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Sowing/Growing ideas for schools
A really lovely letter that I recently received:
"At school, the dining-room 'salad bar' is now supplied from the beds and polytunnel and the children are whoofing it down each lunch time - I am sure some of it gets pinched on the way up to the kitchen! We also all have a 'leaf munch' at the end of most Rural Studies lessons. It will be a pity when the leaf production slows down but at the moment Rouge Grenoblaise and Catalogna along with many of the other leaves you suggested are doing the job.
I am also growing some here in the garden at home. All the family love eating it and with the surplus I supply a couple of shops and a few individual customers. I really enjoy the whole process of growing, caring, harvesting and then packing this wonderful, fresh, tasty and healthy product into the bag. Thank you Charles for getting me going on this, with your course and books.
Update from Grenville February 2012: We are producing lots of food for the kitchen at school. A couple of weeks ago the children harvested January King cabbage and enjoyed them for lunch and then they dug the Blue Solaise leeks and the talented ladies in the kitchen used them to make very tasty leek and brie filo pastry pies. We grew lots of colourful and tasty salad last year (some of which was used at the Christmas Feast), potatoes, kale, onions, garlic, and lots of herbs and cut flowers. Lots more would go up, but we tend to eat the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers as we sit round the table in the garden at the start or end of a rural studies lesson! As much as possible we sow and grow so that harvest coincides with term time.
Grenville Simons, The Elms School, Colwell, Malvern"
For harvests in term time
If you have an indoor propagating facility, sowings can be made earlier than described below, but remember that somebody will need to look after any young plants at weekends and during holidays. These sowing dates are to give vegetables in term time, with no need for harvests or extra work in the summer holidays. Check my Organic Gardening book for further details of how to sow, spacings and other varieties to use.
Also have a look at http://www.proflowers.com/guide/beginners-guide-growing-flowers-organically )
for great tips on organic flowers!
Broad beans, early varieties such as Aquadulce Claudia and Witkiem Manita, beans should be ready by July.
March, before Easter
Early potatoes - make sure you are planting an early variety – should be ready by June.
Beetroot - preferably Boltardy or an equivalent early variety, because summer beetroots such as Detroit risk bolting (running to seed) from sowing so early. First roots in late June (they are deliciously sweet), finish harvesting in July unless you want monster beetroot in autumn.
Parsnip - allow three or four weeks for germination, harvest from late September, sweetest flavour if left until the weather has been frosty.
Spinach - early varieties such as Tarpy and Bloomsdale – check the small print as some varieties are for summer sowing, since they grow best in autumn as days shorten. Harvest in May and June.
Radish - the fastest vegetable of all, milder when eaten young. Harvest late April & May.
Spring onions - choice of white & red varieties, harvest June.
Onion - but lifting time is late July to early September, although they should store until late winter.
Peas (from late March to mid April) - check varietal description to fit your desires, depending on variety harvest from about mid June, most should be picked by late July.
Lettuce - for picking from May onwards as loose leaves or from mid June as hearts.
More of any of the above, although spinach sown after mid April tends to bolt before giving many leaves, and radish leaves will be more damaged by flea beetles (lots of tiny holes).
Carrots - the easiest variety for April is Early Nantes and keep them well weeded. Harvest July, possibly a few thinnings in June if not sown too thickly.
Leeks - usually in a small row to grow pencil sized plants for planting in late June/July. Harvest October onwards, depending on the variety and how hungry you are.
Sweetcorn after mid month (it needs warm soil), harvest September, depending how hot the summer has been and assuming badgers have not scoffed it.
For harvesting before the end of summer term, of all the vegetables above I would recommend only carrots and beetroot, thinly sown for some small roots in July, also leaf beet and chard for spinach tasting leaves through summer, autumn and even into winter.
French and runner beans, courgettes and summer squashes can be sown in May but will hardly crop before late July and will require picking through August, to keep them in production. One way around this is to sow them in late June or early July for beans and courgettes in September and up to about mid October. Winter squash (onion squash, butternut etc) and pumpkin should grow well from sowing mid to late May, they need a hot summer and harvesting in October, before half term. Tomatoes can be planted (not sown) after mid May, once all risk of frost is passed, to enjoy tomatoes in September, as long as it has not been too damp through the summer.
If you enjoy cabbages, kale, calabrese and brussels sprouts, they can be sown from mid May to early June for planting out early to mid July, harvests from September to Christmas. They may be eaten by caterpillars at times but often become healthier in autumn when insect numbers decrease.
Carrots such as Autumn King and Berlicum, sown mid June, should offer some large roots by late September and through October.
Beetroot sown in late June should yield roots through autumn term.
(Leeks should be ready to plant after mid month).
In early July there is till time to sow a dwarf french bean such as Sonesta (yellow) or Cupidon (green), to crop in September and October.
Autumn salads such as lettuce, endives and radicchios are sown early to mid July for harvests through the autumn.
Swede can be sown in early July and turnip in late July to harvest through autumn, and through the winter for swede.
September - November
I hope you will be busy harvesting your vegetables in the autumn. The only plantings I recommend are:
Onions, from sets of Radar or other suitable varieties (read the small print), planted in early October should be ready by June.
Garlic, plant cloves in the first half of October, for harvesting late June/early July.
Broad beans Aquadulce Claudia do well from sowing at the time of bonfire night in early November, to give beans a month earlier than those sown in February and March.