little green fingers

I know – it’s not exactly a classy headline, but at least it got your attention – and that’s good because school gardening clubs can do with as much support as possible.

On a freebie search, your first port of call should probably be the RHS – Campaign for School Gardening. It costs nothing to sign up and you get a free starter kit including seeds, soil testing kit, plant labels and posters. You also get excellent support on an ongoing basis including benchmarking, lesson plans and access to regional advisors

There are also plenty of other schemes out there that will give you free plants, seeds and even tools. Here are some it’s worth taking a look at:

  • Woodland Trust – free native trees or hedgerow plants for schools
  • Tree Appeal – free native trees for school
  • UK Oak Doors – free trees for school, colleges and universities
  • Potato Council – free potato growing kit for schools
  • Grow Wild – free wildflower seed kits
  • The Conservation Foundation – offers yews to plant and refurbished tools (you can apply if in Cornwall, Devon, Edinburgh, Lincolnshire, London and Oxfordshire)

Plus, although not free, some companies offer discount to school buying seeds or school gardening equipment:

  • Harrod Horticultural – up to 15% discount for schools on
  • Victoriana Nursery – 20% discount on seeds and 10% on equipment for schools

If anyone knows of any other schemes or offers, do let me know in the comments below.

Curriculum

Additional Resources for Lesson Plans

These are additional sites containing school garden curricula. Unless otherwise noted, they are not necessarily aligned directly to the Georgia Performance Standards.

  • A Garden of Words / Un jardí­n de palabras (pdf)
    A bilingual garden dictionary for elementary schools and after-school gardening programs, from UC Davis.
  • Agriculture in the Classroom National Resource Directory
    Agriculture in the Classroom is a national program of the Farm Bureau, with activities in Georgia. These lesson plans are not directly designed for Georgia Performance Standards but align with the federal science standards and are closely linked to the GPS.
  • California School Garden Network’s Curriculum
  • Cornell University Garden Activities
    Lessons and projects that can take advantage of school gardens; most are aligned to federal science standards.
  • Curriculum & Activity Guides
    Garden-based curricular resources from LifeLab.
  • Environmental Education in Georgia
    Includes a great deal of curricula for K-12, much of which can be tied to school gardens, and all of which is tied to the Georgia Performance Standards. Most of these lessons are also listed on the Georgia Department of Education website.
  • Garden Earth Naturalist Club
    This site has 8 modules from the State Botanical Garden, Georgia 4-H, and the Georgia Museum of Natural History. These activities are directly linked to Georgia Performance Standards for grades K-5.
  • Georgia Agricultural Education
    Lesson plans and powerpoints related to horticulture, insects, and other garden-related subjects.
  • Georgia Organics’ Sample Farm to School Lesson Plans
  • Got Dirt? – Teaching Tools
    Resources and activities from the Got Dirt? school garden program in Wisconsin.
  • Growing Minds: Farm to School’s Lesson Plans
    These K-2 lesson plans are linked to North Carolina standards but may be adaptable to Georgia Performance Standards.
  • Junior Master Gardener Curricula
    This site has national curricula that can be used by Junior Master Gardeners.
  • School Garden Potpourri of Ideas
    Fun garden-themed activities for students from Texas A&M.
  • The Classroom Victory Garden Project
  • University of Florida Curriculum Guides
    A list of curriculum resources collected by the University of Florida.
  • Where Your Food Comes From
  • Beginning Home Gardening Guide

Team Nutrition Garden Resources

Team Nutrition has several resources to connect nutrition education to school and child care gardens, local farms, and farmers markets. We also offer evidenced-based curricula that educators can use to integrate garden-based nutrition education lessons into core educational subjects, such as Math, English Language Arts, and Science. From small pots and container gardens to full garden plots, we have materials that can fit your needs and resources. Schools, summer sites, and child care (centers, homes and sponsors) that participate in USDA’s child nutrition programs may request free printed copies of many of these materials.

Use these resources to teach children where their foods come from and get them excited about eating more fruits and vegetables. Remember, healthy habits take root when kids are young! Materials available in print are on the resource order form.

