Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance

What more inspiring way could there be to spend an afternoon than being shown around a school garden project by the pupils who garden there? It was a real pleasure to be shown round the garden at St Joseph’s in Darwen by Ruby and Harrison who were keen to tell me about what they have been doing in the garden over the last year. They were brilliant tour guides!

Year 4 at the school garden once a week and it’s amazing to see what they have achieved in this time. A wonderful crop of potatoes well on its way, strawberries already harvested and eaten, onions and garlic drying out on the bench. The raised beds in the polytunnel are full of things yet to come – basil, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, radish, tomatoes, and peas all looking very promising.


It’s about more than the produce

Whilst gardening teaches many practical skills including understanding where food comes from, for some children, the opportunity to taste things for the first time and being in contact with the natural world, the learning goes well beyond this.

Danielle, the teacher who leads the school garden project, highlighted the multitude of ways in which gardening supports the children’s learning. Measuring sticks help to work out the distance between plants, increased understanding of plant health and nutrients, reading plant packages and understanding how to translate instructions into action were just a few of the things she highlighted.

Ruby and Harrison were keen to share how they’d also grown more tomato plants than they’d needed at school and been able to sell them to parents and families to generate funds to buy more seeds and compost.

Last year the Food Alliance gave the school a small grant and some of the money was used to buy large planters. As some of the children don’t have gardens this is a way of showing them what can be achieved by growing in pots but the school has taken this to another level. They are doing an experiment.

Some of their potatoes have been planted in the pots and some in the ground and they are comparing which will grow the best.

Filling pots with compost and planting up is relatively straight forward but there is a bit more involved in
planting in the ground – digging a straight line, spacing out the seed potatoes and then the realisation that having dug out all the soil it then needs to be shovelled back where it came from.

But which technique will yield the best potatoes? We’ll have to wait to find out.


It’s also about people

School gardening projects require time and commitment and alongside meeting Harrison, Ruby and Danielle it was a real pleasure to meet Gavin who volunteers at the school on a weekly basis to lead the class and is known to the children as ‘Fruit and Veg Gav’.

Of course, school gardening projects have their challenges. How to ensure that the children see the fruits of their labour before the end of the school year, linking the sessions in with the school curriculum and looking after the garden during school holidays. To name but a few.

But the feeling I came away with was one of inspiration. Ruby and Harrison were fantastic ambassadors for the impact of engaging children with gardening projects. They knew what they were talking about, were excited to share what they had been doing and had obviously shared their learning with their families.


Connecting with other schools in BwD.

We would love to connect with other schools in the Borough who have a gardening project. So if you know of one or are a teacher who runs a gardening project please email us on: