Annual gardening calendar for fairs
Selling home-grown plants and produce not only raises
funds for the PTA, but can also strengthen links with the wider
community, explains Liz Dobbs.
Focus on what can be offered at key fundraising events and then
plan back from there. Most people buy their plants from Easter to
early summer, so this is the main time to have plant sales.
Once you get into summer, switch to cut flowers, fruits and herbs.
Autumn sowing and planting fits in well with school terms and, of
course, there are home-grown crafts and gifts right up to
Christmas. Here are some suggestions for each term:
Mother's Day (6 Mar)
What to offer: Dwarf daffodils in hand-decorated pots.
When to start: Order dry bulbs (previous summer to September) for
autumn delivery, and plant up by end of October. A shortcut would
be to buy potted-up bulbs wholesale in March and customise them
Easter fairs (25-28 Mar)
What to offer: Hardy potted-up plants such as herbaceous
perennials for flower borders or hardy herbs for patio pots.
When to start: Put the word out for donations - ask for named
varieties in February as most lifting and dividing is done in
Plant stalls (mid to late May)
What to offer: Pots of vegetable and herb plants.
When to start: Obtain seed from January to February for sowing in
March in a heated greenhouse. Alternatively, order young plants and
pot them up. NOTE: last order dates are often at the end of
Summer fairs (Jun/Jul)
What to offer: English lavender as cut flowers or dried
When to start: Plant in March or ask to harvest from a line of
lavender edging a path.
What to offer: Sweet peas as fresh-cut flowers.
When to start: Sow seed in October, February or March.
Autumn edibles (Oct)
What to offer: Preserves - jams, jellies, chutneys and
When to start: Before the summer holidays, ask fruit growers to
wash and freeze surplus berries in batches, that way jams and
jellies can be made during the autumn term. Surplus veg for chutney
and pickles is on offer September and October, ask to take away
produce at the end of local veg shows.
What to offer: Fresh fruits - apples from community orchards and
'Autumn Bliss' raspberries.
What to offer: Veggie hot food (soup for bonfire nights or curry
for quiz nights) using surplus from the veg plot or allotment.
Christmas fairs (Nov/Dec)
What to offer: Sell Christmas trees from wholesale growers.
When to start: Do your research early. Order by the end of
What to offer: Indoor-flowering pot plants.
When to start: Order packs of dry bulbs in August.
What to offer: Festive wreaths and decorations made from evergreen
trimmings and berries.
When to start: Collect in November - as close to your event as
possible and customise them into gifts.
Quick seed solutions
Gardeners often sow more than they need - to allow for
casualties. They also stagger their sowings. This means there are
often spare plants or seed left over - ask around March to
Gardeners often have tins full of unopened packets of seed they
don't need. Seed in unopened foil sachets will still germinate even
after several years (check sow-by dates).
Peas, sweet peas, beetroot and chard are easy to handle, and
their sowing times are flexible so they can fit in with term times.
So too are broad beans such as 'Aquadulce'. They are particularly
hardy and can be sown in either November or spring. They are early
to crop (June) so you can sell seeds, young plants or harvested
pods within the academic year. French beans and runner beans are
productive and easy to sow, but they are tender and mostly crop in
Beyond the school gates
In addition to your school garden, there will be keen gardeners
in your local community who can help, either with donations or with
knowledge. It's usually just a matter of asking at the right time,
although at first you might have to ask when that is! Twitter and
Facebook are good ways of linking up with local horticultural
businesses and clubs, as well as for drumming up interest in
A local garden centre or plant nursery might let you have
surplus stock, discounts or donations. They might even provide a
kids' gardening club with facilities to pot-up bulbs, etc. It is
best not to compete with them directly, therefore, if they donate
unsold tulip bulbs in November, it is more diplomatic to plant the
bulbs out in rows and harvest as cut flowers in late spring, rather
than sell the dry bulbs on. Staff will often support local
communities by visiting schools and offering expertise,
particularly if an activity is linked to a garden show.
Garden club members often have more plants than they need, so
they will usually donate spares or they might have a productive
fruit garden that needs harvesting. Their members could judge plant
displays or provide demonstrations at events.
Allotment holders may donate fruit and veg displayed after local
shows, or supply discounted cheap seed and sundries, which they
often buy in bulk.
Community orchards are often very busy in October so if you can
help pick fruit or help with fruit pressing, you will usually enjoy
donations of fruit that can be turned into pies and cakes.
Have you run a successful plant sale and want to share your
story? Drop us an email.
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