Lessons and Materials

  • Grow It, Try It, Like It! Fun with Fruits and Vegetables at Family Child Care Provide garden-based nutrition education for children ages 3 through 5 years old in family child care settings.
  • Grow It, Try It, Like It! Nutrition Education Kit Featuring MyPlate Introduce preschool children to fruits and vegetables with fun activities at your child care center or child care home.
  • The Great Garden Detective Adventure
    Engage in a series of investigations and fun experiences to discover what fruits and vegetables are sweetest, crunchiest, and juiciest. Use this eleven-lesson curriculum for 3rd and 4th grades. Only available online.
  • Dig In! Standards-Based Nutrition Education from the Ground Up
    Explore a world of possibilities in the garden and on your plate using ten inquiry-based lessons that engage 5th and 6th graders in growing, harvesting, tasting, and learning about fruits and vegetables.
  • Plant It, Grow It, Eat It!; Healthy Habits Take Root
    Get tips from the Team Nutrition Popular Events Idea Booklet on how to start a school garden. School gardens can help increase students’ awareness of where foods come from and increase their preferences for fruits and vegetables.

Posters

  • Dig In! Posters
    Order these six posters to display in your classroom, the school cafeteria, and throughout the school to motivate students to choose more fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks

Webinar

Celebrate National Farm to School Month in Early Care and Education Settings: Farm to CACFP

Activities

Planting the Seeds for Healthier Eating Plant It, Grow It, Eat It!; Healthy Habits Take Root Help young children learn about sweet
Potatoes & how they grow

Track plant growth

Where do Cantaloupe come from?
Planting Activities

No garden? Container growing activities

Fuel up with Veggies…Zoom to the Finish! A-Maze-ing Light Time for Strawberries

Share your garden activities with us on Twitter @TeamNutrition or by emailing us at [email protected]

Born in Germany, Monty Don, 62, was raised in Hampshire and educated at Cambridge University. He ran a costume jewellery business before becoming the gardening expert on This Morning in 1989. In 2003, he was made the main presenter on BBC’s Gardeners’ World and since 2011, the show has been broadcast from his garden, Longmeadow, in Herefordshire. He has written more than 20 gardening books and discusses the latest, Paradise Gardens, at the Hay festival on 2 June. He is married with three children.

What is your earliest memory?
Being dried by my mother after a bath. I put my head on her shoulder and smelled bonfire smoke in her hair and patted her back. It is the only physical affection I remember.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Vanity and an absurd competitiveness. Not to mention having to control everything.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
This still makes my toes curl. A banker whose garden I had helped with rang to arrange a visit. As the conversation finished, I meant to give my love to his wife but it came out as a rather high-pitched: “Love you!”

Aside from a property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
A tractor, 12 years ago. Bright yellow and still brilliant.

What makes you unhappy?
Depression. Uncertainty. Crowds. Parties. Lack of sunlight.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
The absence of mechanical noise in the countryside (with my lawnmowers, I am aware how hypocritical that is).

What is your favourite smell?
The nape of my wife Sarah’s neck.

What is your favourite word?
Tilth. Followed closely by home.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Watching box sets of Family Guy with dogs on my lap while eating a junk chocolate pudding and drinking grappa.

What do you owe your parents?
I had a difficult relationship with my parents, who died young, but they instilled self-discipline and a sense of honour and loyalty and accountability. I’m grateful for that.

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
My children. I was away an awful lot when they were little and not very good at being a father when I was around. I could have done better.

What is the worst job you’ve done?
I once had to dig a fire escape from a basement in a health club. It took two weeks.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
At the time, losing our business, home and all our possessions in 1991 after the failure of our jewellery company. But if that had not happened then other good things would not have happened, either.

What is the closest you’ve come to death?
Despite a stroke, cancer as a child and various dramas with chainsaws and tractors, the closest was probably when I choked on a lamb chop 25 years ago. Sarah performed the Heimlich manoeuvre and the lamb shot out.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Getting my 21-year-old knees back.

Tell us a secret
Gardening is easy. Stick it in the ground the right way up and most plants will grow perfectly well.

Growing to achieve at school

Green-fingered skills are popping up in design and technology, science and geography – so why not turn a hobby into a better school report? Children of all ages will love to see the tangible results of their gardening efforts / hands-on science projects.

To understand what children are taught about plants in primary school read our parents’ guide.

Reception: Root veg volcanoes

Make your own country! Fill a seed tray with a 2.5cm layer of compost, then let the kids shape the landscape. Slice the tops off carrots, swede, turnips or parsnips and plant them. Decorate ‘volcano country’ with stones or shells. Place on a windowsill and keep damp – the tops will soon sprout green ‘lava’.

Year 1: Ready, steady, sprout!

Curriculum focus: Identifying plants’ basic structures.

