A CHARITY is asking schoolchildren to put down their spades to grow more nutritional fruit and vegetables.

The Good Gardeners Association, based in Wotton-under-Edge, is a national charity which promotes no-dig compost gardening.

Matt Adams, director of the association, said: "The health of the spoil is very important and we are disturbing that every year when we turn soil on its head to dig.

"Essentially we are interested in the micro-life in the soil and by comparing no-dig methods to digging methods we can begin to see what effect cultivation has on this poorly understood ecosystem and hence the nutritional qualities of the food we grow."

According to Government records, it is believed that during the last 70 years more than 40 per cent of key minerals have been lost from the food chain.

The Good Gardeners Association's new project Sowing the Seed focuses on how the health of the soil is related to increased nutrition in food and the associated benefits for health and the environment.

As part of the scheme, soil and crop samples will be taken from different geographical areas and used to help track the flow of essential nutrients from soil to plant.

The Good Gardeners Association is hoping to get schools in the area involved.

Mr Adams said: "There is a lot of work to be done so to have schools contributing would be beneficial.

"The work we do can appeal to all ages and abilities because the project involves experimental learning with an option to incorporate scientific research.

"And we are not just focusing on the nutritional effects of no-dig, but also about sustainability and effects on the environment."

The Good Gardeners Association has just received funds from the Ernest Cook Trust to employ a part-time educational development officer to help roll the project out to children of all ages across the area.

Anyone interested in the role of educational officer or any schools wishing to take part in the scheme should contact Matt Adams at GGA, 4 Lisle Place, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos, GL12 7AZ or visit www.goodgardeners.org.uk.