Planting, growing and maintaining your school garden
No matter what size your space is you can fill it with pots and planters to create a garden; for both pupils and pollinators.
The worksheets and resources below will help you plan these activities with pupils so that you can start planting flowers and vegetables for you and pollinators.
Planning and Planting
Good planning of your garden space, flower border or vegetable area will mean that maintenance will be much easier. Use the resources below to plan with as many different groups as possible; teachers included!
An easy to maintain space will have a variety of groups using it, labels on plants and information about the space so that teachers, parents and pupils can see why it is important.
Choosing a Space:
You should be near to classrooms and a water supply. You can begin your journey growing in pots to make life easy for yourself and let your pupils see their plants progress, appreciate their colours and notice when they are thirsty.
Choose a sunny aspect, with readily available dirt to dig in to. Consider where pupils currently play and how teachers use these spaces already. Consider public spaces for the whole school community to see.
Teachers and staff – incorporating your space into subject planning (I.e. harvest, wildlife and sustainability themes) will ensure a greater number of pupils and teachers use the space and invest time in to it. You can complete simple growing or clearing activities, setting watering rotas and measure plant growth and leaf sizes.
Gain the support of senior management – contact with nature plays an important part in improving health and wellbeing. You could use whole school activity days to plant bulbs, dig wildflower spaces and sow seeds, as well as clear weeds on vacant growing spaces or undertake wildlife surveys.
A simple plan of activities for a year:
Autumn: Plant bulbs, fruit bushes and trees.
Spring: Clear the planting area of weeds add nutrients. Relabel existing plants. Plant hellebores, winter vegetables (onions and garlic). Plant spring flowering plants (lungwort, cowslip, rosemary).
Easter: Plant exciting vegetable seeds, monitor in classrooms and plant out. Monitor the wildlife in your garden. Plant perennial flowering plants (lavenders, clematis, salvias, thyme, geraniums, borage).
Early summer: Plant lettuces and quick growing plants to harvest at the end of the term. Plant squashes/pumpkins ready for autumn. Plant autumn flowering plants (verbenna, sedums, honeysuckle).
What to Plant
Pollinators need food all year round. So aim to try and have flowers in your space throughout the year. Different pollinators prefer different sized and shaped flowers. A variety of plants will help you achieve both of these goals.
Avoid ‘double flowered’ plants as pollinators often struggle to access the nectar. Common annuals such as ‘pansies’ offer almost no nectar for pollinators and although they look nice your money is better spent elsewhere.
Bulbs – planted in autumn, they will often provide early season flowers (crocus/ daffodils / hyacinth / alliums).
Perennial plants – these plants will come back year after year and are worth buying to ensure you have a beautiful space on a long-term basis.
Fruit & Vegetables
Having fruit and vegetables growing in school can provide a wonderful resource and access to real world learning. From growing beans and peas as a class on your window ledges, to having a herb garden to provide a sensory experience… there are lots of ways you can bring food to life for your pupils.
There is nothing like learning as you grow – be bold and try.
Encourage pupil led decisions on what to grow (great information sheets here on a variety of fruit & vegetables and when to start ).
Easy plants to grow and impressive to look at include: beans and peas, courgettes, pumpkins and squash and sweetcorn.
Check when to harvest the vegetables you choose as this can often fall over the summer holidays!
A “how to” on seed planting and worksheet for pupils to monitor their seeds can be found above.
Raspberry canes will fruit for months at a time and just need cutting back in winter. They produce new ‘runners’ every year – meaning you can sell them on in pots to make money for your garden space.
Fruit trees require more space – but can be bought in ‘dwarf stock’ so that your apple, pear and plum trees are never more than two meters tall. These are perfect for harvesting and are good for small spaces. Our orchard guide can be found below.
Maintaining your space
The more people involved, the easier maintaining your growing space will; so bear that in mind when planning it.
Gain involvement within your school:
Run a year group competition to grow the tallest or largest sunflowers, beans or peas. This simple competition could see you with hundreds of plants and helping hands.
Design and technology projects can help you create raised beds, signs for the garden and plants, whilst art projects could create sculptures for the garden.
Give formal updates to staff on the garden and encourage pupils to report in assembly their ‘plant of the month’ as well as their overall achievements; this all works to raise awareness, is beneficial for pupils and will gain you support . Let PTAs and governors know about your plans and see how they might be able to help.
Support less experienced staff to work in your outdoor space. Encourage time to be set aside in future staff training.
Engage with parents to help with an after school garden club, raise funds or provide donations for the gardens.
Follow these simple guides to maintaining wildflower or long grass areas and our in depth guide to maintenance of your school grounds.
Have a water supply nearby for those wonderfully hot summers.
Put mulch on planting areas during the winter, or grow green manure to improve the nutrients and keep weeds down during the colder months.