Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


Leave a comment

Mud, mud, glorious mud

mudday-250x199

Getting muddy around the world

Usually the start of Wimbledon Fortnight and the end of the Glastonbury Festival is the perfect time to get down and dirty with mud, as the June skies cloud over and drop enormous quantities of the wet stuff on us all. However, this year our flower patches are more dust bowls than muddy puddles. It’s scorchio in Wiltshire and Cally is building up her muscles lugging full watering cans over to her allotment on a regular basis.

Nevertheless yesterday was an international celebration of all things muddy. International Mud Day was initiated by the World Forum Foundation, which aims to promote an on-going global exchange of ideas on the delivery of quality services for young children in diverse settings. It’s a great idea. Children love getting muddy and it’s a well known fact that fewer children are allowed to nowadays than in the past. Some children don’t own old, scruffy clothes, I recently discovered whilst working on a community painting project. 

As the World Forum Foundation highlights “studies have recently revealed the positive qualities of earth, soil, and mud. Science says that being barefoot is good for you. Mud has microscopic bacteria that soothes you, relaxes you, and calms you down. So that’s why it feels so good to kick off your shoes and socks!” And that’s why allowing children to dig in the soil, sow seeds, weed, nurture seedlings and get dirty is good for them too. We’d love to help you set up a gardening programme at your school which gets children in touch with the earth. Get in touch with the flower patch girls.

 


Leave a comment

Welcome to National Gardening Week

NGW-white-background-jpeg

It’s the fourth annual National Gardening Week. Championed by the RHS, it is the country’s biggest celebration of gardening. Thousands of people, gardens, charities, retailers, culture and heritage organisations and groups get involved in events and activities up and down the country and you can too.

On their website there is a long list of suggestions for activities you can do to get outside improving your garden for yourself, for wildlife and for the good of the environment in general. Many of these are happening in schools where gardening is now part of the curriculum – like our own Our Flower Patch member schools.

We know how much benefit children can receive from a regular dose of fresh air, getting their hands dirty and nurturing crops….. and this week is the perfect time to reflect on how getting outside, working together and tuning into the increased light levels can affect learning in general – for pupils AND teachers.

An interesting article recently in The Guardian reflected on the ways in which teachers can channel the increased levels of energy and curiosity which naturally occur in Spring as light levels increase and there is a feeling of growth and renewal. Our Flower Patch members have been working outside throughout the winter on a number of projects. Evidence suggests that even 15 minutes spent outside increases feelings of well-being. Why not take advantage of the better weather to set this in motion by joining the hundreds of schools where pupils are working together on gardening projects? Or the ranks of families turning over a small patch to growing flowers.

The RHS has a schools programme with plenty of suggestions for how to get started in the school garden and it’s not too late to join us too, either to grow at school or at home. We provide week by week activities which are linked to the new National Curriculum and are fun to do and easy to follow, even for teachers, TAs or parents who have no knowledge of gardening. Growing cut flowers requires less in the way of quality soil and time than vegetable growing and there is never any shortage of customers to buy your flowers or do some holiday maintenance in return for a bunch of flowers to take home, in our experience.

So why not make National Gardening Week the week when you and your children start growing cut flowers? Start here.

cornflowers sweetpeas ammi grown in schools ourflowerpatch.co.uk

A posy that can be grown by Our Flower Patch pupils.


Leave a comment

Gardening makes you happy

child laughing in garden

Have a giggle in the garden!

It seems there is a ‘global day’ to celebrate almost anything now – even belly laughing. (Jan 24th) Gardeners seem to be a pretty happy breed anyway, so you’d expect plenty of laughter to ring out from the school garden or allotment and now we know why. Researchers have discovered that all you need to do is get your fingers dirty and harvest your own crops. At Our Flower Patch we have both areas covered.

We’ve discovered independent research that identifies key environmental triggers for two important chemicals that boost our immune system and keep us happy – serotonin and dopamine. Getting your hands dirty in the garden, handling the soil by weeding, sowing and planting triggers the release of serotonin, the ‘happy chemical’ whilst harvesting your own crops leads to a flush of dopamine released in the reward centre of brain, triggering a state of bliss or mild euphoria. It’s what our hunter gatherer ancestors experienced when they found food and now is also triggered by going on a shopping spree. Gardening is better for you and far less expensive on a daily basis, in our opinion

At school and at home we are very dirt-conscious community but ironically dirt-deficiency in childhood is implicated in contributing to quite a spectrum of illnesses including allergies, asthma and mental disorders. Letting children get up close and personal with  soil on a regular basis is a good idea. Of course, if you are going to do that, garden organically like we do and don’t resort to chemical sprays. Ten minutes’ speed weeding by hand on a frequent basis is the way forward. Our children love it.

It will soon be time to start sowing seeds for your summer harvest of fabulous flowers. If that’s not worth smiling about, I don’t know what is. If you are a teacher or homeschooling parent who would like to use the garden to teach aspects of the national curriculum and keep your children happy and healthy, why not take a look at our outside education programme? It’s perfect timing for the coming growing season.

child laughing in school garden

Laughing is catching!

primary school child happy in garden ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Have a laugh outside!

 

With thanks to Claire Spiller for her photographs.


Leave a comment

Don’t worry; be happy (from March 20th)

bright and cheery daffodil always brings a smile on international day of happiness.

A bright and cheery daffodil always brings a smile.

Did you know that March 20th is United Nations International Day of Happiness, a day to celebrate and recognise that happiness is a basic human right? How appropriate that it falls just before the Spring Equinox when Spring is definitely springing, buds are budding, shoots are shooting, there are a few flowers to cut from the patch and, if you’re anything like me you’re overrun with packets of seedy potential.

Gardeners know a thing or two about happiness. There have been numerous studies in recent years indicating that gardeners are more optimistic, healthier and less prone to signs of depression than those who don’t get their hands dirty. Even putting your hands in the soil increases levels of seratonin (the happiness chemical). Gardeners are natural optimists, believing that, however bad the season, next year will be better and all that fresh air and physical exercise can’t be bad either.

For children the effects of gardening are even more marked. Research suggests that, not only does gardening make children happier but it can boost their development, enabling them to become more  resilient, confident and healthier. Researchers at the National Foundation for Educational Research found that teachers who used gardening as part of learning said it helped improve children’s readiness to learn.They also said it encouraged pupils to become more active in solving problems, as well as boosting literacy and numeracy skills. The research points to the way dealing with difficult weather conditions and plant disease teaches young gardeners to think on their feet and solve problems and that exposing young children to insects helps them overcome their fears, whilst waiting for crops to grow teaches patience.

That’s amazing –  but the greatest of all things gardening can teach children is happiness, whether on this special day or everyday.And for our schools, not only are they gaining from the process of gardening but the end result – buckets of beautiful flowers brings happiness to others too.

A bucket of daffodils brings smiles on international day of happiness.

A bucket of daffodils brings even more smiles!