During The Growing Period
Along the various stages of plant growing (sowing, planting, transplanting, watering, weeding, pest control and harvesting), it is a good idea to prepare the children for the gardening tasks at hand. Organising activities along each stage will ensure that they understand what they are doing, why they are doing it and what they can expect as a result.
Getting children to sow seeds directly in the garden and understanding how they care for them.
Using the back of the seed packets, give a demonstration of how to sow by considering the distance between the planting of seeds and their depth in soil. Relate this to the estimate of the final vegetable size. Having used the vegetable fact sheets on this website, get children to recall what plants like (warmth, space, light, etc) and what potential dangers they face (pests, types of weather, etc). Get them talking about how to protect the seedlings. Follow-up this exercise with a race for the first shoots, true leaves and first seedling to reach 5cm, etc.
Planting and Transplanting
Helping children to understand that some plants need to be grown in seed beds before being put into the open garden.
This activity should walk pupils through the process of planting and transplanting. Divide pupils into 3 groups to represent "the seed", "the weather" (sun, rain and wind) and "the gardeners".
- Seeds are "sown" in the "seedbed" – get the"the seed" pupils to
sit on the edge of the teacher's desk that represents the "seedbed".
- These are watered by "the gardeners" who stand in a ring around the
desk ("the seed" pupils) and protect them from "the weather" pupils who
form the outer ring around "the gardener" pupils.
- As a result of the watering, the seedlings come up ("the seed"
pupils stand up) but require thinning out by "the gardeners"
(space "the seed" pupils out around the teachers'
- "The gardeners" continue to water "the seeds"
that stretch and expand.
- To get the seedlings used to "the weather", "the
gardeners" lift the protection from the weather a little, then
a little more and a little more again (get the gardeners
to duck to show this happening).
- "The seeds" get stronger so "the gardeners"
gently take them into the open garden and plant them
back in their desks.
As the pupils carry out the process of planting and transplanting in real life, the story can be recalled and later dramatised for reinforcement.
Children appreciate that plants need watering and how.
Explain that plants are like humans when it comes to watering, i.e. they can drown and can also die of thirst. Write the golden rules to watering on a board, go through each one, rub them out and ask for volunteers to recite them.
Golden rules are:
- Measure moisture each day - 3cm depth of dry soil needs watering
- Water in the evening or morning
- Water soil and not plants - gets water to the roots.
- Be gentle
- Don't over water or flood
- Deep roots don't need more water
- Mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch.
Get the children to go round the garden and measure the moisture levels by feeling the soil for its need of watering. Take turns on watering and get all children commenting on whether it is being done correctly according to the watering golden rules.
Recognising weeds, where they are occurring and why to get rid of them.
Show the children an example of a weed in the garden project. Encourage them to look for more examples. Get them to note the size, where they are growing, how thick the weeds are growing and what crops are affected. Explain that the weeds compete for water, oxygen and nutrients in the soil and that when removing weeds it is important to get its roots out of the ground.
Identifying Plant Problems
Children practice healthy gardening that means plants are more able to resist attacks by pests and diseases.
Ask children to revise previous learning by discussing the best ways to keep plants strong and healthy. Use a spider diagram to record the key words (e.g. sun, light, shade, compost, weeding, watering, protection against pests, etc.). Now ask them to go round the garden project using the words as a checklist and to report back with findings of where action is necessary. Make this into a weekly event, sharing the responsibility between different pupils.
Plant Problem Remedial Action
Having identified any problems from the above exercise, choose a suitable remedial action and monitor the effects.
Children identify the problem, i.e. wilting, abnormal coloured leaves or leaves with holes, etc. Discuss how to handle the problem and get across the basic messages:
- Disease problem – destroy the plant
- Diet problem – feed the plant
- Pest problem – either spray or create a barrier
Simply to emphasise principles of harvesting, i.e. which food crops decay rapidly, the need to be careful, rapid transport and good packaging.
Explain to the children why fruit turns bad, i.e. (too much sun exposure, wind, thin skins), why they rot (bacteria/fungi), when they rot (cut, overripe, bruised, wet, warm) and which foods are "rapid rotters" (those which are ripe, soft, full of water). To emphasise the point, make up a role played interview of a farmer who has harvested, introducing a lot of mistakes and asking the children to note them down and feedback at the end of the interview.