Green-fingered teachers: how to grow fruit and vegetables in school

There’s nothing more satisfying than harvesting your own crops at school. As the first plums of the season ripen on trees and tiny cabbages appear between leaves, students can feast both their eyes and their bellies, on the fruits of their labour.

But there are also a wide range of educational benefits to going green, from teaching about photosynthesis and the life of a plant to seasonal poetry and creative writing, the topic can be explored in a variety of classes.

If you’re interested in greening up your classroom or designing a wild space somewhere on the school grounds, there’s a lot to consider. Here’s our guide for getting started:

How to grow in the classroom

When growing plants indoors keep it simple and start small, according to teacher Stephen Ritz from PS 055 Benjamin Franklin school in New York.

Ritz, who is famed for his pioneering indoor farming project the edible classroom, recommends easy-to-grow crops such as lettuces, beans or peas, or growing your own classroom herb garden. These vegetables are the best choice and are easy to take care of. They can be grown in pots on windowsills where they can get plenty of sunlight and need regular water.

Beckie Taylor, a teacher from Manor primary school in Coseley, grows pumpkins which can be planted from April onwards in small disposable cups. They also need regular water and sunlight. Once they are large enough they can be moved to growbags outside.

Cups and pots are great to grow in, says Ritz, but he also recommends the Tower Garden by Juice Plus – a vertical aeroponic growing system that lets you grow upwards, saving space.

To make sure your crops are tended to, Taylor suggests putting up a chart to keep track of what the plants need and when. “Children can mark off when they have been watered in order to avoid neglect or over watering,” says Taylor.

It’s also vital to make sure there’s someone to watch the plants over the holidays. Ritz plans ahead so things sprout during term time. However, if this doesn’t work out he says there’s nothing wrong with sending plants home for eager young gardeners to look after.

Taylor has some words of warning: “You will need to ensure the space chosen [to grow plants] is away from important work in the classroom, such as books and displays of work. It also may be hard to control the conditions needed in the classroom.”

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