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The school garden - help!

(21 Posts)
CommonOrGarden Tue 18-Oct-11 17:01:26

DS1's school has a large, rather beautiful, very neglected garden. It pains me to see such a wasted space - especially as it's in an area where many of the children don't have gardens.

There have been some attempts to work on it - there a three small raised beds, a willow hut, a pond, a good sized greenhouse and lots and lots of room to plant!

All experience/ideas welcome. smile

EcoLady Tue 18-Oct-11 17:33:24

I used to run a lunchtime Garden Club that grew veg in a small plot. 12 children max, year 3 upwards, and we had a blast! You never knew that spuds could be so exciting and the sweetcorn was a revelation to them all.

I'm sure the school would jump at any volunteer to sort it out. You'd need a CRB check and a loooooong Risk Assessment but school should be able to help you with that.

Go for it!

crazygracieuk Tue 18-Oct-11 17:37:36

Our school has a gardening club and they collect Morrisons vouchers to get more equipment.

They often have plant sales (eg. They plant a bulb in soil and sell them as Christmas gifts)

In nursery and Reception they encourage gardening as it's good gross mOtor skill practice. It's worth asking parents for donations-people may have pots, containers, buckets, seeds etc that they don't need.

CommonOrGarden Tue 18-Oct-11 18:50:13

Thanks, both of you. I'm not sure what would come first - whether we just go for it or it gets planned as part of the curriculum... or maybe a bit of both! It's a truly lovely space in the middle of Hackney.

TheHappyCamper Tue 18-Oct-11 19:29:39

One of the TA's runs a gardening club at our school and has "garden stewards" doing the digging and planting on lunchtimes and occasionally after school (secondary). She also collects morrisons vouchers to get equipment. If you could get a staff member on board you might not need to do crb if you are never left alone with the kids?

ps. Ours won an award in this year's Britain in Bloom comp! smile

SuePurblybiltFromBitsofCorpses Tue 18-Oct-11 19:39:14

If you come across a book called 'The Pull of the Earth' it's worth a read. School gardening as a ethnographic study.

Collect the Morrisons tokens, sign up for all the free seeds/trees going and do a lunchtime club. I've seen some schools do well at Chelsea recently, maybe have an evening goggling and emailing them asking for advice? Or even set up a sort of twinning connection for advice from another school, if the teachers are keen it could be worked into the curriculum in all sorts of ways.

I would have jumped at the chance to use it as a research project when doing my degree, does your school have students on placements that might know of someone with an interest professionally? I'm thinking they'd offer practical help and a stack of theoretical knowledge in return for the research opportunity.I'd come myself if I was closer.

UniS Tue 18-Oct-11 19:40:59

If the garden is neglected currently you may need to do a fair bit of "rough" work to get it back under control before you can get children very involved. With teh best will in the world children are NOT good at bramble bashing, pulling weeds up with the roots or digging ground over in any meaningfull fashion.

I tackled our school garden last term, doing about 1 afternoon a week as a volunteer and a few saturday mornings on working parties and going in in the holidays to keep the new planting watered This term school are paying me as school support staff for 2 hours a week to keep on top of the weeds around the site. There is more than 2 hours a week work needed but I appreciate the money. I should be able to keep it ticking over till spring then the gardening club will be re-started and I will see if I can do one lunchtime a week as an MTA running the club.

Whippet Tue 18-Oct-11 19:42:05

Ask on Freecycle for tools, pots, seeds etc. When my Dad moved into a retirement flat he gave several of his tools to a local school.

midnightexpress Tue 18-Oct-11 19:46:46

I've just started a gardening club at our primary school - about a third of all the children in the school applied to join and they're having to ration the places. I'd say just go for it!

I really recommend 'The Playground Potting Shed' - it has lots of good ideas and also does a week-by-week breakdown of ideas for a gardening club.

Our school also has a storytelling garden - a really lovely space, with lots of wild planting, a small barked area with seating all the way round, a gazebo 'stage' and lots of gorgeous plants.

midnightexpress Tue 18-Oct-11 19:47:52

Also cannot recommend the Edible Schoolyard's blog highly enough. They are in the US and truly inspirational!

We started one at our primary after last Feb half term and this summer we won a Gold in the local town In Bloom competition. It has been a steep learning curve but very enjoyable. We had 4 raised beds put in this time last year and used a variety of other containers, tyres, growbags and compost sacks with potatoes in. We had 4 regular parent volunteers, ran the club for an hour one lunchtime a week and did a few jobs extra each week between us, mainly watering when it was very hot back in April.

We grew <<takes deep breath>>

Onions
Broad beans
Runner beans
Beetroot
French beans
Radishes
Rocket
Lettuces
Squashes
Pumpkins
Potatoes
Cucumbers
Courgettes
Tomatoes - never again, completely wrong season and lost to blight
French marigolds
Sweet peas
Nasturtiums

We sold the produce to the parents either after school or at other fundraising events.

