring when the soil warms up.

For food plant some Garlic now but for colour there is an array of beautiful plants for your school to enjoy.

Set aside a piece of ground in a border, raised bed or even large pot. Plant a mix of bulbs to flower next year , Snowdrop (Jan, Feb) Crocus (Feb, March) Daffodil (March / April), Tulip (April / May) Allium (May).

You can get a run of three to four months of colour from bulbs and mixing the types really gives an amazing display.

There is further good news as bulb are pretty cheap to buy.

When it comes to planting and looking after bulbs there are two main rules, plant them the depth of a trowel’s head (up to the handle) and make sure you leave the foliage at least 6 weeks after they have stopped flowering. One final tip is, bulbs like Daffodil and Crocus can be naturalised, meaning they can be planted out permanently in a lawn or around the base of trees, where they will flower year after year.

  • See more advice from Garden Organic about sourcing and planting organic bulbs here.
How to grow a Willow wall
Taking willow cuttings (click image to enlarge).

A great winter project is to produce your own Willow wall. It’s worth finding out if any schools in your area are already growing Willow. If so, see if you can get some cuttings. These cuttings will need to be taken by a teacher.

They are last years growth on the plant, strong shoots (see photo) that have grown and ripened over the summer. Cut them at about 20 cm length with a straight cut below a node, this is a swelling on the wood were leaves will grow.  At the other end of the cutting cut a sloped cut above a node, this way you’ll remember which way up your cutting goes.

Now it’s time to get the children involved. Bundle up the cuttings in groups of 20, bind them together with twine. Dig a trench 15cm deep on a north facing wall and fill it with 5 cm of sand. Bury the bundles in the trench and put back the soil. You should now have 5cm of Willow cuttings sticking out the ground, you can now forget all about these cuttings until next spring when you can dig them up, they will have rooted and you can plant your own Willow wall. I recommend 5 to 10 bundles to get you going. The other advantage of taking these cuttings is there is plenty of curriculum involved – biology and maths for a starter.

Making leaf mould compost
Making leaf mould in autumn (click to enlarge image).

A further project for the autumn is to make some leaf mould. Don’t waste the great bonanza that is falling leaves.

A quick bit of construction involving four wooden stakes and some chicken wire makes a square cage. Get the children to collect any leaves in the school grounds and fill this ‘cage’ with leaves.

In a couple of seasons, you will have the perfect seed sowing compost. This uses a natural gift from Mother Nature, saves money and is great exercise!

  • Find out about making leaf mould and how to use it on the Garden Organic website here.
Helping wildlife

Finally, remember our small friends the birds at this time of year, put out food and water to help them out, they are an important part of the garden.

Happy gardening everyone.

Chris Collins

Head of Organic Horticulture. Garden Organic

 

Celebrate autumn in the garden with these pumpkin recipe ideas

Has your school grown pumpkins this year?

Pumpkins are lots of fun for pupils to grow and see who can grow the biggest one, to carve for Halloween or to save seeds for next year.

While pumpkins are a popular decoration in the autumn season, they can also provide the basic ingredients for many fun recipes pupils can enjoy cooking the school kitchen!

The flesh of a pumpkin can be baked into a loaf and the abundance of seeds found inside can be roasted with herbs to add flavour.

Download this pdf with recipes for a delicious pumpkin loaf and sweet and savoury roasted pumpkin seeds – many thanks to Garden Organic’s Growth team for trying, testing and adapting these recipes to perfection!

More about pumpkins…

Grow On, Film It! Trees for Cities video competition announced

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

Competition: Trees for Cities are calling all schools to make a short film about food growing in your playground/open space. Win amazing prizes for your school:

  • £200 gardening voucher for the 1st prize;
  • £100 gardening voucher for 2nd;
  • £50 gardening voucher for 3rd.

They’ll also send out spring seed packs to all entrants, so there’s plenty of incentive for schools to get on board!

Along with energy company Bulb, Trees for Cities are launching a Grow On, Film It competition for schools to show us the effects food growing has on the pupils and staff.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re growing a few herbs in a small window box or a feast’s worth of different fruits and vegetables in multiple raised beds, we want to see how you do it.

Be as imaginative and creative as you can! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Say a poem about the garden
  • Tell the story from seed to plate
  • Show us how school life has changed since growing at school
  • Show us how the growing can be incorporated into the curriculum
  • Let us know about your gardening skills and why your plants grow so well
  • Share how the gardening encourages a deeper connection to nature

You might decide to add songs, graphics, comedy – it’s totally up to you, though ensure you keep the films under 3 minutes long. Points will be awarded for imagination, so get those thinking caps on. We can’t wait to see what you produce!

DEADLINE:

The deadline for submissions is Monday 1 October 2018, so please ensure you have your submissions in before then.

You can find all the competition details, how to enter, tips and tricks on the Trees for Cities web page.

Here’s last year’s winning entry for some inspiration!

 

Three London schools launch new Edible Playgrounds

Food Growing Schools: London partner Trees for Cities have recently celebrated Edible Playground launch events at three London primary schools.

