A guide to greening your school

Information sheet

This quick guide will give you some easy ideas as to how to make your school a greener place and help the environment too.

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
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Urban school gardens

Gardens play a crucial role in urban and suburban areas and potentially will become even more important in the future as our climate changes. They help to protect us against flooding and extremes of temperature, whilst supporting wildlife and help gardeners to be healthy. Gardens can provide an amazing range of benefits.

The term ‘urban greening’ simply means growing plants wherever possible in towns and cities. Each individual may only have a small garden but together the amount of green space we look after really adds up – it’s about 25% of the land in most cities. We really can make a difference by ensuring that every available space in our school grounds contains plants. 

Greening your school garden

From planting a wall shrub to growing a few more plants for wildlife, schools can really make a difference. You may only have a small garden, when lots of people do something the results will really add up. Here are a few ways to green up your school environment.

Plant climbers and wall shrubs

Most of us have walls and fences that have space for a climber or wall shrub. Use these leafy coverings to help insulate buildings in winter (reducing heating bills) and keep them cooler in summer. You can even plant vertically by installing green wall planting systems.

Grow plants for wildlife

When it comes to encouraging wildlife, it's a case of the more plants the better. Aim to grow as many different types of plant as you can, including native plants and provide as much cover as possible. This should help ensure that you provide food and shelter at most times of year.

Install green roofs

Any bird's eye view of a town or city reveals that roofs cover a substantial area. It is possible to turn these barren spaces into planted surfaces by installing a green roof. These range from planted mats rolled out over a prepared base to flowery coverings grown in deeper soil – just make sure your roof can take the weight. Green roofs help reduce flooding and cool the air.

Grow the correct plants for your site

Take into consideration the environmental aspects for your school garden. Is it in full sun? How much water will be available in the summer? Do you have hose pipe bans? In this case it may be better to plant drought tolerant plants. You may need to do a little more research before you plant but this will give better results in the long run and avoid the disappointment of poorly performing plants. Similarly, do not try to grow acid loving plants such as blueberries on chalky soils. Grow plants which suit with the conditions you have, rather than trying to change them.

Use peat alternatives for school gardening

The RHS shares public concern in reducing peat use to minimise the effects of global peat extraction on peat bog habitats. The RHS believes that the commercial extraction of peat at current rates is environmentally unsustainable as it removes peat at a much faster rate than it accumulates leading to the irreversible destruction of peat lands.

Many viable alternatives exist which are either completely peat-free or of reduced peat content. With improved labelling and information on packaging, gardeners can make more informed decisions about using peat alternatives in their compost.

Use and store rainwater

Plants need the most water in hot, dry and windy weather, which is usually when water companies are least able to meet demand. Fitting a rainwater collection butt to a down pipe may provide extra water for your school garden and provide water to its furthest reaches. Always use a lid to cover the water butt for safety reasons.

The benefits of urban greening include:

  • Improved air cooling, making it more bearable in towns and cities in hot weather
  • Insulation of buildings by garden vegetation
  • Improved air quality
  • Storm water mitigation which helps to reduce garden flooding
  • A source of habitats for wildlife
  • Improved health for plants and gardeners

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