I would also recommend The Playground Potting Shed, it is a diary of a primary school gardening club with week by week suggestions for what to grow each term. If I had to pick a few of the above to start with it would be radishes, rocket, beetroot, broad beans, onions. We found it hard to sell the potatoes and runner beans as so many people grow their own anyway. We had our first crop of radishes within a month thanks to the warm spring.

I would also keep your own diary, very useful for next year. We got tools from Sainsburys Active Kids vouchers, a shed, compost bin, water butt and the raised beds from PTA fund, and seeds. pots etc from Freecycle and parent donations. We spent quite a lot on compost for containers but shouldn't need to again next year.

CommonOrGarden Tue 18-Oct-11 20:57:04

What fabulous ideas, thank you all so much. I'm going to have to take some time reading them properly.

Funds are so tight at the moment that I think we'll have to rely on donation, Freecycle and vouchers to get things moving. There is a local garden centre that does a lot of community work so they might be able to give us some help and advice too. While our PTA is good, the vast concrete playground is the current focus of funding! The school is in a very deprived area and donations from parents themselves are virtually non existent at the moment.

I'm CRB'd already as I'm a reading volunteer so I could go in to help but really feel as though I want a teacher to work with. I taught before going temporarily SAHM so I'm comfortable writing up what is being done to make it relevant to the curriculum but would like a bit of teacher representation too.

So, it looks as though the online research will be Freecycle, Chelsea and the Edible Schoolyard and the books'll be 'The Playground Potting Shed' and 'The Pull of the Earth'. I love the idea of the children selling what they've grown and the use of the space for storytelling.

Sue, thank you for the offer of help (pop in if you're visiting the Olympics!) and congratulations to Whoknows and TheHappyCamper for their awards!

It seems as though this would be a good time of year to start thinking about it. Then once the plans are made it'll be planting time in the Spring!!!

And thanks again all.

There are a few sponsorship schemes and things out there, we left it all a bit late, have a look on the RHS website. I'll try and dig out some of the paperwork we were given last year.

SuePurblybiltFromBitsofCorpses Tue 18-Oct-11 21:16:20

There is also Lottery funding (something to do with green spaces iirc) if you jump through enough hoops and try local charities and trusts for practical and financial help.

CommonOrGarden Tue 18-Oct-11 21:17:34

RHS site was excellent, thank you. It seems that there is another local school that is on the benchmark scheme. My neighbour is a parent governor there so I'll pick her brains like a zombie on Halloween. grin

CommonOrGarden Tue 18-Oct-11 21:19:23

I'll try the charity route too, thank you Sue - the school's proportion of FSM is so high that I'm sure it'll tick lots of boxes for their funding too.

midnightexpress Wed 19-Oct-11 08:42:46

I would definitely suggest getting a helper, whether it's another parent or a teacher. I was doing bulb planting in pots last week (we're going to sell them at our Xmas fair to raise funds for the club, should any of them survive that long...) - I had about 20 children and it was chaos! Fun, but chaos. You might assume that they know which way up a bub goes, but you would be wrong. Our school has a good relationship between the older ones and the wee ones, so I'm hoping to partner them up as we go along to work together.
We've signed up for this to get free potato growing kit and this also looks really interesting if you have the space for fruit trees.

midnightexpress Wed 19-Oct-11 08:44:54

I also think school gardening could be a fantastic school/community project - there are so many retired people out there who I'm sure would love to help if you can sort out disclosures. It might be worth approaching a local church, for example, to see if you can get some volunteers.

Yes we reckon you need max of 5 children per adult helper and even that is a bit many for KS1. They either get through all the jobs you had planned far quicker than you thought they would or decide they want to do something different and start chatting and don't get anything done, either way you need to be on your toes.

I would highly recommend getting a water butt and a load of little watering cans, there were many occasions when some had finished their jobs sooner than the others and needed something to do, or more children turned up than we were expecting, but give them a little can and they will water away quite happily even if isn't really needed. We had a hose for backup but didn't dare let them take control of it too much in case they soaked each other.

midnightexpress Wed 19-Oct-11 09:40:02

<mind boggles at the thought of gardening club children let loose with hose>

CommonOrGarden Wed 19-Oct-11 15:09:37

More wonderful ideas. Thank you.

I think there are several charities that operate in this area to help the establishment and maintenance of water butts/composters etc and I think (once I have the school's blessing) I'll get in touch with the local garden centre to see what they could offer, if anything.

The idea of using the knowledge of the local elders is a lovely one. Off to get the DSs now so hopefully I'll be able to collar someone today!

Thanks again.

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