‘Let's get gardening’

Sarah Davies
Thursday, May 9, 2019

National Gardening Week is an excellent opportunity to showcase to the local community what you do in your setting to grow and use produce, and to encourage a healthy and productive outdoor experience.

Children will enjoy discovering which plants can grow in pots
Children will enjoy discovering which plants can grow in pots

Established by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), in 2011 to ‘raise awareness of gardening and horticulture, and to encourage more people to take part in the healthy and productive outdoor activity of gardening’, National Gardening Week is a perfect chance for your setting to share the skills and knowledge of your children with the wider community.

This year it falls between the 27 of April and the 5 of May. The theme is ‘Edible Britain’, with an emphasis on sharing homegrown produce in a variety of ways. In this article, I offer a range of activities and celebrations to help you showcase what for many early years settings is simply part of everyday life.

The joys of gardening

Planting seeds, tending them, talking about what might happen and watching them grow and produce fruits and vegetables is a wonderful activity for children. The fact that if you successfully grow edible produce and can then use that in recipes and for a snack is one of the joys of early years settings. Children quickly become engaged in watching for evidence of growth and can often tell you in great (and accurate) details about what is happening to the things they have planted.

Children are very careful about their gardens and will spend extended periods of time tending them.

Preparing for the week

Ask children to tell you what they enjoy about gardening, record these thoughts in writing, on video, and in images so that you can share them with your visitors.

Thinking about the plants you grow, make a list of those that grow quickly, are easy to grow, will grow happily in pots or in the ground, or grow well indoors. Use this information to create factsheets that you can share with your community.

Talk about how you use the things you grow in your setting's garden, do you turn your produce into cakes, soups, sandwiches, snack time treats? Collect the recipes you use and make some recipe cards and/or recipe books that you can sell or share with your community.

Make a video introducing your vegetable patch to the local community. This will give them an insight into what the children do and how they put their produce to use.

Spend some time tidying and preparing your garden so that it really does look its best and is ready to welcome visitors during the week.

Work with the children to think of ways to grow plants in lots of different circumstances. How can you grow some edible crops if you live in a highrise flat, or a property with a little garden, or a temporary home? Introduce the concepts of container gardening, window boxes or indoor gardens. You could even explore vertical gardening, recycling empty plastic pots and containers that might otherwise be thought of as rubbish, using hanging baskets, etc. Encourage them to be really creative in the ideas they come up with and set out to discover all the different ways you could grow things. Try out these ideas and showcase them at your public events, you never know who you may encourage to give things a try.

National Gardening Week events in your setting

Invite families and the wider community to come and garden with you, so that they can see exactly what you grow and how the children work in the garden. You could use this as an opportunity to extend your garden into a bigger space or to add new elements (trellises, a greenhouse, or planting more crops). Many hands make light work, so have a think with your children about what you could add to your existing garden and then ask for specific help.

Hold a plant sale or plant swap where you could sell your excess plants to raise funds for your garden or your chosen charity. Or, you could swap plants with other growers from your community to extend the number of varieties and things that you grow.

Using your setting's favourite recipes for making use of the things that you grow, hold a community lunch or tea party featuring cooking and gardening demonstrations by you and the children. Families are often surprised by the things that their children will happily eat at nursery compared with what they eat at home. Showing off the children's skills and knowledge will be a great way to celebrate the breadth of their learning.

Gardening is a practical and enjoyable way to welcome members of the wider community into your setting, many families have keen gardeners who will enjoy spending some time sharing their skills…

Use these events as a way to introduce new parents to your setting. How many times have you welcomed new children dressed in their best clothes? Let families see that your setting involves the children in lots of energetic, creative, potentially messy activities that require active, easily washable wear, rather than smart clothes.

Make links with your community centre or local retirement home and offer to plant a vegetable garden for them that the children could tend to regularly, this will not only offer the children new learning opportunities but will also benefit your local community.

Invite members of the local community to share in your produce by operating a swap or ‘pay what you like’ shop to share excess produce throughout the year. You could also contact local restaurants or cafés to see if they might be interested in buying your excess produce for use in their recipes. This will give the children a real insight into how they can play a part in their wider community for the benefit of everyone.

One thing that you may want to emphasise with visitors to your gardening project during this week is that you and the children know that this is one endeavour that offers no guarantees, sometimes, no matter what you do and how careful you are, crops fail. You may have followed all the instructions to the letter and things simply do not grow, or they are damaged or get some kind of disease and do not flourish. Far from being a waste of time, this is an important learning opportunity for children, because it is important to realise that sometimes you do not get exactly what you wish and work for. The fact that the children enjoy what they are doing and are proud of their hard work and whatever they manage to achieve, as well as applying or adapting what they learn the next time they try, is just as important as being successful with every project.

Conclusions

National Gardening Week is an excellent way for you to introduce new families and the wider community to what you do in your setting on a daily basis to grow and use produce and to encourage a healthy and productive outdoor experience. The skills and knowledge that the children gain by taking part in gardening activities, where there is no guarantee of reward, despite all the hard work, is an important lesson to share.

Encouraging children to share their knowledge and their produce with the wider community will also help them to realise that they can make a contribution to their society despite the fact that they are some of the youngest members, this should make them proud to be a part of the community in which they live and learn.

Gardening is a practical and enjoyable way to welcome members of the wider community into your setting. Many families will have keen gardeners among their number, who will enjoy spending some time sharing their skills and knowledge with the children. This shared learning and produce will help build links between the generations and enable the sharing of stories and memories of social history, giving children an insight into times gone by.

Growing ingredients and then turning them into delicious food by following recipes will give children an excellent understanding of where their food comes from and an increased understanding that food can be produced seasonably, helping them to eat healthily and from known sources.

I hope this article has inspired you to use something that you already do to introduce the wider community to your setting and the way your children enjoy the learning opportunities on offer.

Key points

  • National Gardening Week is a perfect chance for your setting to share the children's skills and knowledge with the wider community
  • Make a video introducing your vegetable patch to the local community, this will give them an insight into what the children do and how they put their produce to use
  • Using your setting's favourite recipes for making use of the things that you grow, hold a community lunch or tea party featuring cooking and gardening demonstrations by you and the children

Useful resources

  • National Gardening Week: https://www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/national-gardening-week

  • A wide selection of gardening tools, magnifying glasses, books, methods of recording observations/thoughts

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