Over the last 40 years, the range of foods that we consume has broadened massively to encompass a whole range of cultures.
There is already a wealth of non-traditional crops grown on allotments in the UK, but they’re in danger of disappearing as the skills to grow them are not being passed onto younger generations.
That’s why Garden Organic was delighted to receive funds from the Big Lottery Local Food Fund* to run a fantastic project called Sowing New Seeds – enabling gardeners, allotment holders, schools and community groups in the Midlands to grow exotic crops, not traditionally grown in the UK.
We have collected seeds and knowledge from many countries including Jamaica, India, Bangladesh, Guyana, China, Pakistan, Japan, Zimababwe, Ethiopa and many more.
How to get your free pack
We have a limited number of Exotic Crop Packs to share with schools, available on a first come, first served basis this Autumn!
All we ask in return is that you make a small donation to Garden Organic, if you are able to, to cover the postage cost. This will help us continue delivering projects like this and giving a few pounds could not be simpler using this online donation form.
We have gathered knowledge and made it available to people through a range of free resources, including growing factsheets, simple growing cards, cooking videos and some great games for schools and children
We have supported groups within the Midlands and beyond to grow exotic crops
*We’re also hugely gratefully to the Brooke Trust, Cadbury Trust, Grimmet Trust, Sheldon Trust, Oram Foundation and the Open Gate Foundation who has gave financial support.
The countdown to the summer holidays is nearly over!
Follow these five simple steps before you head off for the break and you’ll have a healthy garden waiting for you when you return in September.
Take stock of where you’re at
Have a quick look at your growing areas to see:
What plants need looking after over the summer?
Which ones can be cropped?
Have you got time to squeeze in any last seed-to-plate plants like rocket or salad leaves?
What wildlife has been visiting your school over the spring and summer?
If you have a lot of runner beans and tomatoes that have grown to a good size, but are yet to produce any fruit, you’ll want to keep them going over the summer. If you’re lucky enough to have a gardener or site manager to keep an eye on things, then that’s great, but if not, it’s good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to help stop your plants drying out.
Plan for water conservation
Firstly apply a good, thick organic mulch to any plants that will continue to grow during the summer holidays. If you have some home-made compost that’s great, if not some fine bark or green waste compost from the garden centre would be a good investment. Spread it on the top of your soil at about 5cm depth. This will help keep the roots moist and reduce the need to water.
Another good trick is to collect a few plastic water bottles, remove the lid and fill with water, then cover the lid area with about five or six layers of cling film and secure with an elastic band. Then take a pin and make some holes, gently through the cling film. Turn the bottle upside down and bury the neck in the veg bed. The water will seep out slowly, keeping the plants watered. This technique can last up to a week, reducing the need for someone to come and water the plants. There are also products available in the garden centre and online that do the same job; they are basically small adjustable taps that fit to the tops of recycled water bottles.
A final tip on water conservation is to make sure your planting or raised beds are filled out with plants. A full planting area reduces the need for watering and will stop weeds growing too. Why not underplant with some herbs or even some ‘green manure’?
Green manure is made of live plants, sown as seed and are very good for improving soils. A good example is mustard seed or you could try an easy quick crop like radish. Sow these seeds thickly but leave a space around the base of your existing plants, try around 10cm.
Feed your plants
Now is the time to give your plants a good feed. Watering with a liquid feed diluted into your watering can will give your plants a boost. Tomato feed is a cheap easy option, or the ultimate fertiliser is organic comfrey pellets. However a small investment in a Comfrey plant (One called Bocking 14 is recommended) planted and grown in the school grounds will provide a steady supply of nutrient-rich liquid feed.
Simply harvest its leaves from time to time, soak in a bucket of water, then three weeks or so later, drain off the liquid and use as a feed. It’s known as Comfrey tea and it should be pointed out, is rather smelly! No doubt this will cause great amusement among any young members of the gardening club.
