An Introduction to
School Vegetable Growing
School vegetable growing 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.
Why is this so important?
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.
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.
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.
Finding the Time
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.
Before we start thinking about 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 fit 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.
Get the Parents Involved
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.
If all else fails...
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.
If you need any advice...
Remember the guys over at Quickcrop
are always happy to help with any advice you may need. Their free information service via Phone or Live Chat is free to everyone, not just their customers!
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. They are involved in a number of school gardens around the country. They get direct feedback from teachers running the growing modules which they use to regularly update our school garden resources.
They also have a full range of video tutorials on all aspects of growing if you'd like to visit their Youtube channel