Grow a School Garden – Gardening in the Winter

Grow a School Garden – Jan/Feb 2018

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

Gardening in the winter

It’s tempting to stay in the warmth of the classroom – it’s not looking too cosy outside at the moment. A garden still needs the attention though, even in these dormant months and there are plenty of ways we can still tie the garden to the learning curriculum.

Getting ready for spring

A job that children never tire of is digging over the soil.

In many ways, January and February are great months to get head of the game. Any areas of soil or raised beds can be turned over and any unwanted plants removed. Give it a real thorough dig over, making sure the soil is broken into a nice fine texture and give it a rake to get it even.

This is great physical exercise for the pupils and it’s also an opportunity to teach them about soil – the gardener’s most important asset.

It also ties in nicely with making sure you’re ready to start composting come spring, if you are not already. Composting, of course, is the way we keep our soil healthy.

If you’re without a compost bin, why not get the children to design one? Maybe by applying a theme?

We built a Dalek compost on Blue Peter in one episode and this was a great way to make the subject more interesting. It would also make for a good art lesson.

Personally, my preferred way of composting is to have an open bin. By that I mean having something that is easily accessible.

Dalek composter
Build an open bin compost
  • Get four wooden posts, dig four holes and set the posts in at a depth of 20cm.
  • Add some quick drying concrete at the base of the posts.
  • After the posts set in, attach chicken wire to three sides of the posts leaving the front open.
  • Now it is easy to fill your compost area and you can also turn the contents easily.

You’ll find it can be great for wildlife too! What will the pupils find in it? Maybe a slowworm, or at the very least some earthworms and centipedes.

Tips for raised beds

I will add one more note about soil and it’s something I’ve observed on my travels to many schools over the years and that is raised beds that do not contain enough soil.

Make sure your beds or containers are properly topped up. Soil should be filled right up to at least 5cm from the top of a raised bed. Giving plant roots room to grow will be important to success.

Planning for spring growing

So, what to do on a dank wet February day when it’s the gardening club? Well, in many ways this can be an exciting time!

The spring will soon be here and it’s time to decide what you want to grow. How do you want your garden area to look? It’s an interesting math’s lesson on looking how tall or wide certain plants might get when planning your area and your growing space.

Make sure you get the Heritage Seed Library seed list catalogue from Garden Organic. It’s great fun for everyone to pick the plants that you want to grow.

“Pizza wheel” garden
Project idea: How to make a pizza wheel

To take this a step further, let’s apply this to a project. We can do this by making what I often refer to as a pizza wheel.

You can make one of these from recycled materials like bricks or pebbles.

  • Make a circle, using a pin at the centre of your area and string to mark the circle. The length of the string dictates the size of your pizza wheel is up to you.
  • Once you have your circle you can then divide it into sections or slices. This up to you but it does not need to be big, in fact you could even do it in a pot.
  • Now, as a class or a gardening club, pick a recipe for a meal then grow some of the contents of that recipe in your pizza wheel slices. For example, it could be something as simple as a salad and therefore you could grow a mix of lettuce, rocket, radish, tomatoes or cucumbers.

Well hope you find some ideas in the Grow A School Garden Blog and that you’ll join me next month.

If you have any questions or even ideas that you may want to contribute please do get in touch.

For the meantime, happy gardening!

Chris Collins

Head of Organic Horticulture – Garden Organic

ccollins@gardenorganic.org.uk

Growing an Edible Playground community

Growing an Edible Playground community

Edible Playgrounds, a Trees for Cities Programme that transforms areas in school grounds into vibrant food growing spaces, are springing up around the country and addressing several key areas of concern around children’s health.  They teach pupils where food comes from, that healthy food can be the easy choice, in and out of school and also encourage physical activity.

Trees for Cities are working  in partnership with schools across the UK to create an outdoor allotment with raised beds, orchard, compost, wormery, greenhouse and an outside classroom.  Early in the year they work with teachers and pupils to prepare the soil and sow seeds to grow plenty of tasty produce ready for harvesting throughout the spring and summer terms.  The apple orchards and raspberries provide a fruitful autumn harvest and students continue to grow crops throughout the winter.

“The outdoor classroom provided by our edible playground has become a popular learning hot spot and supports the whole primary curriculum”, Helen Carvell and Tracey Langridge, Head Teachers at Rockmount Primary School in Croydon.

Trees for Cities not only builds the garden from scratch, they also work with the whole school community for an academic year – children, teachers, parents, governors and caterers to build the capacity of the school to teach through gardening and to embed learning into the school curriculum.

Celebrating the opening of Edible Playgrounds across the UK

Over the last couple of months, Trees for Cities has been busy organising launch events at schools, celebrating the opening of five new Edible Playgrounds that are already showcases for all the fantastic work the pupils have been doing to grow their own nutritious food.

A great harvest of beans! Palmer Academy, Reading - Edible Playground LaunchX Factor finalist opens Reading’s first Edible Playground

X Factor 2009 finalist, Danyl Johnson, was joined by Rob Wilson MP, the Mayor of Reading and Michelin Star chef, Dominic Chapman to officially open the first edible playground in Reading at the Palmer Academy.  The garden was thriving and all guests were impressed by the phenomenal crop of lettuce, peas, beans, carrots, radishes and strawberries that the children had been growing.

 

From Plant to Plate - Student Chefs with their freshly made canapesCroydon schools develop Edible Playgrounds

The Edible Playground team have been busy working with three schools in Croydon – one of London’s two food flagship boroughs, to develop their edible playgrounds.  Last month they launched three Edible Playgrounds in one week at Rockmount Primary, Fairchildes Primary/Meridian High and St Giles School.  The edible playgrounds were bursting with life and children used produce from the garden to make canapés for each launch, with the help of Chefs Adopt a School.

 

Barney from Blue Peter at the launch of the Edible Playground at Baguely Hall Primary, ManchesterA surprise visit from Blue Peter
The pupils at Baguley Hall primary school in Manchester had all written letters to Blue Peter telling them what they had been learning about and growing in their edible playground. Blue Peter presenter, Barney Harwood was so impressed he decided to come to the school in person to deliver a well earned green “Blue Peter” badge to each pupil. All the children have been enjoying the experience and opportunities that their edible playground has given them, especially tasting the fresh fruit and vegetables!  Trees for Cities have created over 30 Edible Playgrounds across the UK and with support from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, have been able to extend their work to Reading, Manchester and Liverpool.  They have also formed valuable partnerships with Chefs Adopt a School, where chefs cook with pupils using Edible Playground produce and School Food Matters, who are supporting schools to achieve their first Food for Life Award.

To find out how your school could get an Edible Playground visit our website www.edibleplaygrounds.org or email us on info@treesforcities.org.

 

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