Support your plants
It’s also a good time to check if your plants are well supported, as plants like tomatoes become much heavier as they bear fruit. Use canes to support them, tie in any heavy stems using soft twine, tied in a figure of eight. This method prevents rubbing and damage to the soft stems of many crops.
Do a bit of forward planning
Of course, as the summer holidays loom it’s also a great time to think about what you will do with the space after the summer. Autumn and winter planning will be on all gardeners’ minds, as we like to plan ahead.
What do you want to grow over the autumn and winter? Broad beans? Chard or even spring cabbage? Why not look at a few seed catalogues and make a little plan for your garden space. You could even mix in some curriculum by undertaking a small design.
On that theme and to protect your crops, why not have a competition to design a Scarecrow? Desiging and building one from recycled materials is a great way to finish off the summer term.
Happy gardening and I wish you a very happy summer holidays!
This term pupils at Warren Street Primary, winners of our summer Grow Your Own Picnic competition, gratefully accepted a £500 voucher prize donated byGarden 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
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 shedfor 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.
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 pdfwith recipes for a delicious pumpkin loaf and sweet and savoury roasted pumpkin seeds – many thanks to Garden Organic’s Growthteam for trying, testing and adapting these recipes to perfection!
The Project Learning Garden team have been busy recruiting and training schools in Merton, Bexley and Southwark while gearing up for the first growing season of the project in London.
Project Learning Garden provides starter kits to schools with everything they need to start or refresh a food growing garden and use it as an outdoor classroom. Project Learning Garden provides schools with hands-on training, curriculum linked resources, raised beds and gardening tools, a fully equipped mobile cooking cart and ongoing support and guidance.
Despite the snow in March, they held two training sessions to meet with teachers and other school staff to start to work on planning how to link a school garden to their curriculum. The sessions covered curriculum, organic gardening, basic cooking skills and working with groups outside. The team running the workshop were joined by former Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins and Master Gardeners in Southwark.
The schools will soon be receiving their ‘kits’ which include a selection of cooking and gardening items as well as raised beds and lots of activities and resources to deliver the curriculum.
Schools also have access to a range of lesson plans and activities which link to environmental themes and subjects across the curriculum.
Delegates at the training session were enthusiastic and went away feeling positive about the whole day and being involved in the project. One delegate said:
‘I really enjoyed the day and found it useful and very helpful’
‘It was good to be reminded how important the soil is in or garden – easy to forget!’
To find out more about PLG visit the Garden Organic websitehere.
Garden Organic, the UK’s national charity for organic growing & the Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) a charitable organisation based in Atlanta, USA, are working in partnership to bring their successful Project Learning Garden programme to the UK.
Seeds of Change®, who donate 1% of sales to research and promotion of biodiversity and sustainable organic practices, are generously funding this pilot project, making this new partnership possible.
What do birdboxes, seeds, den making kits and nature experts all have in common? They are all available free to schools as part of the Local School Nature Grants Programme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
The grants provide £500 of nature equipment and 2 hours of training to schools in England, Scotland and Wales. The packages are customisable, enabling schools to choose from a menu of items which best suit their learners and their setting.
For example, schools looking to start growing food or develop their school gardens can select Garden Organic‘s Get Growing kit to receive seeds, growing cards, a term time garden planner and more.
Launched on 21March 2018, this second phase of the scheme builds on the huge success of phase one, which bought benefit to 300 schools and over 20,000 pupils in 2017.
The project is funded by Postcode Local Trust, which receives funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
To apply for a grant visit Learning Through Landscapes’ website.
One of our Food Growing Schools: London partners, Soil Association Food for Life is working with the London Royal Borough of Greenwich to transform food culture in the borough.
Alexander McLeod Primary School in Abbey Wood hosted a few keen people on 5 Dec 2017 who had food growing and healthy cooking on their minds as part of the Food for Life Train the Trainer partnership in Greenwich.
The project is about community-based people training others in areas of food education linked to promoting a healthy lifestyle through food, both in growing healthy food and then also using that healthy food to prepare meals.
