During the last few months some parents and I have dug, toiled, sweated, watered, weeded and tended to a plot at our local allotment site. On Friday afternoons, groups of little people have trooped down from the school to get their hands mucky, to plant runner bean seeds, courgettes, onion sets and peas. They created an enormous bug hotel out of pallets and pots, they squealed in delight in finding insects and butterflies and they fed all the grubs to the neighbours chickens - some were keen to get involved while others hung around on the peripheries, maybe shy, but usually afraid of the dirt. But there is always a job for everyone, writing the labels, sorting the seeds and discussing the names of the plants and animal life we find in the garden. The hour of gardening at the allotment always goes quickly, the children love it and have pride in their doings - some even came up in their summer holidays to water and weed.
Of course the harvesting is the most fun. Children gasped in awe at the size of the courgettes, overgrown to some eyes but just perfect to theirs. We dug for potatoes like jewels in the cloddy brown earth, we picked long and nobbly runner beans and we pulled up onions bigger than their fists. It was a true delight. A soup was made with some of the older children, a real 'plot to plate' recipe in under an hour - how delicious vegetable soup tastes when you have grown the vegetables yourself!
The children were rewarded for all their efforts, a second for the runner beans, a third prize for the herbs and a fourth plus 'highly commended' for the 'Master Gardener' section. I could see some people looking around very scared - who were these supreme gardeners? If the children put as much enthusiasm down the allotment next year as they did this year, then who knows - we may just be taking home the cup!