Top tips from a 5 star gardening school

We hear from Sue Cummings, from five star gardening school, Countess Anne C of E Primary School. She tells us about how gardening enriches their school and community - even when things do not grow to plan!

11 January 2021

Setting up a new school garden can be a daunting task. We’ve spoken to some seasoned school gardeners about their gardening journeys, we hope their advice and expertise will inspire you to give it a grow!

This month we caught up with Sue Cummings, from Countess Anne C of E Primary School in Hertfordshire. The gardening club has been running at Countess Anne for 10 years, and now they are on a mission to make their garden even ‘greener’.

Sue says, “The garden has a huge impact on the students! From SEN pupils, to kids with behavioural problems, to the shy – it’s a level playing field for all to access, where they can be successful and proud of their achievements.”

Saving water and the planet

After a trip to London Wetlands centre, students started thinking about the impact that watering their garden had on the environment and local wildlife. They decided to build a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) and now use collected rain water to feed their green space – they’ve even incorporated a disused bath tub with help from their caretaker!

“Our kids loved the concept of the SUDS and it made them aware of water waste, the impact of flooding and the benefits of collecting rain water,” explains Sue.

Countess Anne school students love to reuse and recycle in the garden, which is a great way to save money and give new life to single-use plastics. This Christmas (2020) saw students building Rudolph the Green-nosed Reindeer (pictured above) out of household waste!

At the RHS, we believe that gardening is a positive action that can be taken against climate change and that it can help ease young people’s ‘eco-anxiety’. If you want to start growing with your young people, read Sue’s top tips for novice school gardeners.

Sue’s top tips for new gardeners

  • Don't be upset if things don't grow to plan, there is a lot of trial and error involved.
  • Embrace wildlife - enjoy cabbage white caterpillars eating your cabbages!
  • Recycle everything and use the garden as a platform for other activities like picnics and art projects.
  • It doesn't have to be expensive. Buy small packets of seeds from budget stores and ask the community for spare gardening pots and tools. Look out for freebies on the Internet like the Grow Your Own Potatoes scheme for primary schools.
  • Gardening can be time consuming so consider planting fruit bushes, perennials like herbs and flowers so you aren’t relying wholly on annuals. Let some of your veg go to seed to see the full circle of life and you’ll get free seed for next year!
  • Go for RHS School Gardening Award, Level One if you are just starting out. 

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