Your organic food growing area

You can grow anywhere!

If you are lucky enough to have outside grass space at school, raised beds or recycled containers can be positioned there. If you have no grassy space and have tarmac or concrete instead you can set up containers, grow bags and large pots too. Basically, if you have something that will hold soil, you can grow food.

Organic gardening in its simplest form just means that you do not use any chemicals, artificial pesticides or fertilisers or anything that could harm your garden or the environment. You are aiming to work with nature and your environment and recycle and reuse as much as possible.

It is important to provide habitat for nature’s pest controllers such as birds, frogs and beneficial insects which also help with pollination of your edible plants.

Come up with a plan

Consider the space that you have available and plan as a group what you want to grow. Things which you might want to consider given the space are:

  • Raised beds or containers for your veg plot
  • An area for permanent herbs
  • Fruit bushes and strawberries
  • Fruit trees for a mini orchard
  • A perimeter of native hedging plants which will provide habitat for birds and wildlife.
  • A small (shallow) pond to provide habitat for frogs and water for other creatures
  • A polytunnel or greenhouse
  • Compost system
  • Habitats for frogs and insects – log piles, etc.
  • Bird, bat and bug boxes
  • Chickens
  • Native woodland area

The best advice for any budding garden scheme is to start small, and build on what you have over time. If you have success with a small amount of growing space it gives everyone the confidence to push on and do more.

The Garden Planner resources below will help you identify what Vegetables and Herbs you may be able to plant in your gardens to work in with the school year and your growing activities. Each resource gives an overview of when is best to sow and harvest your favourite vegetables and herbs.

Herb Garden Planner
PDF - 2.5 MB

Vegetable Garden Planner
PDF - 1.0 MB

Raised Beds

These can be made from untreated railway sleepers, old scaffolding boards or 9” (23cm) x 2” (5cm) pressure treated boards. If you use wooden boards the important things to remember are:

  • Lining the inside sides of your beds with damp proof course or heavy plastic sheeting (use a staple gun to attach) will prolong their useful life immeasurably, lasting for at least 10 years. Damp proof course is not expensive and is available to buy at builder’s merchants or DIY shops.
  • Even if you are using pressure treated timber, a wood preserver applied to the outside once a year will keep it looking smart and in tip top condition.
  • The beds should be no more than 1m wide so that the middle can be reached from both sides without walking on the soil.
  • Make your raised beds at least 9” (23cm) high which should let you grow most crops.
  • Leave at least 1m between beds so that you have room for lots of little interested bodies to watch what is happening; it also allows wheelchair access and room for a wheelbarrow.
  • Make a section of your raised beds 2-3ft high to facilitate anyone in a wheelchair.

Containers

These can be bought or made out of recycled materials. They must have some holes in the bottom for drainage but if they don’t, drill some. The larger the container the better; very small pots or containers need too much attention in terms of watering and feeding and your plants may not do so well.

Soils and composts

Soil based mixed with multi-purpose or potting compost is best, and a little horticultural grit for hardy herbs – add a top dressing of compost in autumn and spring and a scattering of pelleted chicken manure.

Aspect (in relation to the sun)

If you are lucky enough to have a space facing south, south east or south west you will be able to grow almost anything. Don’t be disheartened though if the only space you have faces north or is shaded by tall buildings, as lots of crops do quite nicely in shade. It would be better if the space gets some sunlight at some stage during the day, but there are lots of possibilities if that is not the case.

  • Plants for shady areas – mint, parsley, chives, salad leaves, root crops like potatoes, beetroot and carrots, radishes, rhubarb.
  • Plants which prefer full sun – Mediterranean herbs such as thyme and rosemary and fruit so that it ripens properly.
  • Inside on your window sills – basil, pea-shoots, micro cress, parsley, coriander – use beautiful painted pots, or recycled ones, and remember that all containers must have drainage holes.