Let Children Grow: Back to school, and the joys of gardening

As youngsters taste the pleasures of growing their own, our green campaign reaches out to their parents
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The Independent Online

Thousands of children who return to school this month will be rewarded with fruits – and vegetables – for the labour they put in before the summer break when they joined the Independent on Sunday's Let Children Grow campaign and planted their own kitchen gardens. Now the Royal Horticultural Society and the IoS want to encourage parents to go back to school to see how it's done.

Six months ago, the Let Children Grow campaign helped more than 1,250 schools in the UK start growing their own fruit and vegetables. This week the campaign is back, and the aim is to encourage children to pass on the knowledge they have gained to their parents.

The Royal Horticultural Society's new initiative, Get Your Grown-Ups Growing, will begin next month in Yorkshire and be rolled out nationally in 2010. Parents will be encouraged to visit schools to help children and teachers do the garden, tend the crops and hopefully become inspired along the way. If the scheme works, the RHS hopes parents will return each week.

"Schools are an integral part of the community and, for many children, their only access to a garden," said Inga Grimsey, the RHS's director-general. "When children are introduced to the idea of growing their own food, caring for wildlife and learning outdoors, often their whole attitude to life changes for the better. If we can encourage parents to get involved with their child's school and help to maintain the garden, we know the whole community will begin to benefit."

The celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh and the Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins will be lending their support to a number of schools in Yorkshire next month. The TV presenter believes gardening can inspire children in different ways.

"I got my first taste for gardening helping my grandfather on his allotment," Titchmarsh said. "A garden opens up an amazing experience for children as they discover new textures, sounds and tastes – nothing can beat it. And to be working alongside your family helping to build a school garden can only be a positive thing."

Kingsway Primary, the IoS Let Children Grow beacon school, in Goole, East Yorkshire, will be opening its doors to children and adults alike as part of the initiative.

"Hopefully this scheme will stimulate parents to do more at home," the head teacher, Liam Jackson, said. "Considering the social deprivation we have, we've got to get these kids and parents eating more healthily. The kids loved it last year. We've just got to make sure the parents have that enthusiasm now."

Mr Jackson believes that the children who participated last year have a greater understanding of where food comes from and have learnt from the mistakes made. His aim now is to take it a step further and grow more exotic varieties of fruit and vegetables thanks to the poly-tunnels donated to the school. "We can have tomatoes all year round and more exotic plants," he added.