“How to Start a School Garden” Workshop

In November, LESSN held a workshop in partnership with the Health and Wellbeing Service and the Food for Life Partnership. The focus of the workshop was on starting a school garden as the new School Food Plan www.schoolfoodplan.com,  which aims to dramatically improve the food experience in schools with such initiatives as the universal infant free school meals, also firmly sets growing into the curriculum. From our research, we knew that while many schools are keen to start growing but struggle with getting started. So we thought an introductory workshop with some insights from more experienced growers would be helpful.

The Workshop

The workshop was attended by teaching staff and volunteers from 12 primary schools from across Leeds that either already had a gardening project in place or were looking to start in the spring.

As the LESSN representative, I gave a presentation on why we had started LESSN and showed the video that highlights some of the school gardening projects across Leeds, which can act as  inspiration and mentors for new gardens. I also gave a brief tour of the website, highlighting many of the resources and lesson plans that we have gathered together for use by teachers and volunteers.The website aims to be a focal point for all schools in Leeds to access information, ideas and to develop a network of support for teachers and volunteer gardeners.

Where Does Food Come From?

Helen, from the Health and Wellbeing Service, gave an excellent overview of the School Food Plan and how all students are now required to know where their food comes from, of which school gardens are ideal for this. Siobhan then led us through an origami activity of folding a piece of paper into a small container to plant seeds in. The boxes ended up in various shapes and sizes depending on how closely we listened! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dlGQP81yfo) This simple activity is ideal to do in the classroom as all you need are some sheets of paper, a few packets of seeds and  some potting soil, allowing all the children to be involved. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can then plant to pots directly into the ground – simple.

Learning from the Experts

Donna, a parent volunteer from New Shoots Garden at Bracken Edge Primary School https://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Shoots/492719780785438 talked about how they got started with their garden, the support they’ve received from the school, parents and community members as well as funding they have accessed to develop the infrastructure of the garden. Donna runs a weekly gardening club with the students, actively involving them in all aspects of the growing cycle. They have a great hen house too!

Jenny, a teacher from Millfield Primary, talked about their garden, which has a series of raised beds around the school,  a pond  as well as chickens and ducks. She shared some of the success and the positive impacts the garden has for the students and how much they simply enjoy being involved. Both Donna and Jenny were open about some of the challenges too.

Garden Tours

I led a quick tour of the raised beds and rhubarb triangle at Chapel Allerton School, explaining that even if your school has little space and fairly unskilled gardeners, you can still achieve a lot. We started our garden with a School Garden from Rocket Gardens www.rocketgardens.co.uk, which supplied seedlings and worm castings that guaranteed us success. We grew the most amazing lettuces! We also grew wildflower beds to support bees as part of the Grow Wild campaign with Kew Gardens.

We then split into two groups with half going with Donna to the New Shoots Garden and the rest of went with Jenny to Millfield. It was really impressive to see a school garden that has been really embedded into the school with raised beds outside each classrooms plus many throughout the playground. The school has taken full advantage of the courtyards, using one to host their pond which they use for science class, and the other is home to the chickens and ducks. The scraps from the kitchen are fed to the chickens and ducks, and they often use the eggs in baking, allowing the children to experience the full food cycle.

Next Steps

There were lots of questions, which we hope we were able to answer and we soon realized that the new gardeners are really looking for some practical support and advice. So we encourage you to use this blog to post questions, ask for support and to share your successes and not such successes too. We can all learn together, because gardening really is about trial and error, with hopefully some delicious food to enjoy along the way!

We are keen to help but we need you to let us know what kind of help and support you require. So I’m handing it over to you!


Sonja (LESSN)

How to Start a School Garden