Olga Primary in Tower Hamlets, St Anne’s in Lambeth and Gallions in Newham all opened their gardens to guests as they cut the ribbon on their new outdoor growing space.

A number of dignitaries attended, including local ward councillors, members of the senior leadership teams of neighbouring schools, members of Healthy Schools London and even Mayor Christopher Wellbelove from Lambeth Council.

Mayor Christopher Wellbelove at St Anne’s with Trees for Cities staff.

There were speeches, guided tours of the garden space and performances from the children. A particular highlight was a hearing a Year 3 child from Olga Primary describe a salad dish made from tomatoes and basil from the Edible Playground: “Have you ever thought of growing your own juicy, ripe tomatoes? It is a feeling like no other, it is seriously the best feeling ever”.

Olga pupils in their cooking outfits showing their crops.

Each of the schools serves a higher than average percentage of pupils whose first language is not English and each has a higher percentage of pupils who are eligible for free school meals, indicating a higher level of deprivation that the national average.

It is urban schools like this, with little access to nature, that make ideal partners for the Edible Playgrounds programme. The Edible Playgrounds give the children a chance to learn about growing and eating healthy fruit and veg, and to connect with nature in a way that would be very difficult for them otherwise.

Growing themed bunting made by the pupils.

And the impacts on the lives of the children at these schools is tangible. Linda Ewers, Head Teacher at Olga Primary, said: “A bare playground has been transformed,” and “Our children are involved in the whole cycle of growing food – they are interested in what is growing and in the other life that can be found in the garden”.

Gallions’ Edible Playground thriving despite the summer heatwave.

If you are interested in learning more about the Edible Playground programme, and the generous match fund opportunities currently available, head to the Trees for Cities website or get in touch at info@edibleplaygrounds.org.

Grow a School Garden – Sunshine and summer holidays

Grow a School Garden – June/July 2018

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

Summer sun and watering advice

Well, the word at the moment is definitely sunshine and it really is beautiful weather. What a great time to be outside and enjoying all that nature offers!

It is though quite a tough time for plants and the dryness causes plants to feel stressed. This is not a problem as long as you’re doing your job as a gardener and seeing to their needs.

Watering of course is the job of such importance at the moment and it’s vital we get this job right.

First thing is – no hosepipes! Not because they are a banned, it’s just it’s not a good way to water in this heat. Water your plants by catering can and water to the base of your plants. Scorching can occur on the leaves if they get wet. Also spraying with a hose tends to just water the air as this heat soon soaks it up. You can use your hose, if you have one to fill your watering cans.

The other vital aspect of watering in this weather is the timing. Make sure the temperature is as cool as possible when watering your plants; early in the morning is the best time for a school.

Composting and weeding

Composting around your plants will also help keep those fine roots near the surface, especially the larger ones.

Remember also, to keep pulling those weeds, they will compete for water in this hot weather and many of then set their seeds much quicker in the hot weather.

Looking ahead – using curriculum activities

As the term comes to an end it’s also maybe a good time to think about what next for your garden area.  You have your raised beds up and running so how about thinking about the design of the area.

A great Maths class is to measure your area and produce a scale drawing.

A great Art class is to sit down and design the garden, you could give a theme or think about connecting it to the school, its history or any stand out projects the school may have done.

This is great fun and a fantastic way to learn.

Harvesting your hard work

Hopefully you will now also be picking some of your crops. All your hard work will now mean you get to enjoy and maybe eat your produce. Remember when picking crops like Runner beans, to twist them first, so they snap cleanly from the plant. This avoids infection and fungus getting into the plant if it is damaged.

Similarly, when digging plants out, like Lettuce, remove the plant as cleanly as possible, don’t leave old leaves and refuse on the beds to encourage slugs and other problems.

How can parents, guardians and volunteers help?

However, the biggest challenge over the summer, is that schools break up.

How do we water the plants that have not been cropped? Hand watering is always best. Can you raise volunteers to help you with this?

Produce a newsletter with all your great work. Send it out to parents and grandparents to see if they would like to help and get involved.

Producing this newsletter would also make a great end of term project for the children and again could be tied in with the curriculum.

Another watering trick

There are some tricks you can use to help you with thirsty plants over the summer. We have already mentioned mulching and composting.

You can also use old plastic water bottles.

Remove the lid and fill the bottle with water. Then cover the mouth of the bottle with seven or eight layers of cling film, which then should be pierced with a sowing needle. Place upside down at the base of your plants and the water will slowly drain over a number of days, thus reducing your watering.

Well, I hope that helps and happy gardening and I wish you a great summer hols!

Chris Collins

Head of Organic Horticulture. Garden Organic

June teachers forums in Camden, Islington and Bexley

We’re hosting a few events this month and with the growing season off to a sunny start,  our engagement officers, are ready to support your school food growing by providing information and resources at teachers forums!

Timings for both events are 4 – 5.30pm. Locations to be announced soon.

