How to: Work with nature in your garden
You can get the most out of your school growing space by thinking about the things that will enhance your garden and keep your plants, wildlife and young growers happy.
There are huge benefits to be had by taking an organic approach to what you grow. Your home grown school food will undoubtedly have a real depth of flavour, nature will flourish in your school garden and you can be safe in the knowledge that the next generation of young growers will develop a real understanding of the need to protect our environment and importantly, have the skills to do so in the garden.
Expert advice from Garden Organic:
- Organic Gardeners Do, Do not Game (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A6):
- The Organic Garden (Garden Organic, poster)
- Controlling pests and diseases (Garden Organic Growing Manual B5.10)
- Making organic liquid plant feeds (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A41)
Encouraging beneficial wildlife
Encouraging plenty of wildlife is crucial in an organic garden to create a natural balance of predators and pests. In this way, no one pest gets out of control and plants remain healthy in an active and diverse ecosystem. Encouraging beneficial wildlife needs a range of habitats for food and shelter, these include bug hotels, water baths and wildlife ponds. You can also experiment with harvesting rainwater for your growing plants.
- Attracting wildlife (Garden Organic Growing Manual B5.11)
- Creating habitats for wildlife (Garden Organic Growing Manual S4.7)
- Creating a wildlife pond (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A64)
- Installing a water butt (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A46)
Protecting your soil and composting
Good soil is the keystone to organic growing - fertile soil that provides the home for millions of bacteria, which are essential for healthy plant growth. Soil also holds air and water which gives it a good structure (not compacted or waterlogged) and good texture (not too heavy or light). This allows plants to put down roots, to absorb water and nutrients, and encourage strong growth. Good soil is key to organic growing success.
Looking after your soil and starting to compost are the most important food growing activities you can do over the winter months, and into the Spring term, including:
- Chop down any over-wintering green manures in March (see green manures below).
- Spread compost from one of your containers where you will plant potatoes.
- Spread organic mulches around brassicas and perennial crops.
- Start to sow new green manures in bare ground - buckwheat, fenugreek, phacelia, tares…
- Prepare any seed beds you will be sowing into.
- Making compost (Garden Organic Growing Manual B5.7)
- Reduce, re-use, run-around game (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A25)
- Making compost (Garden Organic, poster)
- Home composting (Garden Organic, lots of advice)
- Mulching plants (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A39)
- Growing Green Manures (Garden Organic Activity Sheet A55)
- How to make a compost bin (Instructions, Which)