Seabrook On ... Visits are essential for school gardening

It is with enormous relief that I turn my back on cooperative school activities at national flower shows after 20 and more years.

Attempting to coordinate 200 schools growing Gerbera Garvinea for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show was the last straw that broke this camel's back.

It was a success, both encouraging schoolchildren to garden and drawing the public's attention to the four different gerbera now available. You needed to see the children potting up gerbera plug plants to take home and grow on if you have any doubts about the next generation wanting to garden.

My thanks to Paul Hansord and his Thompson & Morgan staff, to Marcel van Vemde and the Florist Holland representatives, to Class Gardens and my colleagues at The Sun. The newspaper has stood alone for many years working with schoolchildren. At last, the world and his dog are climbing on the bandwagon of school gardening and beginning to understand the benefits of scholars growing their own to cook and eat in school kitchens.

This opinion is penned after a day visiting three schools in Essex and south-east London, and I can tell all those charities, politically motivated organisations and commercial houses now bringing forward schemes for schools that it only works if you go to the schools and help them to garden.

I very rarely see a well-dug plot and few if any school gardeners with a basic understanding of how to water. Why is it primary schools have iPads, whiteboards and computer-controlled overhead projectors yet no sign of an automatic watering system?

The very mention of the introduction of a pond and wildlife area has my hair standing on end. Yes, parents can be attracted in to dig a hole and money found for an expensive liner and decked jetty, but go back in two or three years and the area is an impenetrable thicket of brambles, thistles and litter.

My time will now be spent digging plots at schools and encouraging garden clubs to start their programmes in September.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.


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