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So, I apply for a job at a new school and bost of how I enjoy gardening and contributed to the running of the garden at a previous school. I get the job (hooray!) and naturally join the ‘green growers’ club as a supportive leader. Then, one day the leader of the club informs me that he will no longer be leading the gardening club and how I am to take over the running of it. OH DEAR GOD!!!! I know so little about proper gardening that I begin to panic slightly. It’s ok I can create a compsure that will never let the children see that I really have very little gardening knowledge. I’m straight on the phone to my mother who advises me about bits and bobs but essentially I need help, much more advice, guidance and ideas…so any ideas?

We have a lovely vegetable garden, private garden (with small pond) and over grown dump (it’s going to be a wildlife garden-honest!)

I do have quite generous budget so money is not an initial problem. Any ideas would be VERY welcome.

Many thanks to anyone who has even continued reading to this point!

Jess xx

More blog posts by Jess_Chapman



As a former Primary Head can I advise that you give the school garden some very careful thought before you proceed. Hopefully my points will not appear to be too negative.There are some extremely successful school gardens and the whole point of them is to ensure that they are a valuable learning resource for the children, and the gardening is a fun time as well.Some important issues to consider are- What is the garden for and who will use it? is it a garden to look at, or a wildlife garden or a veg garden or a combination of different gardens?What will be growing in the garden and what are the conditions of the site e.g location, soil type, weather conditions, amount of sun or shade etc.Who will look after the garden during the holiday periods, particularly the long summer break and who will keep the plants healthy and well fed particularly if the weather is sunny and hot for long periods.Think about Health and Safety issues with plants avoiding plants with berries that could be eaten (except edible fruits, and again, if you decide to grow fruit and veg or flowers you will need to seek advice before you start) For example, avoid plants that will cause skin rashes or those that might cause a pollen allergy etc, etc Seek advice from the Councils health and safety officer before you start on any work on the garden and complete risk assessments before you allow pupils on site.Have a short and long term plan for the garden and involve the children in this process.How much time can be allocated to spend on the garden chores and who will do it- pupils/adults or a combination of both.Let them do some 'hands on' research to design the planting areas and the features within the space, choose suitable plants and involve their families in these processes as well.Make sure that you have a plan and resources to hand to secure the garden site to avoid it being vandalised when the school is closed or when the site is unattended.
Finally, dont be afraid to admit to the children that you are not a garden 'expert'-you can all enjoy learning together.There will be successes and some failures and that too is an important part of the learning journey as well.
These are just a few thoughts. I hope this is helpful, and good luck with this exciting project.

30 Apr, 2008


Another ex-Headteacher - adding to Grenvilles advice: Point one - how old are the children? Point two - Can you contact the previous incumbent? Point three - are the parents supportive in your school? Point four - are there any other staff involved/interested? See where I am leading you? You need an Action Plan first. Write down all the things that need doing, then who will be responsible and a time frame. Find out what tools are available and buy more if necessary - the right size for the children plus some adult ones. Take it step by step, organise an initial meeting for discussion (include both children and parents and any staff who can be coerced into coming). Ask them what they'd like, alter the plan if necessary and go for it! If there's any planting involved, get the seeds sown ASAP. Lastly, post questions on GOY about anything you don't know and someone will help. Good luck, Jess!

30 Apr, 2008


Gosh what a nice job to have landed. Sure it will be rewarding.
I reckon sunflowers would be good, and competitions on who 's grows the tallest. lol depending on ages perhaps.

30 Apr, 2008


Well Jess you have some really excellent advice from Grenville and Spritzhenry my only comment would be to include plenty of annual seeds that grow and flower in a season such as nigella cornflower etc as children notoriously impatient to see results.forgive the introduction of a sombre note but as you at the planning stage might be helpful to identify a reflection corner.I was asked to create a memorial garden at a local school because children had raised money but couldnt afford a contractor to implement their plans.Sadly in large schools pupils will be lost through accident or illness and a garden spot where friends and family can reflect is a great healing aid.

30 Apr, 2008


You are right, Bonkers. We had a traumatic tragedy at my school and needed an area like that - we had a small plaque engraved and placed on a post (part of a gazebo) with roses etc climbing over it. A corner with a seat to go to just to think about lost relatives or even pets at the younger end of the school would be helpful, children do grieve.

1 May, 2008


I think its Super News u got a Job ul enjoy Jess,When my children were small i thought it was Fantastic when theyd bring home their Plants theyd grown along with their teachers help,U can teach them so much & also make alot of Parents ect Very Happy:D Dont worry 2 much youv been given some great advice from some fab GOY Members who know their STUFF ;) Lets us know what u do &how u progress :)

1 May, 2008


Bonkers idea for the garden is superb. Its ideas like these that will also make the garden a very special place for the whole school community. Please get back to us with any updates or if you need any advice at any time.
Best wishes,

1 May, 2008


Can I suggest a good 'general' reference book? I have the RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening, which is my bible in times of strife!

1 May, 2008


A memorial garden at a school is a wonderful thing. Everyone benefits from having a special place set aside. There is a school close by to where I live and they have a memorial garden. I often see groups of children with their teacher working in the garden and watering. They have a a billboard that has a plexiglass cover. There they have a list of children that passed that were students at the school and they also have a list of pets that past and the names of the children that they belonged to. The list goes back to 1998 when the memorial garden was established.

2 May, 2008


What a wonderful opportunity, Jess!
A few years ago I was in a similar position, living in a flat with no garden of my own but responsible for the gardening activities at the school where I was working. It was very gratifying in so many ways and very enjoyable. Like you, I was apprehensive due to lack of gardening knowledge and experience but both quickly built up. Gardeners are so keen to share their experience and expertise and they are there in so many guises ...... parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, governors, advisors, garden centre staff, allotment holders, local garden club members etc ...... and today there is the bonus of the internet.
Go for it, Jess, enjoy ...... and keep us posted ;-)

2 May, 2008

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