Everyone is realising the benefits of growing your own fruit and veg, and teaching these skills to the next generation.
Schools are particularly keen to offer a gardening club to their pupils so, if you're wondering if you can or should, read on to discover what I've learned.
I had thought for ages about setting up a club, but once it was all systems go, it was so simple I wish I'd done it earlier. Here are some things that helped me and some which were obvious but which had never occurred to me.
- Think carefully about the time you are going to hold the club. After school means you'll have longer and there will be no other distractions but during lunchtime ensures there will be lots of staff around.
- Pencils: you will need loads. They always get lost. Tesco currently sell 40 for a £1. I keep mine in a jam jar, which sits in a box in our shared shed.
- This year I'm going to have a small blackboard propped up with the names of the seeds we are planting. A lot of the children are very young and don't know how to spell many of the veggies. And it will be one fewer thing 12 children are asking me all at the same time. Now, if I can work out how to minimise the "what can I do now" questions...
- Gloves: if the school can stretch to it, it's always handy to have some spares. I think they are about 90p from Asda. However, the children will always forget them so we now keep ours in a beach bucket in the shed.
- Some children bought their own mini tools and some have been donated. These are a godsend and are kept in another beach bucket like the gloves above. If there's one thing to buy for your club I'd choose this.
- The site you pick is obviously really important but usually in a school there isn't a whole lot of choice. Ours isn't the most ideal but it's better than nothing. This year I'm going to use hanging baskets for cherry tomatoes and strawberries and perhaps more tubs. We're growing our potatoes in sacks too.
- Not many schools have the room or funds for a greenhouse or polytunnel. If not a four-tier grow-house has a really small footprint and can usually be stored somewhere sunny and out of the way. But not too out of the way so that the seedlings never get watered.
- Watering. Ah, yes. Hmm. Trying to get the children to remember to water what's planted in the beds is extremely tricky. Luckily last year it was wet and not too much of a problem. I have tried all sorts – a note in their pocket with their day written on it, a wipe clean board on the cloakroom door at their height – none of it works. This year I have a feeling it's going to be hot. I can see myself hauling watering cans back and forth every day...
- Children are very keen on putting their name on everything they plant. I try to avoid this unless it's something they will eventually take home (when I will plant a few extras and switch labels in cases of disaster).
- To keep costs down and to promote a green ethos, appeal to parents for clean yoghurt pots, clear fruit containers and loo roll inners. You'll be inundated and will never have to buy a pot again.
I love hearing about others' school gardening clubs, so if you are involved with one and have other tips or ideas, please share! I'm always searching for fresh inspiration.