Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sowing the seed...

Whoops. It's been a while. I had my head in books for most of the summer, and not interesting, garden-related books, sadly. It's surprising how well the garden just gets on and does its own thing most of the time. Like Bagpuss, it has spent the summer being saggy and a bit loose at the seams, but I still love it. And now I've one more thing to do, but in this case, I think it might rejuvenate my gardening mojo rather than remove it further from me.

In May, small child's school sent out a letter asking for parent volunteers for a whole range of things. Gardening was on the list. 'Oh', I thought, 'I'd quite like to help keep the grounds tidy, doing a bit of weeding in the raised beds', so I put my name down. A few weeks later I went in to see a teacher about what I could do to help in the garden. It seems they had more planned than an occasional bit of weeding after school.

So, I'm not quite sure how it happened but I'm now running an after school gardening club, once a week. At least until half term, when it will start to get too dingy. The plan is, if it goes well, to start it up again in late February.So for five weeks, I have a group of 13 children from age 5 to 11, and there's a waiting list. I have to admit to being rather nervous, particularly over the admin (making sure all the children were there, what to do if one wasn't) and the weather Oh, and the state of the raised beds.

The school  has three long raised beds - one for flowers, one that's sensory (herbs and lambs' ears mostly, and a fruit/veg bed which has a couple of dwarf apple trees. All are horrendously overgrown with weeds, rather more than my cursory glances had suggested. So our first lesson was weeding. As an adult who has gardened since a child, on and off, I make so many assumptions - I know what a weed is, what isn't a weed, and ho to get weeds out. It was challenging to take it back to what a weed is, why we want to weed, and just how we might do it with the rag tag of assorted tools I had brought along as school budget doesn't run to extras and there's a lag between us starting and the school trying to drum up some support.

Much of the lesson was an impromptu introduction to minibeasts, and that whilst slugs might eat the plants we want to grow we still must treat them properly and yes, it's fie to pick them up and relocate them in the hedge. We also found beetles, centipedes and a spider or two. All rather exciting. We even managed to sow a few hardy annual seeds (calendula and love-in-a-mist) because I wanted us to get something in the ground in the tiny corner of the raised bed we'd sort-of managed to clear. I will have to go back and get all the weed roots out at some point, but in 45 minutes we achieved a little bit of gardening. For the lad who lives in a flat, it was his first bit of gardening; for the girl whose grandma wins gardening competitions in the next town, it was a chance to grow the same seeds as her grandma. It was a chance to get dirty and to work together to achieve a little bit of tidiness. I *think* they enjoyed it. I didn't have a chance to draw breath; the 50 minutes was over so quickly.

Hopefully they'll want to come again this week. We're going to do more weeding - this time in the veg bed, before planting some broad beans. I'm also pre-soaking some broad beans so they can germinate them in a transparent container, held against the side by moist kitchen towels. Hopefully this 'quick fix' sign of plant growth will help mollify the year 6 child who was rather woeful when I told her the calendula she'd just planted would look lovely next May/June. She thought they'd be out next week.

Their enthusiasm was contagious. I'm looking at the garden with fresher eyes again. And I can't wait to see my gardeners again on Wednesday.