I am very excited to be working at Newick House School, Burgess Hill as they have one of my 'wishlist' garden items.... namely a polytunnel.
The polytunnel was installed over the summer, so this will be its first year of production and the school want me to help them make the most of this facility. They are particularly keen on linking their growing activities to enterprise and the curriculum, so they can keep raising money to buy more seeds, plants and compost for future years.
We have started off by growing a range of mixed salad leaves, which include leaves such as mizuna, mibuna, pak choi. The seeds were sown by the pupils on 30th September and 3 weeks later they were ready for pricking out. They were delighted to see how quickly they had grown. We only had one failure to germinate - the Winter Density Lettuce, but this might have been down to the seed being from last year.
I demonstrated how to gently tease out the plants and importance of holding the seedlings by a leaf not the stem. Rather than specialist dibbers, we just used old pencils which worked just as well. This was a great activity for the pupil's concentration and for developing fine motor skills. By the end of the day we had pricked out over 500 seedlings. When I visit again in November, we will plant many of these plug plants into grow bags so the pupils can harvest and eat the leaves at school. Any spare plants will be potted on to sell at the Christmas Fair, alongside some pots of crocus that I got the younger primary pupils to pot up in the afternoon.
Later in the year we are going to plant strawberries in growbags and lots of flowers to plant up into hanging baskets.
If you want to grow salad leaves in your school you might find this crop sheet from the RHS Campaign for School Gardening a useful resource: Lettuce and Salad Leaves Crop Sheet
Do you have a polytunnel in your school? What do you grow? What has been successful? Let the pupils at Newick House and myself know by sending your comments to my blog - we would love to share ideas.