An introduction to school vegetable gardening

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School children trying freshly grown saladAn Introduction to School Vegetable Growing
School vegetable gardening is becoming more popular with the increased emphasis on healthy eating both at home and in the educational system. It is important to get children involved in growing as it gives a good understanding of where food comes from an is an exciting introduction to biology for primary school children.

A high percentage of the fruit and vegetables we eat have been intensively sprayed with chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to keep them looking good for sale and to extend their shelf life in the shops. Varieties are chosen for high yield rather than taste and in many cases are harvested before they are ripe to enable them to travel the long distances from where they are grown to the Supermarket shelf. Homegrown (or schoolgrown!) produce is healthier and more flavoursome than most shop bought vegetables and can be easily grown without the use of chemical pesticides or plant feeds.

We need a revolution, we really do. As someone who stumbled into growing my own vegetables rather by accident and without any revolutionary zeal I can tell you that when one understands the slow and beautiful process of growing food you will naturally choose the healthier options and learn to appreciate really fresh food. You will find yourself far less likely to use chemical pesticides on food crops when the link between plant and plate is so clear and will feel much more connected to the food you eat.

Radish short top forcingBut what about taste? What about vitality? You simply can’t compare the flavour of freshly picked homegrown produce and for the me, the really big one, you feel absolutely fantastic! I can’t put my finger on it but a mouthful of greens or a crunchy radish literally just pulled from the soil gives you a kick like nothing else, I don’t know why but it just makes you feel very, very happy. Forget vitamin supplements, energy drinks or coffee, the feeling of well being from freshly picked produce is like taking a mouthful of life and once experienced won’t be forgotten!

A school gardening program will introduce children to the process of food production and to understand the principle of healthy eating. Of course our children are the leaders and decision makers of tomorrow and if we can get children growing food at school it has to have a positive influence on their choices in the future. We are all aware of the valid arguments for food growing in schools but it can be a daunting task for teachers who don’t have any experience in growing vegetables. Setting up a school garden isn’t difficult but there are a few decisions which need to be made before you begin. It’s all about time – time in your schedule, knowing the right time to plant and of course fitting the school garden into the available term time.

Square foot garden in a raised vegetable planterSchool Garden Resources
Quickrop is a UK website catering for the vegetable grower, we pride ourselves on both the quality of our products but also the level of free information we provide. We have considerable experience with schools and have been the main supplier of product and logistics to the Bord Bia ‘Incredible Edibles’ project for the last 3 years. We also provide a regularly updated schools information resource which provides the both the equipment needed and the knowledge required to support a great school growing module of any size or budget.

These resources and school garden ideas are designed to take some of the mystery out of ‘grow your own’ and to help educators plan a successful school vegetable garden. We are involved in a number of school gardens around the country where we get direct feedback from the teachers running the growing modules which we use to regularly update our school garden resources.

Salad crops growing in a school vegetable gardenWhat to grow? Be realistic.
I think before we get started on the size and location of the school garden it’s worth taking some time to look at the life cycles of common vegetables and to understand how they will for into your term time. In Ireland the main term for growing vegetables will be the Summer term with outdoor growing beginning in late April – early May. Clearly this is a short window of opportunity with only fast growing crops providing a harvest before the school breaks for the holidays. If you have a more involved group of parents or teachers who are willing to look after the garden in the holidays then your options will increase but as most teachers are under time pressure you will need to concentrate on what vegetables can be grown within the school year.

There are a number of questions you’ll have before you begin which I have linked to separate articles, let’s have a look at the main headings:

What to grow in a school vegetable garden?

Where to build a school garden?

How to build a school garden?

What compost or topsoil to use?

making a scarecrow from old ragsIf all else fails – Build a scarecrow!
I’m being a bit facetious here but what I mean is there is plenty of fun to have around your gardening project which involves much more than just growing. Building a scarecrow is guaranteed to get pupils involved but there are plenty of other gardening projects like rainwater harvesting, composting and encouraging birds and wildlife to the vegetable garden to build around the module.

You can skip straight to the school garden shop here where we have individual items as well as great value schools garden packs.

Remember we are happy to create a pack to suit you and your school budget and to make sure you have a successful experience no matter what size of project you’d like to undertake.

Raised pond shop
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