It doesn’t seem 5 minutes since I first agreed to help out with Gardening Club but in actual fact it has been 8 years since the day I turned up with my spade and gloves and started to dig over the vegetable bed area for the resident gardening club organiser. At THAT time the vegetable patch was quite literally that – a patch of bare ground in the middle of a grass play area which was dug over every year but plans were afoot and, following a successful application to the National Lottery Grants for All, the vegetable garden evolved into the raised bed, poly tunnel space that it now is, although even that space has since developed further with two of the raised beds being dismantled last year (2017) and used to edge a new long bed by the poly tunnel.
I never actually intended to take over the running of the club, as I explained back in 2012, in my first post about the school garden “Don’t stand Still….” but when the Club Organiser left just after the completion of the Grant Funded refurbishment, I stepped in to ‘maintain‘ the garden because I couldn’t stand to see it empty and unproductive. Now seven years on, I have seen dozen of children from age 4 to 11, digging in the soil, sowing seeds, marvelling at the first signs of emerging greenery and harvesting produce they have grown from seed.
And I will never forget the look of pride on the faces of my gardeners when tomato, cucumber, carrots, strawberries and mange tout from the school garden, have been offered in class as snacks and happily devoured by their class mates, or when school grown pumpkin, potatoes and carrots have been donated for the Harvest Festival.
Often times I have only been one step ahead of my young gardeners, especially those who have already had experience helping a parent or grandparent in the garden and are quick to point out the differences, if the way I am asking them to do certain tasks is not how they normally do that particular job.
From finding ‘dinosaur bones’ to ‘digging for gold’ (aka potatoes), my young gardeners have all been amazing individuals and knowing that sowing seeds has helped certain children no longer worry about getting their hands dirty, or seeing the confidence of others who wouldn’t normally say boo to a goose grow almost in front of your eyes is priceless. Then you have the children who will try a new vegetable simply because they grew it, vegetables that mum will later tell you they have never been willing to taste before.
School holidays have been a juggling act, making sure that the vegetable garden is kept tidy and weed free, harvesting produce to ensure that the garden is still in production when the children return to school and nothing goes to waste and the first session back after a break is always an exciting one as the children rush to see what has grown. Have the seeds germinated? Do we have beans yet? Is there a pumpkin growing?
And so we arrive at today.
Today was my last day in the school garden.
Circumstances have changed: there is no longer a Mudlet at the school and my time is no longer my own. As such, I can no longer dedicate time for Gardening Club and vegetable patch maintenance. But the garden is established now with years of enrichment having turned the once hard, unforgiving soil into a softer more mobile mix. We have enough plant pots of every size to open our own garden centre and netting, pegs and a whole miscellany of equipment ready for the next Gardening Club Co-ordinator whomever he or she may be.
So just as you would clean your old home when you move house, I have spent 3-4 hours over the last two days, weeding and tidying the beds and poly tunnel, moving some plants from one spot to another, stacking pots, stowing potato bags and netting. The state I leave the garden in is, for me, very important. It could mean the difference between someone willing to take the project on because a few weeds isn’t THAT much of a hardship and it won’t take too much to bring it right, or looking at the state of the garden area in horror, unable to see the potential beyond the tangle of Russian Vine and Bramble.
Earlier this year the grandma of one of my gardeners took me to one side and told me that Gardening Club had made all the difference to her grandchild. The child now has her own patch of garden at Grandmas’ where she grows her own choice of vegetables and that whenever the child comes to visit her, she goes straight out to the garden to tend her patch and has stunned her grandma with her knowledge of how to do things and why.
As I walked away from the garden today, I took with me all my memories, my experiences, my successes and I know, without even the merest shadow of a doubt, that it was worth all the time and effort.