Schools should have a vegetable garden

As the world moves away from being ignorant to realising that global warming is happening, we start to realise that each one of us have an individual impact on our environment. The importance of teaching our children to grow their own food is something most of us have forgotten to do. 

Schools in South Africa are moving towards integrating environmental education into their syllabus. One of the easiest ways to teach children about nature and the environment is to implement a vegetable garden.

Organic vegetable gardens are important to a child’s growth. In today’s society many of us are not conscious of where our food comes from, let alone what harmful chemicals are sprayed onto the very products that we consume. We are not fully aware of the detrimental effects on our health or the health our environment.  Organic food gardens are free from harmful chemicals that can be detrimental to human health and environmental wellbeing.  Implementing organic practices has shown to have higher vitamin and mineral content then those grown with the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.

Companion planting and poly-cultures help bring a balanced eco-system to your landscape, allowing nature to do its job. Nature integrates a diversity of plants, insects, animals, and other organisms into every ecosystem so there is no waste. The death of one organism can create food for another, meaning symbiotic relationships all around.

School gardens are a wonderful way to use the school grounds as a classroom, reconnect students with the natural world and the true source of their food as well as a great way to encourage healthy living. It is the process of looking after something, seeing how it grows and the rewards of harvests that help children understand the value of growing their own food. Physically being involved within the garden encourages children to connect with nature and therefore enhances the overall wellbeing of a child.

Gardening is a simple task that has great rewards. Educating on the best practices will stimulate the sustainability of the garden, health and increase awareness. The benefits of working with our environment will increase positive impact on learners and our environment as well as promote living in harmony with nature. 

Eleven fun and easy vegetables to plant in your school garden

  • Sugar snap peas - great for planting along garden fences early in the growing season.
  • Lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens - with new seeds planted every two weeks for continued harvest.
  • Radishes - grow quickly and are ready to eat in a month (plant early in the season and they won't get too spicy).
  • Carrots - grow quickly, though the seeds are quite tiny and hard to handle.
  • Potatoes - just cut seed potatoes with an eye in each piece and bury.
  • Green beans - bush or pole, are great raw or cooked.
  • Cherry tomatoes - are fun for kids — make some salsa together.
  • Pumpkins - take more space and won't be ready until autumn but are perfect for teaching patience.
  • Broccoli - is not known as a favourite of children — until they've grown their own (buy seedlings to speed this one up).
  • Sunflowers  - okay, not a vegetable, but students can dry and eat the seeds, or leave the flower heads in the garden as a treat for birds.
  • Asian greens - such as pac choi, because they germinate and grow so rapidly.

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