The Suttons Fun to Grow range has shoots ready to eat in a week and the seeds can be planted on a windowsill (available online or from garden centres). Check twice daily with a magnifying glass. After germination, list the structures – seed case, roots, stem, leaves – then eat them! before you start, or help your child draw their own.

Year 2: Meadow flower monster

Curriculum focus: Growing plants’ need for water, light and a suitable temperature.

A project for school, the garden, even a large container. Buy a hardy meadow seed mixture (Thompson & Morgan’s is £3.69 for 1g and covers approximately 1m2). In March, on a weed-free sunny site, rake the soil, then water thoroughly. Mark out the outline with sand. Thinly sow the seed inside, then rake in. After germination, it needs to be watered, tended and thinned out. The first varieties should bloom by June. Others will flower next spring through to autumn, creating an ongoing project and a wildlife haven.

Year 3: Magic carnations

Curriculum focus: Plant structure – transportation of water.

An old florists’ trick which helps children understand transpiration (the process by which water and minerals are taken in through a plant’s root and transported through the stem to the other parts of the plant In order for it to grow). Slice 2cm diagonally from a white carnation stem. Place in a vase of water, which has had 10-20 drops of food colouring added. Leave 12-24 hours. As water travels up the stem, the flower petals change colour (red and blue work fastest).

Year 4: Habitat study

Curriculum focus: Changing environment

This is best started around February half-term in school, the garden, or a park. Decide on a manageable area and do a wildlife hunt, listing what you find, where and when. Think about how the environment could be improved – planting for insects, bird feeders, bug boxes, log stacks to provide overwintering sites. Do this monthly and see if biodiversity changes. Note negative effects, too – litter, pollution, cats!

Year 5: Multiply plants with cuttings

Curriculum focus: Plant reproduction

Show your child how to multiply plants by growing pelargoniums (geraniums) from cuttings. Cut a 5cm long shoot and pinch off the leaves, except for the top two. Plant the shot in damp compost, 1.5cm deep, near the edge of a 13cm clay pot (five or six will fit in the pot). Place in good light indoors. When roots poke out of the bottom, pot up individually. Abracadabra – six plants from one!

Year 6: Put the world in order

Curriculum focus: Classification

Head to a local park, or use your garden. Identify 1m2 patch of land. With a magnifying glass, look for plants and insects and list the ones you find. Can you classify them according to observable characteristics, similarities and differences?

Family-friendly gardening ideas to try

For more family-friendly gardening ideas (mini wildlife ponds, cress heads and more) and learning resources, including details of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Campaign for School Gardening, go to the RHS Children website.

The National Children’s Gardening Week website has loads of garden projects for kids, including writing your name in salad, growing garden chairs, making a robot composter and lots more!

Food Growing Schools: London promotes food growing in London schools and offers a wealth of free resources for teachers (and parents) who are gardening with children.

Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play and Enjoy your garden (£16.99, Quarry) is a brilliant handbook for green-fingered kids. Step-by-step garden projects include making a rain gauge, planting a butterfly garden and a mini pizza garden, building a pollinator palace and constructing a clay pot fountain.

How to Start a School Garden Project for Your Students

Community gardens are a great way to get children interested in gardening. However, highly densified regions may not have one in place near any given child’s residence. In such urban areas, it is becoming more common for schools to take on gardening projects for the benefit of their students. A school garden can teach kids about responsibility, teamwork, and immerse them in the concepts of organic gardening and sustainable communities. If you are a parent, teacher, or school administrator and have contemplated a gardening project for the grounds of your educational institution the following five tips on how to start a school garden project can help you get started.

5 Tips to Start a School Garden Project

1. Organize a School Garden Committee

Getting such a project off the ground requires a team. Thankfully, you have a group of students, teachers, administrators, staff, and parents available to you. Identify the green-thumbs and interested parties in the lot and form an official committee. Consider individual resources and skill-sets so that you’ve got your bases covered for all aspects of the project, from fund raising to fence building and seed planting to local public relations. This committee will be instrumental in gaining school board approval and garnering community participation.

Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation sponsored the Sutherland Secondary Schoolyard Market Garden in North Vancouver, BC. Here’s Cynthia Bunbury, Sutherland Secondary School teacher with Emily Jubenvill, Program Manager Edible Garden Project (EGP). Cynthia worked with the staff at the EGP to develop an agreement with the North Vancouver School District.

