Setting up an Organic Garden at School

Why Set Up a Garden?

The benefits of setting up an organic garden at school are numerous! As an educational tool the garden will impact on many subjects – and not just environmental studies! Your garden could provide the inspiration for art classes, English lessons and home economics to name but a few! By introducing new plants, trees and flowers, you will also encourage a vast array of wildlife into your garden – birds, insects and small mammals (hedgehogs etc.) will undoubtedly all pay a visit and provide another point of discussion and education for children.

Raising Money

To finance your garden, you may want to consider fund-raising or sponsorship. If your school’s fund-raising money is already allocated to something else, why not think about looking around the local community for sponsorship. If you have large companies in the vicinity, write and ask them if they would sponsor an area or specific ‘patch’ in your garden in return for good publicity – you’ll find most companies are very willing! When your garden is finished, have a ‘grand opening’ and invite your sponsors, local councillors and school governors – and make sure the local newspapers are tipped off too!

On-Going Fund Raising

One of the simplest ways to keep the funds coming in is to sell the produce growing in your organic garden! Your school could have a ‘farmers’ style market at your school fêtes and fayres and sell the fruit and vegetables or cut flowers that have been grown, with the money going back into the garden fund.

What to Grow

Before purchasing your seeds or plants, think about what you want to grow in the garden and what you are going to do with it; there is no point in growing things that can’t be used or will grow too abundantly to be put to use! Consider also sowing times, planting out times and crop times – do they fit in with your school year? No point in sowing seeds whose crops won’t appear until July – when all the children are on holiday!

Some good choices for a children’s garden could be:

  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are fairly easy to grow outdoors or in greenhouse (or mini-greenhouse in the case of an organic garden at school) and even ‘beginner’ gardeners should be able to yield a good crop with a bit of basic care and attention! After sowing, tomato plants take about 20 weeks to produce fruit.
  • Potatoes: Small, or ‘new potatoes’ can be grown outdoors in containers, which makes them ideal for children to grow and harvest! Time between sowing and harvesting is around 16-22 weeks. Care should be taken to protect them from frost.
  • Runner Beans: Runner beans can be fun to grow – and fast! They grow very quickly to heights in excess of 5 feet, and can be sown either in containers or in the ground. They will need canes to support them as they grow, and sowing to harvesting time is around 12 to 14 weeks.

Maintaining Your Organic Garden

Before starting your garden, consider who will look after it and maintain it on a day-to-day basis and during the holidays. Would a committee of parents and pupil volunteers be willing to take it on? Would the school caretaker tend it? Whose responsibility will it be outside of school hours? Addressing these issues before you even buy your first packet of seeds will lesson the likelihood of problems at a later date!