Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers

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Welcome to National Gardening Week


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.

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Volunteer Week – celebrating school garden helpers (from June 3rd)

Sally, parent volunteer with the Fitz Our Flower Patch school garden group.

Sally, parent volunteer with the Fitz Our Flower Patch school garden group.

Did you know that it’s Volunteer Week? Neither did we but as the website says it’s about time we celebrated the hundreds of volunteers who give up their time, week in week out to make life a little bit better for someone else, unrewarded, and often unnoticed. Volunteers really hit the headlines during the 2012 Olympics when the success of the games was deemed to have been determined by the thousands of volunteer ‘Games Makers’. Primary schools are masters at finding jobs for volunteer parents and grandparents to do. Every week dozens of parents pop in for an hour or two to listen to readers, run cooking sessions, accompany trips, ferry pupils to sports fixtures and help with the school garden. And so in the spirit celebrating unsung heroes this week, I am giving a big thumbs up to Sally, who has helped with the garden at Fitz for years.

Here she is pictured above holding a packet of poppy seeds designed by a little boy who believed his efforts were ‘rubbish’ but who, with Sally’s encouragement, was the first to make a sale. When we started running our ‘extreme gardening’ sessions on a shoestring, with dozens of children, in a 20 minute slot at lunchtime she admitted to knowing nothing about gardening. What Sally neglected to say was that any lack of experience or knowledge was more than compensated for by an abundance of gardening talent, skill and creativity. In fact, it wasn’t long before she was planting up a veg patch at home and scouring Wilkinsons, Lidl and Aldi for bargains to pop into the borders or plant in a hanging basket at school.

Every school flowerpatch needs more than one enthusiastic adult to make it work. School gardens are much more successful when parents are interested and involved and it is a good idea to involve them from the start in planning and discussing the garden. Gather a team around you to share the work and responsibilities. Have regular meetings to share ideas and observations about how the garden is progressing.This will build commitment, spread the workload, help you to avoid mistakes, and stimulate interest in the school’s activities. Make it fun and sociable. Saturday working parties to clear weeds, dig over a new patch or building raised beds are perfect opportunities for sharing food and ideas. Before you know it, your school flower patch will have resulted in new friendships and a stronger school community. It all relies on volunteers like Sally who are prepared to share their time and expertise.

Thanks Sally. We couldn’t have done it without you. But at least we can say thankyou with beautiful flowers this year.

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Spreading the word (from March 12th)

Anemones and daffodils in a jam jar arrangement

Anemones and daffodils in a jam jar arrangement.

Cally’s been to talk to a meeting of West Wiltshire school Headteachers this week about how they can make use of their school gardens to teach the National Curriculum and raise funds for the school and how Our Flower Patch can help.

On Thursday we are playing host to a visitor in the school garden at Fitzmaurice Primary School in Bradford on Avon where this season’s flowers are already blooming. We’ll tell you more tomorrow but in the meantime check out the school gardening blog here.

Gradually we’re turning this part of the county flowery.