So it's official, - i've been running Gardening club for 2 years now.
On April 23rd 2010 I took this shot of the Patch behind the gym.
I'd read Dominic Murphy's The playground potting shed from cover to cover. - I'd asked advice from those I'd found on Twitter running gardening clubs (don't worry about the mess being the best piece of advice ever). I'd planned at least one if not 2 tasks for each session that term, and i'd begged borrowed or stolen plants, tools, pots and props.
I started off with 2 groups, - one of 7 year one and twos, (6 & 7 yr olds) and one of 4 yr three and fours (8 & 9 yr olds), plus I had a volunteer mum helping me with the little ones.
That first Summer, we just cleared the ground and planted seeds and a few plants that i'd grown in my greenhouse. Of course they were all so eager, that those 2 tasks per week lasted about 15 minutes, and I had 40 minutes to fill, but I became adept at finding 3 different types of tasks for each group to carry out, and then there was always hole digging to practise.
I discovered that the older children knew no more than the younger ones. That most of the children actually need to be given permission to get dirty (go on kneel down and use your hands, has become an oft repeated refrain) That all of them were willing to taste things they hadn't before (Peer pressure?) and that Radish is obviously not a childrens favourite salad no matter how easy they are to grow.
We were sent the most amazing pack of free seeds to get us started (Thank you sooo much Seed Parade, Suttons and RHS Schools), which was just as well, because we've had to fight against Slugs, Ducks (yes it's right next to a pond) rabbits, mice, as well as blight. On top of School holidays falling exactly when you really need to be planting, watering or picking crops
The School vouchers from the supermarkets were put to good use to get us gloves, tools, and a grow house, and i'm indebted to all my clients who've put up with me filching anything they've finished with or don't want, or have too many of.
By Last summer, we'd added a seed sown lawn. (By now I had a group of year 7 lads, very willing to help me with lawn mowing) Some flowers, and we'd actually marked off some planting beds with decking boards, so they didn't get walked on.
During the Summer Holidays, Our Fab parents Association funded a Polytunnel, and I came back to school to find it erected and waiting to be filled.
We also came back to find that the rain had helped our Sunflowers
But that our Tomatoes and Potatoes had succombed to blight and the slugs had eaten most of what was left.
Undettered (well not much) We've pressed on, and I now have 3 groups of intrepid gardeners each week. i've even got a waiting list as I'm only taking 10 at a time maximum.
I'm selling mixed bags of Salads and herbs to the parents after school each Friday, and this year we plan to create a full cut flower garden as well in the place of a horrid big Prunus laurecerasus bush. I've had 56 different Children do gardening club for at least one term (i've got several who are on their 4th, but usually they tell me that they know it all after 3 terms!)
I'm a lot more tired at the end of three 40 minute sessions and a bit of weeding on a Friday afternoon than I am after a full day of planting, -but the sense of satisfaction when they all try Chard, or rocket, and can tell me that it's mint because it tastes like toothpaste is worth it all.