2. Pick the Right Spot on School Grounds

Once the committee is in place it is time to pick a plot of land on school grounds suitable for the garden. For starters, you will want to take your climate into consideration, noting how much exposure to sunlight the garden will need – aim for full sun in an under utilized yet highly visible area of the school grounds. Pick seeds for fruits and vegetables that respond well to community-type gardens in moderate climates and ensure adequate access to water and drainage systems and tool storage. In addition, keep in mind that this garden is going up on school grounds, which means that it will need to be established in an area separate from where students partake in outdoor activities and sports. It won’t matter now well one tends to a school garden if softballs and soccer balls land on its plot on a daily basis. Once you have develop a site plan, begin the application process to your school district for project approval. Often school districts have a policy regarding school gardens that will guide you through the steps required to get your project approved.

The Sutherland Secondary Schoolyard Market Garden was constructed in front of the school. Photo courtesy of Edible Garden Project.

3. Secure Funding and Sponsorship

With the plot of land decided the vision of your school gardening project becomes more clear. At this point you can look at securing modest funding for the project, when the school’s internal budget does not have room for it. While it doesn’t cost much to get one running, why not make it the best that it can be? Simply setting up a Facebook profile or page on the school’s website that gives the local community and organizations the opportunity to donate to the effort can make a big difference. Otherwise traditional methods such as school bake sales can do the same. That being said, the necessity of funds can be negated by securing sponsorship from local businesses that can contribute materials to the endeavor. For example, your local home and gardening center could provide your school with the necessary soil and seeds needed to get started, receiving recognition as a sponsor in exchange.

The Foundation presented a $5,000 cheque to the North Shore Neighbourhood House in support of the Sutherland Schoolyard Market Garden. (left to right): Lisa Hubbard, Executive Director, North Shore Neighbourhood House; Dennis Charland, Executive Director, Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation; Regina Nebrida, Advisor, Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation; Emily Jubenvill, Program Manager, Edible Garden Project; Cynthia Bunbury, Sutherland Secondary teacher.

4. Plant Short and Long Term Harvest Crops

A school garden project should consider integrating a mix of produce that will “bear fruit” within the school year and those that will not be harvested for quite some time. This is useful not only for the diversity of the overall yield, but it encourages patience and long term investment from all parties involved, in particular that of the students. It’s a great experience for students to plant seeds in the early spring and harvest them before they leave for summer break, and such a thing is necessary to keep the interest of children at K to Grade 3 levels. However, students become even more involved and take on a stronger nurturing role when other items in the garden require long term care. Their role as budding organic gardeners becomes deeper rooted when they return through their summer breaks and the subsequent school year/s to help tend to the garden. Depending upon your climate, produce such as blueberries, avocados, and lemon trees make for great long haul school garden additions that can span relative generations of students.

5. Tie it Into Academics to Enhance Support

It should be made evident (for invested parties) that the knowledge and skills developed by students in a well thought-out school garden are directly related to the academics of their institution. Curriculum sciences of biology and chemistry are at play, as is math, social studies, and the arts. Your committee can campaign for the school’s governing bodies to apply class credit to some of the time spent tending to the garden. There is nary a better way to teach students than actual hands-on experience delivered in a manner that is near and dear to their hearts.

Students have participated in building raised beds, planting a pollinator garden and are contributing to the design of an outdoor classroom. The Foundation’s community partner, EGP is training teachers on how to use the space, doing presentations in classrooms and facilitating class sessions out in the garden.

Learn more about about the Plant A Seed & See What Grows Foundation and our own school and community gardens programs to see if we can help you get one started in your locale, or if you are interested in getting involved with one of the foundation’s future efforts.

Please take our pledge and be a Friend of the Foundation.

16. The Secret Garden school growing project

Age: four years

Location: Christ Church CE School, Battersea, London

Why it started

“Many of the children that come to our school live in small one or two bedroom flats and don’t have access to a garden of their own, or to fresh vegetables,” said headteacher Colette Morris. The school leased some overgrown land (“When the Mayor came down to cut the ribbon and hand it over to us the children couldn’t even get in!”) in 2010, and now give vegetables away to people who help run the garden. “For everyone else, we find out how much the local Asda charges for the same produce and we sell it a little bit cheaper. We sell a lot of our spinach, potatoes and beetroot,” said Morris.

How many people involved?

There are around 15 members in the school’s garden club but as the garden has been built into the curriculum, every pupil benefits from it. “The younger children are trained in the school garden and when they are old enough they move up to the bigger garden,” explained Morris. “The garden is more than just a learning resource; its integrated into everything we do here and it works so well with all types of children across a broad spectrum of abilities. It’s a really positive thing for children with behavioural issues to be doing.”

