Like most sensory experiences, gardening with children can be a hectic, messy and usually, an untidy affair! Children playing with soil, pulling up plants and…
Sustainable Gardening in Small Spaces
It is possible to grow many crops in a small space. Large containers are a good way to start and you can recycle all sorts of things providing there are drainage holes at the bottom. Here is a picture of a class mini allotment.
Potatoes are a very easy crop to grow and they can be planted in old shopping bags and there is lots of counting and comparing to be done at the same time. You can see too that if you have smaller pots which will dry out quickly standing them on a shallow tray will help with watering as the tray will catch the rain. Carrots grow well in a deep pot and in fact you will get longer carrots if they are allowed to dry out slightly between watering as they grow to search for water.
The great thing about this mini allotment is that it is moveable so over school holidays parts of it could be taken home to be looked after.
Runner beans are a great one to grow as they grow fast and climb quickly like Jack’s bean stalk. Even though they are ready during August there may be some less stringy pods to eat in September and the children will enjoy opening the pods and discovering the seeds if you let them mature on the plant.
If you want fast maturing crops grow radish, beetroot, lettuce, pea shoots and spring onions.
Permanent growing beds
These are more expensive to set up initially but will require less watering and you can grow some perennial plants like herbs and strawberries which will flourish year after year. Beds can be at ground level and simply dug out of the grass and it is important that the children can reach into the middle of the bed without standing on the soil, so a width of 1m would be about right for little arms. A wooden edge is not essential but this would make maintenance easier as the grass wouldn’t grow into the bed. Beds can also be raised for easier access but are expensive to buy and fill with top soil and dry out more quickly.
A Sensory Area
To me all gardening is sensory whether it is feeling the soil, listening to the birds or blowing a dandelion seed head. A traditional sensory area has scented plants such as herbs, colourful flower such as pot marigolds and nasturtiums, rustling plants such as bamboo and textural plants such as Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantine), Ferns and Hostas. Here is a link to a resource which gives ideas for setting up an early year’s garden setting.
A composting area is essential so that we can add this to the soil and feed our plants. This will also attract many mini beasts and will help the soil to retain moisture. Harvesting water from a shed roof into a water butt provides free water and is environmentally friendly.
Maintenance of the garden is always a problem for busy teachers so if you can find someone to visit once a week to do this it will prevent it turning into a weed filled wilderness. Parents or grand parents may be willing to volunteer for this.
Here are some links you may find helpful:
RHS Campaign for School Gardening guide for finding funding
Gardening with Children funding guide
This informative article was provided by Anne Gunning, North West Regional Schools Advisor for the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. Register your early years setting by visiting the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website to get further advice, resources and a FREE starter pack with seeds, labels and bottle waterers