Arriving home after 3 months away to be met by knee-length grass, muddy slopes, a disappearing gravel driveway and a vegetable garden that any cow wanting sweet green grass would be delighted by - was enough to stop me in my tracks. Well where do you start? Every time I pulled a weed out the hole filled up with water. Still the gardener in me persisted and I planted my seeds in my conservatory and my mini garden is thriving, waiting for dry days to be planted out. This got me thinking…..
Where is your vegetable garden, do you have one? Hopefully yes. And hopefully it's not stuck around in some pokey, uninteresting corner that nobody visits, but takes up plenty of space, is accessible and more importantly alive! Why oh why are we constraining ourselves with small square modular boxes for a few dying vegetables? What are we telling our children about the joy of growing our own food, and learning about the wonders of the growing seasons. Plants can grow anywhere and in almost anything. I have seen small gardens hanging on containers off fences, in tyres, in old wheelbarrows, in fact anything that can hold some soil can hold a plant. It doesn’t have to be purpose built and cost a small fortune. Soil is readily available in the ground, with a bit of additions it can quickly be ready to grow something. Children are quite able to dig, and very willing. Seeds are the cheapest way to get started. So what are you waiting for?
Let's fill our spaces with plants and start a year-round growing cycle in centres. Plants can be grown indoors, and if we make excuses that our children won’t look after them, we are setting the scene for expectations of failure. Children do respect the environment when they are surrounded by fabulous role models who have a genuine interest in what they are doing.
I would love to see fruit trees planted wherever there is a space for one to grow. Natural shade is unbeatable. Our environments are becoming so plastic, so unnatural that sometimes it is hard to believe that centres are actually located in New Zealand. So what a joy it is to see places where there is grass -yes it will be muddy at this time of year - welcome to nature. To see food being grown and picked, prepared and eaten in centres is a wonderful thing. There are places where children wander through their gardens showing a sense of ownership and also respect. Scenes like this fill my heart with hope. I know around New Zealand there are centres that have a strong and established culture of gardening. If your centre is not yet one of these, why not find a centre in your area to visit for inspiration. Clean, green New Zealand is sadly a fast fading image. However we know that what happens in Early Childhood Education can change the world, so let's get started on a gardening revolution. Find a spade and a few willing helpers and away you go……. Don’t forget to take some photos.