Islington and Camden are hosting the first of two twilight forums on 20 June, with a focus on the Early Years setting.  Come along to find out how to incorporate growing in a setting that suits your learning environment.  Whether it’s starting seeds off indoors and then moving them outside once they’re stronger; or discovering ways of dealing with pests such as slugs, the session will no doubt offer resources to get you started or help you along your already established journey of food growing.

To register your interest in attending, please contact Marjon Willersmarjon.willers@nhs.net 

Bexley hosts the second twilight forum on 26 June, with a focus on infusing food growing into the Primary Curriculum from Year 1 up to and including Year 6.  This session will empower you to start growing using whatever space you have by giving you the confidence to teach any area of the curriculum through the use of your outdoor space.  Initiatives along with resources will be shared including how to grow your own picnic and how to use food growing in an enterprising way.

To register your interest in attending please contact Louise TseLouise.Tse@bexley.gov.uk

We look forward to seeing you at one of the above forums!

For more training and events coming up, please click here.

How to raise funds to support food growing at school

Food Growing Schools: London have been collecting feedback from schools using an online survey since the project began in 2013. One area of challenge identified is schools are looking for ways to raise funds in order to start or revive a school garden.

Nick Ives, Engagement Officer for Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) shares some ideas and tips:

“There is little doubt that if you ask a school head teacher what their number one concern in running a school in this age of austerity – they will tell you finance to support activity at school. This short guide is intended to consolidate some ideas on how this might be achieved to support food growing activities at school.

What follows are some simple practical steps that will enable a school to respond expediently when an opportunity arises.

Determining needs

Create an extensive list of absolutely anything that you could possibly need.
If possible get as many people in the school to contribute: teachers, governors, parents and other staff to contribute. Eg one 20 meter hose with with spray attachment; 20 metres of timber to make x many raised beds; 200 litres organic soil for raised beds; 2 digging forks, 15 hand trowels, 15 hand digging forks, 2 rain water harvesting buts with attachments to downpipes, 2 watering cans, one 2 metre metal frame to cover a raised bed or plastic 15 square meters of netting for cabbage patch etc.
Not only will you have a ready-made list of items to wheel out at short notice, you might also get an idea of where the expertise and enthusiasm for this resides within your school community.

Evidence of pupil engagement

Whoever might fund your growing activity at school, they will always want to see that the pupils are involved in some way. Just like OFSTED they would like to seek evidence of how pupils will be impacted in a beneficial ways. Perhaps children did some curriculum linked work on the ideal kitchen garden and produced some appealing images and designs? Perhaps the pupil school council discussions revealed that many children live in flats with no outside space to grow anything? Perhaps pupils germinated broadbeans in science and expressed interest in growing these on? Build up evidence of pupil engagement, again it can then be wheeled out swiftly when required.

Consider every conversation as an opportunity

Certainly school leaders have learned to make the best of opportunities, having the opportunist mindset and an integrated request set up will facilitate this more. Now that a list of needs exists and how these items might benefit pupils – share them as much as possible! Consider everyone one talks to as a possible stakeholder! Do they work for a company that supports charitable giving? The School Funding Network is an excellent way to go about this. Parents who work for large corporations may unwittingly be allowed to apply for help from an associated charitable arm. Ask them to find out and empower them to help the school. Most schools have a Parent Teacher/Staff Association, if not why not?!

When the school is entering in to any new contract for services with an organization, might this organization be prepared to help in other areas? This is especially true for school catering contracts.

Applying for grants and funds

No matter who or what they are, they will always want to see a clear statement of need. The list is the first place to start. Then they will require some evidence of how the pupils will benefit. They will all have some sets of criteria that their fund will help with. Always identify the key words they use, public access? Community engagement? Impact upon pupils? Underline these and use them in the language that one uses to request their funds. An application that shows an integrated approach always looks more credible, so are as many stakeholders in the school community mentioned? They are looking for a good fit. Think of it as an exam and make it easy for them to say yes!

There are a number of grants and funds that have associated deadlines, others not. If you miss this deadline chances are there’s one next year, put it in the diary. Some funds have a specific geographical reach eg Veolia and Biifa and The Heathrow Community Fund so are often open. On more local scales there are often funds linked to local parishes that disburse funds in quiet ways. Ask locally – council members, church or community leaders may know.

Some applications require evidence of match funding, so this will require a careful consideration of all possible and potential stakeholders. Do not be afraid of approaching an organization which hasn’t advertised it has funds to give.”

For a list of competitions and funding opportunities, please click here.

RHS Green Plan It challenge

The annual RHS Green Plan It Challenge is back for another year and they are on the lookout for teams of Year 8-9 / S2-3 students to take part.

This is an exciting project designed to get young people thinking about the roles plants play in our lives and why green spaces are so important to us.

What is it?

Green Plan It is a ten week challenge in the Autumn Term, which encourages Year 8 and 9 students to imagine a garden they would like for their school or community.

Your students will work with an industry mentor to carry out research before building a model to bring their ideas to life.

At the end of the challenge, students will compete against other local schools and present their garden designs at a celebration event.

To find out more, please visit the RHS website here or send an email.