What happens?

The garden is open to anyone who wants to join in and is something people can dip in and out of as there is always something that needs doing. There are children and adult days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as the gardeners’ club for students. Lessons also make frequent use of the garden.

“When we planted the raspberry plants, the children had to work out the distances they would need to leave to let the plants grow apart from each other and from the bed wall. Then they had to think about when the pea shoot plants would come up to ensure everything had enough space. I’m happy to say they clearly did a great job because everything in that bed is growing away quite happily,” said Morris. “When a teacher says, ‘Right class, now it’s garden time,’ there is a huge resounding ‘YES!’”

Does the group get funding?

Morris: “We had a great deal of help early on through Elspeth Thompson from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) as I cheekily applied for their partner schools scheme. We belong to Capital Growth who have given us great advice on what to do next, and Thrive also gave us lots of herbs to get our herb garden going and we received a grant for tools.”

What would they like to do next?

The school would like to install a small-scale water feature to attract birds, bugs and all sort of other wildlife to keep the garden thriving. The local Whole Foods store at Clapham Junction is also getting on board to teach the children how to make chutneys and preserves out of some of the harvested goods. The chutneys will be available to buy in their shop which Morris says is “really encouraging”.

“There are so many things I’d like to do with this project,” she says. “We would really like to get more schools involved so we can have our students visit other school gardens and vice versa. Now we are harvesting so much I can see a point coming where we have more veg than we know what to do with, so getting in touch with some food and cooking organisations is something I can see on the horizon.”

What can you do to help?

“Gardens are the kinds of places where there is always work to be done,” said Morris. “If people wanted to get involved then coming to help with some more of the pruning and general labouring work would be such a help; it would leave more time for us to focus on jobs that are genuinely beneficial academically to the children. Having said this, if anyone is interested in learning about a specific aspect of horticulture we can do our best to put you onto something that will help you achieve that!”

Can I set something like this up in my area?

Growveg.com gives you a step-by-step guide on how to set up a school garden; from what vegetables are easy to grow, to where to look for funding. The Growing Schools Garden website has information for creating a garden that also can be used as an outdoor classroom, and Garden Organic’s Education Programme also has a vast amount of resources for schools, including growing cards, seed packs and a series of ‘how to’ leaflets.

Also look out for campaigns or initiatives from government departments, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector such as Morrisons’ Let’s Grow campaign; they may be able to give you funding or support for your school garden.

The RHS’s campaign for school gardening has plenty of resources about gardening and other schools involved with the campaign. You can register your own project on their site and enter competitions.

If you’re thinking of setting up a growing project in London, you can join Capital Growth to access a range of free support and benefits; including discounted training and help with finding volunteers.

You can also take a look at other schools who are already gardening and growing on their grounds for additional inspiration. Ysgol Esgob Morgan in Denbighshire has a thriving school garden and even some resident chickens; St Andrew’s CE Primary School in Shropshire has a prize-winning walled garden project; and Todmorden High School in Yorkshire are involved in the ambitious Incredible Edible Aqua Garden.

The projects in this series:

1. The community supported farm

2. The bike repair co-operative

3. The community garden centre

4. The community forest

5. The meat-rearing collective

6. The owl conservation group

7. The neighbourhood community scheme

8. The local beer-growing group

9. The Solar Schools project

10. The clothes swap project

11. The beekeeping group

12. The repair cafe

13. The ecotherapy garden

14. The community allotment

15. The nature reserve

16. The school growing project

17. The traffic reduction project

This article is part of the Live Better Community Project month. In September, we are showcasing 17 community projects from around the UK. We are asking you to vote for your favourite project. The project with the most votes will be awarded £1,000 of funding, and two runners-up will each receive funding of £500. One voter chosen at random will receive £150 worth of gift vouchers for Nigel’s Eco Store. Terms and conditions here.

With thanks to: 10:10; FOE; Project Dirt; Neighbourly; UK Community Foundations; Groundwork; Business in the Community; Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens; the Prince’s Trust; Garden Organic; the Royal Horticultural Society; the RSPB; Keep Wales Tidy; The Wildlife Trusts; and Mind.

Interested in finding out more about how you can live better? Take a look at this month’s Live Better challenge here.

The Live Better Challenge is funded by Unilever; its focus is sustainable living. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.

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