Tag Archive: nursery


Trees, trees, trees…

WP_20150609_13_44_59_ProI had an interesting trip to a Tree Nursery on Tuesday.

Barcham Trees, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, grow trees on an ‘industrial’ scale. They also have in depth knowledge about development and after care. I was impressed with the scale of trees on offer, and which- because they are container grown- can be big enough to provide instant impact in landscape and garden design schemes.

Big trees require big carriers...

Big trees require big carriers…

I was attending a seminar on ‘Garden Design as Landscape Painting’ (I’ll do a further report on this shortly), and as part of the day we had an informative tour of the nursery with a lively guide, Ellen.

The day was cool, with a brisk north-easterly wind sweeping across this massive site, but we made good progress and were told lots of interesting stuff about the different varieties of tree on offer, saw some fascinating examples of pleaching and surveyed some 120,000 trees (we didn’t get to see a further 100,000 younger examples in the fields down the road).

The visit reminded me of my series of articles on Garden Trees, making use of Barcham’s very useful catalogue and online resources- I must get on with this ‘A-Z’ which has a way to go before It’s finished. So, expect ‘N is for…’ in a week or two…

Further information: Barcham Trees Website

Old School Gardener

 

IMG_8734On Tuesday I attended the latest meeting of the national Landscapes for Early Childhood Network, at the Earlham Early Years Centre in Norwich. The Network, which I joined last year, brings together  professionals working with young children and those concerned with designing and creating play and other landscapes for them. It provides a powerful creative forum for discussion of ideas and approaches to early years spaces and activities and also gives a wonderful opportunity to visit excellent examples of these landscapes, sometimes in schools or nurseries, sometimes in public open spaces.

I was pleased to speak at this week’s meeting on the topic of ‘learning for sustainability’ (or as I termed it ‘Nurturing Nurture’) – how we encourage children (and adults for that matter), to understand the way the world works, how mankind’s activities affect this and what can be done to live more sustainably. I talked about the word ‘sustainability’ and how this has become rather diluted and misused in modern language, but is really about maintaining an ecological balance in the world where non renewable natural resources are used (and reused) carefully, if at all.

I featured some of my own work in this field, especially working with youngsters in school gardening activities as well as creating play landscapes and other spaces which inspire younger children to develop their curiosity, imagination and understanding of the natural world. I focused in particular on the importance of engaging children in food growing as a way of contributing towards food production and security.

Presentations were also given by other network members on their work, but the main event was to see and hear about the very special ‘garden’  at the Earlham EYC. Felicity Thomas, the original head teacher and her colleagues gave us a wonderful guided tour of the garden (it was great seeing the children busy in it as we went around), and told us about why and how it had been developed. The brief for the original design (which has since evolved over the last ten years), is worth sharing, so I repeat it below along with a slide show of pictures I took (which for security reasons do not include the children).  I hope you enjoy them.

‘To create a unique environment for children and others using the Centre which demonstrates sustainable principles in practice, where children can:-

  • access a varied topography in scale, contour and texture, incorporating dramatic changes in level, big mounds, large areas of sand in which to prospect.

  • plant, grow, harvest and cook food.

  • hide and not be seen, find and create places for refuge and reflection; read, share stories and use their imagination.

  • go on expeditions and journeys; develop an understanding of positional words by having places to be in, under, behind, below and above.

  • experience and understand the elements; interact with moving water, solar power and wind, be protected from the sun.

  • explore their senses through plants, materials and elements which provide a myriad of colour, shape, sound, texture and smell.

  • independently access equipment and loose materials.

  • learn to care and take responsibility for themselves, each other and the environment.

  • be happy, be fulfilled.’

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Old School Gardener

child with wheellbarrowAcross the developed world there is concern about a growing ‘disconnect’ between children and the natural world around them – increased time spent indoors, less time out playing – the scenario is well reported. School gardening projects are an important way to reconnect children with nature.

School gardening, like ‘growing your own’ seems to be on the increase in the UK as we look for ways of bridging the ‘ecological disconnect’, saving money, reducing ‘food miles’, improving food quality and strengthening local economies. There’s powerful evidence that school gardening is one, convenient and effective way of ‘learning outside the classroom’. A way of helping to engage children with the natural world and to deal effectively with some other important issues at the same time by:

  • raising academic achievement
  • promoting healthy eating
  • instilling a sense of responsibility for the world around us
  • encouraging social and community development and a ‘sense of place’
  • providing a place for unstructured, imaginative play

In Norfolk, England, the voluntary group of Mastergardeners is playing its part in supporting around 20 schools and many others are waiting to connect with a suitably trained volunteer in their area to develop new school gardening initiatives.

I’ve been helping a primary school to develop its school garden, which now has several raised planting beds (one for each class) and a recently completed wildlife pond with dipping platform and boggy planting areas. I tried to engage the children in growing food with a short session about the food they like to eat and where it comes from, why growing our own is important and the different types of fruit and veg we could grow. We ended up with each child making their own paper pot and sowing a broad bean seed – these were later transferred by the children to the school garden and formed a wonderful source of ‘free sweets’ during the summer!

making paper pots - an easy way to get children involved in 'growing their own'

Making paper pots – an easy way to get children involved in ‘growing their own’

The whole community– governors, staff, parents, children, local businesses together with ‘shopping voucher’ and grant schemes have played their part in creating this valuable resource. The new gardening year is about to kick off with a ‘Garden Gang’ (parents, children, staff and friends of the school) session on Saturday to get the beds ready, complete the greenhouse (made out of canes and plastic bottles) and plant some new apple trees.

Other Mastergardeners are playing their parts around the County. This includes several new and more established gardens at secondary and primary schools and a novel ‘inter – generational’ project in Norwich, where some spare ground behind a library has been turned into a food growing plot by children from a local school, library staff and older people from a sheltered housing scheme overlooking the site.

One secondary school gardening coordinator recently wanted to introduce children to the ideas of ‘veg families‘ and crop rotation. She printed out 56 small veg pictures and separate names – the first task was for the students to ID the veg. Then they looked at veg families (with the students placing  the different vegetables into different groups ) –  then they used their computers to create their own set of ‘Veg family prints’. Finally, they looked at crop rotation and by the end of the session they had come up with a basic 4 bed rotation over 4 years, along with a write-up explaining about why we rotate crops yearly.

school gardening a century ago- birth of the 'kindergarten'

School gardening a century ago- birth of the ‘kindergarten’

School gardening has been around a long time – originally developing as part of the formal school curriculum at a time when many more households grew their own food. There were war – time efforts to boost food production at schools and the ‘Kindergarten’ movement saw playing and being creative in an outdoor setting as the heart of nursery education.

school gardening in wartime- US style

School gardening in war time- US style

Recently in the UK the Food Growing in Schools Taskforce, led by Garden Organic was established as a response to increasing concerns about the health and well-being of children and young people, and a confidence that food growing in schools is a successful way of dealing with these concerns, delivering many benefits. The Taskforce is made up of people representing a diverse set of interests, but all with a strong belief that food growing in schools is an important activity. You can read their findings here.

Getting the whole community involved in the school garden

Getting the whole community involved in the school garden

Over the coming weeks I plan to post a series of articles about how to go about setting up and developing a school garden, so if you have any experiences or ideas to share I’d love to hear from you!

Old School Gardener

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