I was delighted to see some recent news while scouring the Internet for gardening related tit-bits. It concerns a charity in Ryton, Coventry that has been campaigning to get gardening added to the UK’s school’s National Curriculum. The charity, Garden Organic, wants to give pupils the opportunity to grow their own fruit and vegetables and, thus, learn valuable gardening skills for the future. A draft version of the National Curriculum has answered their plea and has included horticulture as part of design and technology.
While the change isn’t yet set in stone it will mean that pupils will begin being taught these basic gardening skills from September next year. The draft states that from the ages of five to fourteen it should teach ‘practical knowledge, skills and crafts in fields such as “horticulture: to cultivate plants for practical purposes, such as for food or for decorative displays.” There are practically thousands of practical things to be learnt in gardening such as how to look after plants in a drought, or what you can do to help wildlife in a drought. This addition to the curriculum might unlock the doors the bigger issues if promoting an interest in these key areas at an early age. With the Government drive to tackle the effects of obesity this couldn’t have come at a better time.
This is not only beneficial to encouraging children to think about doing horticulture as a career in the future, which will undoubtedly streamline growth in the sector, but it’s also teaching children about where their food comes from rather than just from the shops and gives them the key skills to be able to grow their own food and not rely on retail in the future.
Since our children may be part of an economy where food might be more expensive it makes sense to cut future costs, and also benefit the environment, by encouraging them to get used to growing their own food. Growing food and plants at home can almost be free, a few plant pots, a pack of seeds(if you don’t have someone who will lend a few) and a hand fork is about the total cost of setting up at home. Don’t get me wrong, you could go the whole hog; hedge trimmers, shears, protective clothing, water butts, and many more, but honestly, you don’t need all that to get started. Once it’s more than a hobby go with all the kit.
It’s splendid to see that our children will be learning about gardening in school, but I think that parents should play a part in teaching their children about gardening too, you probably remember toddler proofing your garden, this is just the next phase. Of course, for parents to do this they must also have some idea about gardening, so it’s beneficial if you take some time to learn some basic gardening skills if you haven’t already. Gardening with your children is fun, and introducing your children to where food comes from will help them immensely when it comes to being aware of the wider world food situation.
So, what can you do? Introduce your children to planting, watering and harvesting. I used to help my parents pick strawberries when I was a kid and I found it great fun, especially when you treat it as a game like kids normally do. Picking fruit and vegetables at specialised locations will help teach your children where food comes from if you don’t have your own garden, and you can also buy a plant pot or trough to grow something indoors or on the window sill if you don’t have the space to do it outside. A garden isn’t vital but if you have one teaching your kids about soil or how to compost is priceless. It’ll show them how to recycle and set in motion a mindset that won’t be undone. Another important lesson to teach is one of how work can pay off in 6 months time. Just take how we prep our garden for spring in Autumn for example. These lessons echo through all aspects of life and are valuable ideas we can pass on.
It might be a good idea to portion off a section of your garden especially for use by your children, just use a bit of plastic coated wire or old string, anything that has a feel of creating ownership, that way they feel like they have an area to call their own and have some impact on the way your garden develops. Ask them what they would like to plant there; taking them along to a garden centre to pick some plants they might want to plant, or any vegetables they’d like to grow. Kids don’t always love their vegetables, but if they have planted it and picked it they will be far more willing to eat them. So not only will your kids gain new knowledge, but they will also be far healthier in the long run too.
Gardening is a skill that everyone should have some basic knowledge in. Humans have lived off the land for thousands of years, but with the advent of your local supermarket people seem to have forgotten how to grow a carrot. The new National Curriculum will go some way to changing this, but change should also come at home too. You can start by buying your children some basic garden hand tools: Garden Hand Tools