You can grow things that can be harvested before the summer holidays - if you start early enough and with the right varieties

You can grow things that can be harvested before the summer holidays – if you start early enough and with the right varieties

You’ve got a functioning School Garden and it’s going well. How do you keep it that way? Today’s post looks at top tips for managing and maintaining your School Garden.

Managing the children

  • Model behaviour in the garden – children need to be encouraged to be calm, watchful, focused, attentive and interested. Encourage reflective learning as children undertake informal activities in the garden – eg picking flowers for the school reception.
  • Mentoring – encourage children to act as mentors to younger, less experienced colleagues and perhaps have others with key responsibilities in the garden, e.g. for tool issue, checking and gathering. This will encourage learning – and reduce the work required of the Garden Coordinator!
  • Divide whole classes into smaller groups to allow for more in depth learning on more complex tasks and to avoid children tripping over each other in particular parts of the garden
Jobs like building 'bug hotels' and laying paths are best left to 'Garden Gang' days when you can get a good level of adult support for a few hours

Jobs like building ‘bug hotels’ and laying paths are best left to ‘Garden Gang’ days when you can get a good level of adult support for a few hours

Managing the garden

  • Be prepared – set aside time for planning gardening sessions. Use a robust book in which to plan and record lessons and reflect on what happened.
  • Make sure children take notes and regularly write up what they have been doing and learning in the garden, and encourage them to take ownership of it by contributing to its planning and management
  • ‘Garden gangs’ – schedule longer sessions of a few hours when parents and other volunteers as well as children can come in and do more substantial tasks in the garden – path or pergola building, greenhouse construction etc.
  • Look out for bargains or second hand tools and equipment – a local ‘freecycle” website or similar could be worth a look.
Taking notes

Taking notes and helping to plan for next year…

Maintenance

  • Make ‘rainmakers’ out of yoghurt or juice bottles – cut off the necks and make holes in the bottom. These can be filled from larger buckets of water around the garden and then used to mimic the gentle effect of rain. This avoids the dangers of over watering the plants (and the children!)  if watering cans or hoses are used. As plants mature you can use other, larger plastic bottles (with the bottoms removed and the necks plunged into the ground alongside the plant) – these can be filled with water (from watering cans) to get water to the plant’s roots.
  • Keep clean – have a suitable boot scraper/brush and mat outside the school, to avoid bringing mud into the building and havea suitable place to store boots (maybe on a trolley).
  • Plan for summer –  either grow things that can be harvested before the holidays (and replace these with a mulch or grow a ‘green manure’ to both cover and feed the soil); arrange special summer holiday activities which can also enable basic garden maintenance to be done, or arrange a schedule of parents and others who can come in over the holidays and water, weed etc. Perhaps get people committed to this at an end of term event or meeting. And you could use a combination of all three approaches!
  • Maintain a record of parent/ community skills and assets (diggers, power equipment, trailers etc.) which can contribute to the garden at different times.
Have somewhere children can wipe their feet off and store boots

Have somewhere children can wipe their feet off and store boots

Generating support

  • Give presentations at parent events and especially those for reception children, whose parents might be new to the school.
  • Ask for donations – unused tools or materials, or funding for specific items like a wheelbarrow.
  • Celebrate – have a spring garden party or other events during the year to celebrate your achievements and generate further support.

    Ask for unused tools and equipment for the School

    Ask for unused tools and equipment for the School

The final post in this series will look at ways of involving children in planting and nurturing the School Garden and what to do at harvest time, including cooking in the garden.

Other posts in the series:

Growing Children 5: Top tips for School Garden activities

Growing Children 4: AAA rated School Garden in Seven Steps

Growing Children 3: Seven tips for creating your dream School Garden

Growing Children 2: Seven Design tips for your School Garden

Growing Children 1: School Garden start up in Seven Steps

School Gardening – reconnecting children and Nature

Source & Further information:

How to grow a School Garden’ – Arden Bucklin-Spooner and Rachel Kathleen Pringle, Timber Press Books

School Gardening Club- ideas

Budding Gardeners- lots of advice and info

Garden planner tool

Planning your school garden

Food & Agriculture Organisation School Garden Planner

California School Garden Network Guide to School Gardening

School Gardening Wizard

School garden fundraising

Garden Organic support for schools

Old School Gardener

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