About School Gardens
School vegetable growing is becoming more popular with the increased emphasis on healthy eating both at home and in the educational system. A good school gardening program will introduce children to the process of food production and to understand the principle of healthy eating. Of course our children are the leaders and decision makers of tomorrow and if we can get children growing food at school it has to have a positive influence on their choices in the future. We are all aware of the valid arguments for food growing in schools but it can be a daunting task for teachers who don’t have any experience in growing vegetables. Setting up a school garden isn’t difficult but there are a few decisions which need to be made before you begin. It’s all about time – time in your schedule, knowing the right time to plant and of course fitting the school garden into the available term time.
There are different types of school gardens, each with their own unique benefits. Vegetable patches or indoor vegetable gardens in containers or planters are the most common and can instill a passion or respect for gardening in children throughout the school year. These kinds of school garden require the occasional participation of students and reward their attention towards the end of the term. An outdoor vegetable garden at a school is best done with raised beds as they cut down on maintenance and protect the soil and plants from foot traffic. Raised beds contain the growing area and will suffer far less from encroaching weeds than a vegetable bed dug straight into the ground. We find most schools need to place their beds on a hard surface so raised beds become the only option for an outdoor garden.
Many of the crops suitable for schools can be grown in smaller containers and may not need a full size raised bed garden if budgets are tight. We have a number of options which are perfectly suited to growing herbs and salad crops with tub planter kits also suitable for growing potatoes and other larger crops. The simple planter bags typically consist of a re-useable horticultural planter sack in various sizes to suit different crops. These planters are filled with a good multipurpose compost which is then topped up with a plant feed after about a month to 6 weeks. The advantage of this type of planter is it’s value and also the fact that they can be emptied and folded away for use the following year.
School Wildlife Garden
A Wildlife garden is the ideal companion to or substitute for the typical school vegetable garden. This can begin with something as simple as hanging bird feeders or placing bird tables and nesting boxes around the school and then monitoring the local wildlife with the students. A raised pond can be used as a wildlife pond for fish, and more interestingly it can be filled with frog spawn so that the life cycle of the frog can be closely observed.
Keep It Organic
A high percentage of the fruit and vegetables we eat have been intensively sprayed with chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to keep them looking good for sale and to extend their shelf life in the shops. Varieties are chosen for high yield rather than taste and in many cases are harvested before they are ripe to enable them to travel the long distances from where they are grown to the Supermarket shelf. Homegrown (or schoolgrown!) produce is healthier and more flavoursome than most shop bought vegetables and can be easily grown without the use of chemical pesticides or plant feeds.
School Garden Resources
As well as having a School's gardening section on our blog full of detailed 'how to' articles, we provide both the equipment needed and the knowledge required to support a great school growing module of any size or budget. We can be contacted anytime during office hours to take some of the mystery out of ‘grow your own’ and to help educators plan a successful school vegetable garden. We are involved in a number of school gardens around the country where we get direct feedback from the teachers running the growing modules.