Nearly 150,000 pupils join our garden campaign

Child-friendly horticulture is one of the hits of Chelsea, as primary schools take up challenge to get planting. Paul Bignell reports

From plasticine foliage to outdoor office playrooms, child-friendly gardens were a huge hit at the Chelsea Flower Show. As the show came to an end yesterday, there was widespread acceptance that the most eye-catching exhibits were either designed by young people or with children in mind.

Among the gardens applauded by judges was the Children's Society urban garden by designer Mark Gregory, which won a gold award. It included raised beds to make it easier for children to grow fruit and vegetables, an "outdoor room" for play, and a wormery.

Writhlington Business and Enterprise Specialist School near Bath, which has a working orchid propagation laboratory, also won a gold award. Recycled containers created by Ranelagh School in Bracknell, holding flowers, fruit and veg, received a visit from the Queen. Top Gear presenter James May's colourful plasticine garden also proved popular with children.

The need to encourage young gardeners was highlighted by a Children's Society poll of 1,000 adults, which found that 79 per cent of older parents (aged 55-64) grew fruit and vegetables with their children, compared with 62 per cent of parents aged under 35. Mr Gregory said the growth of interest in making gardening popular with children may counter fears that the UK could end up with a lost generation that has never grown anything. "My generation is only now getting into growing," he said. "We missed teaching a generation of children to grow."

The Independent on Sunday's Let Children Grow Gardening Campaign stand proved an attraction, distributing nearly 3,000 seed calendars to parents and teachers eager to get children involved. A total of 726 schools have now signed up to the scheme, run in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society. The figure equates to roughly 145,000 pupils around the country now benefiting from growing fruit and vegetables.

Nicola Hedley, a teacher at Thomas Fairchild Community School in Hackney, east London, who has recently signed up to our campaign, said: "This summer we have secured a small area of land at the back of the school, which was previously disused. We've made it into a garden and have all sorts of wonderful things growing. We have raised beds all over the place, which are mainly full of plants and flowers. We also have potatoes in a veg patch and tomatoes in a mini greenhouse.

"A small group of children come after school on a Thursday and then we sometimes do things during lunch hours as things are beginning to grow. The kids are really interested because the majority of them don't have a garden at home. We're hoping if we get some crops, that we can have a little fair to sell the vegetables at the end of the growing season."

The IoS, in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society, would like your help in finding out more about parents and gardening. Please complete a simple poll on our website at www.independent.co.uk/gardeningpoll

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