Train a trainer
The food growing element of the training was led by Garden Organic’s Associate Liz Davies. She took participants through the elements of the Food for Life awards criteria, whole school approach to food education linked to the primary curriculum, organic growing in schools and also composting in schools.
Integrating organic growing with the primary curriculum focusing on Food for Life activities including school community engagement brought everything to life by using the school’s glorious growing space as a foundation for learning.
The afternoon finished with participants’ trialing practical activities highlighting health and safety considerations in schools along with curriculum planning and seed saving ideas.
Events like these help to gather bright minds and great ideas, to help build stronger, healthier communities.
If you’d like to find out more about the Soil Association Food For Life programme and related initiatives, please visit their website.
Project Learning Garden is a programme that provides starter kits to schools with everything they need to start or refresh a food growing garden and use it as an outdoor classroom. Project Learning Garden provides schools with hands-on training, curriculum linked resources, raised beds and gardening tools, a fully equipped mobile cooking cart and ongoing support and guidance.
Captain Planet Foundation is a grant-making foundation that has funded over 2,600 hands-on environmental education projects with schools and non-profits that serve children in all 50 U.S. states and in 25 countries internationally. More than 1.4 million children have directly participated in and benefited from these educational projects.
Since 2011, over 340 learning gardens have been set up in the USA, across 10 States. Due to its success, Project Learning Garden™ is now being piloted by Garden Organic in the UK.
Who can get involved?
We are looking to work with primary schools who do not have a school garden or whose garden needs re-invigorating so that it can be used effectively as an outdoor classroom during the school day.
To apply or find out more, please visit the website.
Food Growing Schools: London’s lead partner Garden Organic are delighted to be a supplier in the Local School Nature Grants Scheme, helping schools branch out into nature
What do birdboxes, bee hotels, den making kits and nature experts all have in common? They are all available free to schools as part of Learning through Landscapes’ Local School Nature Grants Programme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery: http://www.ltl.org.uk/naturegrants/
Learning through Landscapes is a UK charity dedicated to enhancing outdoor learning and play for children. The grants provide an assortment of nature equipment and training up to the value of £500. The packages are customisable, enabling schools to choose from a menu of items which best suit their learners and their setting. All schools in England, Scotland and Wales are welcome to apply.
A great pack of resources to actually get you growing:
1 x Starter pack of seeds
(18 packets of organic fruit and vegetable seeds plus edible flowers. (Exact seeds provided will depend on the season))
1 x term time growing planner
1 x pack of 25 vegetable growing cards
1 x composting booklet
1 x soil information pack
(Total 23 items)
The other suppliers are Glasgow Wood Recycling, Outdoor People, RSPB, MindStretchers and Touchwood.
The aim is to make it easy to get young people in touch with nature, and so the application process is quick and straight forward. The programme launches in late January 2017 and will be open to applications for a full year.
The hats and gloves have been packed away and the sun has been making an appearance across the country. With the warmer and lighter days comes the opportunity to pull on your wellies and start growing food at your school this year.
We know it might seem a bit daunting at first so we have put together a series of blogs to help you spring over the hurdles and get started.
Our schools survey showed that around 30% of schools consider lack of space to be one of the biggest hurdles to food growing that they face. So, first things first – where can we grow?
If you happen to have a nice sunny spot on your school playing field then great, start digging! But if not, don’t give up. Lots of food can be grown in containers of all shapes and sizes on the ground, on windowsills or hanging down.
John Ruskin Primary School in Southwark have limited outdoor space so all of their growing is in trugs and raised beds built on the playground, and with help from Walworth Garden Farm, they have also started growing food on the roof of the school.
They have lost a bit of playground area but the children play around the beds which makes the space more dynamic. Now they’re thinking of how to make opportunities to grow upwards, using archways and trellis to get the most out of every square foot.
Suzy Gregory, Co-Deputy Headteacher suggests getting a planter as big as you can afford, and just start growing. Plant something easy like lettuce, potatoes or tomatoes and give it a grow!
Recipe for Success
Look at your space with new eyes and think creatively, use these resources to help choose crops that do well in small spaces