Over 3 sessions, our Gardening Club worked towards achieving our Level 1 of the RHS Schools Gardening Awards as a Home Education Group. We had lots of fun, coming up with ideas, growing and planting things for this year and also ready for spring, and repurposing items to keep our allotment plot as environmentally friendly as possible.
During our sessions we completed the following tasks:
Identifying benefits of gardening
This included looking at how gardening helps to keep people active, helps people to feel happy and helps with our mental health, allows us to grow food without having to use pesticides and transport which are bad for the planet, better connects us to nature and allows us to see the beautiful things around us like birds, butterflies, bees, insects etc. We also discussed how conscious gardening can support pollinators and wildlife too, by providing a variety of food sources to them as well. We wrote these ideas down and placed them on leaf shaped post-it notes and turned these into our own tree artwork.
Looking at biodiversity of our plot
We looked at the level of biodiversity already present on our plot and found that we had a good variety of biodiversity already with a variety of habitats, fruit and vegetables and flowers etc, but we are very keen to improve on this further. We started by exploring what we already have, then discussed what we can do further. We feel that our lawn area can be further improved by the introduction of a variety of wildflower to further support the pollinators and to provide habitats and shelter for insects as the grass will be kept longer.
We started growing some cress seeds, planting them in old toilet roll tubes or egg boxes. The children then took these home with them and nurtured them, before bringing them back to the next session 2 weeks later. We were then able to look at how everyone’s cress had grown and discussed where their cress was kept and how often it was watered, in order to see who’s cress did better and why. The children then took their cress back home to eat! Yum!
Discussing ways in which we can make our plot more accessible (raised beds, vertical planting)
We already have raised beds which helps with accessibility and a gravel path which can help those with visual impairments safely navigate the plot. However, we decided to give our “Garden Gate” planter a bit of TLC and use this as a vertical planter for anyone joining our group who may need to use a raised planter. The gate can also be moved around so can be placed in areas where it can be more accessible.
Making fruit and veg signs for the plot (accessibility for language/age barriers)
To prepare for our fruit and veg we will be growing next year, we made signs using wooden spoons. The children each drew their fruit/vegetable onto the spoon and did a fantastic job of this!
Preparing frames for next year’s runner beans
We repurposed some wood from coppiced branches to make our frames for the runner beans that we will plant in the spring. The children worked together in teams to come up with two different designs of frames and we look forward to seeing these in use next year!
Although most of the plot is now ‘dormant’ for winter, we were still able to enjoy harvesting food that we have grown, including celery, squash and pumpkin. Families then took these home and cooked them for dinner! For some children, it was the first time they had eaten pumpkin or squash and were excited to try something that they had been involved in growing. Another benefit of gardening!
Composting is a really important part of gardening and allows us to use kitchen scraps and paper waste etc. to produce nutritional compost for our plants. We set up our compost bin and started using scraps that everyone had brought from home to start the process. We will continue to add to this and look forward to being able to use this compost when it is ready!
Planting “Frost-Hardy” herbs in our vertical planter
Using our “Garden Gate” planter, we cleared some of the old plant material and planted some herbs that will survive the winter. This included sage, thyme and rosemary. The children smelt their herbs and discussed what the smells reminded them of. This was a really lovely moment as it is just another reason why mindful gardening is so important – by taking the time to smell the herbs, the children then re-lived some happy memories.
Sowing yellow rattle seeds to increase the biodiversity of the wildflowers within the grass
To start 0n our ‘wildflower lawn’ we decided to sow Yellow Rattle seeds. Yellow Rattle helps to suppress grass growth, which gives wildflowers a better chance to survive. The seeds need the cold snap of winter to germinate in spring. We will sow a variety of seeds to try and increase the diversity of wildflowers within the lawn area.
Planted spring bulbs
Unfortunately, the ground at the allotment is clay soil and gets very wet and boggy over the winter, so we decided to plant our spring bulbs in pots to give them a better chance of survival. We have placed these at the entrance of the plot and look forward to seeing what these look like in the spring!
After reviewing the evidence, RHS have awarded the Swindon Saplings with the Level 1 award! We are excited to get going with the Level 2 after Christmas! Our aim is to help equip these children with the knowledge and a life-long passion for gardening to support the environment, wildlife and their health and well-being and we are well on our way to achieving this!
Well done Saplings!