Gardening with Children

School Zone

A guide to setting up a School Garden

Date Posted: 05 September 2013

September is not only the start of a new term, and school year it is also the start of the gardening year too.

Gardening is now becoming an important part of the school curriculum especially with the introduction of the School Food Plan which aims to help teachers, parents and pupils create a better understanding of where food comes from, how to grow your own and how to cook nutritious healthy meals. We welcome the announcement that the Government has set aside over £800,000 to get all schools in London growing their own food, this is fantastic news, we hope that this initiative will spread across the whole of the country.

With all these exciting developments we have put together a guide to help your School get growing.

Setting up a School Garden

Planning

This is essential for the smooth running of any project. Decide what you would like to do/grow, do you want to grow vegetables, fruit, flowers or create a wildlife or sensory garden or maybe a combination of them all. If you are starting off it may be an idea to keep it simple and choose a fairly easy project with a good chance of succes so that the children will be reaping the rewards a few months down the line, this will keep them interested and keen to move on to the next stage.

Think about when gardening will take place, during school hours, after school, how often it will take place, every day, every week and how much time you can allocate to your school garden. It is a good idea to have some indoor activities planned when the weather is bad or during the winter months when there is less to do.

If you don’t have much time or expertise think about finding helpers. The great thing about school gardening is it’s a team effort, and can really build a great community spirit you’ll be amazed at the skills and knowledge hidden amongst parents, grandparents, local allotment groups and gardening clubs, think about having a rota for keeping essential tasks such as watering, weeding and harvesting going over the school holidays. Click here for more information on looking after your school garden during the holidays.

Funding

When you have some gardening project ideas, it’s important to find out how much everything is going to cost. The next step is to explore funding options. 

There are many places to find the funding and support that you need for a gardening project. This might come locally through community fundraising or sponsorship, or it might involve applying to a national organisation for a grant, click here for a guide to National Grants and Award Schemes. Grant applications can take a little time to complete, before you start check you have all the information together that you need, find out what sort of projects the funding organisation is particularly interested in supporting, sometimes there will be a help line to phone for more information, make sure that your ideas meet the project criteria before starting to apply, check also the deadline for applications.

Local Fundraising

  • Community Fundraising Events such as school fairs, plant sales and auctions of promises
  • The PTFA sometimes have funds available that can be used towards the school garden
  • Local Sponsorship from companies in your area can also be a good place to start. Local branches of some of the big chains have a budget for community projects so it’s always worth checking
  • Local Authorities and County Councils sometimes have resources available locally.

Growing Area

Look at the space you have available, vegetables, fruit and flowers can be grown in the smallest of spaces; in pots, hanging baskets, window boxes and growing bags. If you have the room create a plot with several growing beds to allow for crop rotation or a bed for each classroom. 

Wheelchair Easy Access Wooden Raised Beds - Childrens

Raised Beds are ideal for growing crops and can be placed on tarmac/concrete as well as soil making them suitable for every situation, they take the bending out of gardening making them ideal for the young, old and the disabled, crops are easily reached without walking on the soil, so there is no compaction meaning less digging and less work. Raised Beds offer improved drainage which is good news for those that live in areas prone to flooding and also during prolonged wet weather, if you have poor soil they can be filled with good top soil and compost to get you off to a good start. Crops can be planted earlier in Spring as the soil warms up faster, they are easy to cover with film, fleece or netting to protect crops using cloche hoops and cloche clips. 

10ft Wide Polytunnels

If you have the space a Polytunnel is invaluable it will accommodate not only your garden but a whole class as well, whatever the weather. The extra protection that it provides will enable you to grow a wider variety of crops successfully throughout the year and not just during the warmer months.

Position

To get the most from your crops choose an open, sunny and sheltered position away from hedges and not underneath trees. Watering will be necessary most weeks and more frequently in dry weather so consider positioning your garden near an outside tap or a waterbutt. If you are keeping your tools outside they will need to be kept in a secure Storage box ideally positioned nearby so that less time is wasted collecting your equipment.

 Storage box open showing base and lid props

Tools and Equipment

It is important to choose ‘childrens’ tools, which are a compact, lightweight and designed specifically for children to use, make sure that they are robust and suitable for the job and will stand up to plenty of wear and tear. Stainless Steel heads cut through the soil easily reducing the workload, whilst warm wooden handles are comfortable and practical to hold.

Raised Bed Garden Spade

  • Hand Forks and a Hand Trowels are absolutely essential use them for weeding, loosening the soil and planting, perfect for using in small spaces and containers.
  • Garden Spades for digging over the beds and making large planting holes
  • Garden Forks for loosening the soil and moving compost
  • Garden Rakes for leveling the surface, removing stones and creating a fine ‘tilth’ ready for sowing seeds and planting, and collecting leaves in Autumn.
  • Garden Mattocks are a good all rounder for furrowing, weeding and raking in small spaces.

It is advisable to teach children how to use all gardening equipment safely and with care and consideration to others.

Compost Bins

 Childrens 

As your school garden develops you will begin to accumulate green waste such as grass cuttings, prunings and clippings as well as green kitchen waste from the school kitchen such as fruit and vegetable peelings all this can be put to good use and turned into a valuable and nutrient rich compost in a Compost Bin which can be then be added back to the garden.

More Information

For more gardening and wildlife information, ideas, activities, planting and growing guides have a look at the Gardening With Children website or why not become a member of the Gardening With Children Club with its membership offers and benefits.

For all full range of Gardening and Wildlife products have a look at Gardening Works website. 

 

 

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