By Veronique Perrin
This is the first in a series of posts describing our local community initiatives and activities during Autumn/Winter 2012.
Families in our street were contacted and asked if they would be interested in participating in a workshop on container gardening. Contact names and email addresses were exchanged and a convenient date and time was organised. On a sunny autumn afternoon in April seven children and six adults gathered in our driveway. Each household brought a bag of potting soil and we supplied boxes, manure, compost, seeds and seedlings. We learned how to find seeds (fun!), add compost to soil (messy!), and plant seeds and seedlings (carefully!). We learned what plants need to grow…water (not too little, not too much!), sunshine (lots and lots in cold weather!) and food (from soil, manure and compost). We also learned how to turn recycled containers into pots for plants.
To start each child picked up a Styrofoam box and settled into small groups of two or three. Each group was given a variety of dry plant material with seed heads and were asked to find the seeds. Very soon everyone had a small container with dozens of seed. Seeds were then identified – we had lettuces, parsley, flowers – and everyone decided what they wanted to plant in their box. The boxes were first filled with potting mix. Manure and compost were added to the mix and seeds were planted. Parents helped out where needed and provided essential hands-on support.
A box of large seedlings was also on hand to add some instant greenery. There was a choice of spinach, a variety of lettuces and strawberries. The latter were most popular! We watered all boxes with a spray bottle and talked about how often seeds and seedlings need to be watered. We made labels by cutting up plastic containers. This makes it easy to identify what was planted and where. There was a brief demonstration on how to recycle plastic containers into pots for plants.
Seven boxes were planted and then carried to each household. We decided where they should be located to maximise shelter and winter sun. Then we all washed our hands very thoroughly and shared drinks and cookies. We also planned to visit all participating households as a group, four weeks later, to check growth and progress.
As the organiser of the workshop, I learned several important points. Firstly, being realistic about time frames! I anticipated the activity to last about half an hour – it took an hour and a half. I also underestimated the amount of hands on support I would need from parents. In future, I would share the process with them and explain their involvement before the workshop. I was glad to have prepared a written step by step plan of the activities – this was a handy reference point amidst all the noisy fun and excitement. Would I do it again? Well…there is a spring workshop in the pipeline. Who wants to grow tomatoes?
Check out Veronique’s blog here!