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Hedgehogs are unique creatures that we rarely see, they are a true gardeners friend eating lots of pests including slugs and snails, unfortunately their numbers are in decline. At this time of year we can help by putting out food (not bread or milk) so they gain the weight needed to see them through the winter and by providing them with a safe home to hibernate.

We have launched two new competitions on the Gardening With Children website, giving you the opportunity to win Wildlife products for the Hedgehogs in your garden:

 

In the School Zone you could win a Hedgehog Pack containing:

Hogitat Hedgehog House

Wildlife World Hogitat Hedgehog House Habitat

Hedgehog Snack Bowl

Wildlife World Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

220g pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

A field guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

To enter all you need to do is to find the hidden words in our Hedgehog Word Search the first correct entry drawn out of the hat will win.

For full details, The Hedgehog Word Search and an entry form click here, the closing date is Wednesday 30th November 2016.

 

In the Family Zone you could win a Hedgehog Pack containing:

An Igloo Hedgehog House

Wildlife World Hedgehog Igloo House Habitat Shelter

A Hedgehog Snack Bowl

Wildlife World Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

220g pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

A field guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

To enter draw or paint a picture of a Hedgehog and give him/her a name and our favourite picture will win.

For full details and an entry form click here, the closing date is Wednesday 30th November 2016.

Good Luck

Gill

garden-spider

In Autumn if I am walking in my garden or out of the front door first thing in the morning I have to tread carefully as the spiders have usually been busy making their webs which stretch between plants, gateposts and across footpaths. The culprits are Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) and although they live in the garden from May to November it is only from mid-August that they seem to appear.

Garden Spiders can vary in colour from very dark brown to pale yellowy brown but they all have a group of white spots on their abdomen in a cross shape, they spin Orb Webs to catch their food which include midges, flies, butterflies and wasps, Orb Webs look like a wheel with spokes and are the most advanced spider webs, they are built by laying spirals of silk around radial threads the spider then waits in the centre of the web for its prey to get caught on the web, it then rushes out and wraps it in sticky silk so that it cannot get away.

Female Garden Spiders lay their eggs in a silken cocoon, they protect this egg sac until they die in late Autumn, the following May the spiderlings will hatch and the cycle begins again.

7 fun and interesting facts about Spider Webs

  1. The threads of spider webs are called ‘silks’.
  2. Spider silk is five times stronger than a strand of steel that is the same thickness.
  3. Many spiders make a new web every day; they eat their old web which contains protein.
  4. Abandoned Spider Webs are called ‘cobwebs’.
  5. Spiders don’t stick to their own webs because they can make parts of one thread sticky and non-sticky, they stay off the sticky spots.
  6. Young Spiders (spiderlings) float through the air on strands of silk this is called ‘ballooning’.
  7. Spiders are the only group of animals to build webs.

Spider webs look beautiful in the morning covered in dew why don’t you see if you can find some and take some photographs or draw a picture of them.

dsc04561

Have fun

Gill

Autumn Rasberries

Autumn Raspberries

The Autumn Raspberries are ripening fast in the warm weather and can be picked daily they are delicious with cream or ice cream but freshly picked Raspberries have a limited shelf life of about 3 days in the fridge, if you have a glut make them into delicious jam or freeze them in a single layer on trays then bag them up for use later on either in pies, crumbles, sauces, fruit smoothies, jams/jellies or in cakes. Here is a delicious recipe for you to try:

Raspberry and Lemon Drizzle Cake

Ingredients

  • 115g butter, softened
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 150g raspberries

For the drizzle

  • 80g caster sugar
  • Juice of one lemon

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C and grease and line a 28cm x 18cm rectangular tin.
  2. Put the butter, flour, baking powder, caster sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a bowl and beat for 2 minutes until well combined.
  3. Gently fold in the milk and two thirds of the raspberries
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tray and level out.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining raspberries over the surface of the cake.
  6. Bake for approx. 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cake is spongy to touch.
  7. Mix the lemon juice and sugar together, remove the cake from the oven and while still hot make holes in the top with a skewer and pour over the drizzle, leave to cool in the tin.

Eat cold or as a pudding warm with custard, ice cream or crème fraiche.

 

Raspberry Support With Extension

Raspberry Support

When you have finished picking the Autumn Raspberries (August to October harvest) cut the canes down to soil level, new canes will grow in the Spring that will bear next year’s fruit, if you have Summer fruiting raspberries (June to early August harvest) only cut back this years old fruiting canes, leave tie in and support this year’s new canes these will produce next year’s fruit.

Budget Fruit Cage

Fruit Cage

Raspberries are very easy to grow, bare root Raspberry canes can be ordered now for planting in November-March when they are dormant, they prefer a fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position. Plant the canes of Summer Fruiting Raspberries 40cm apart and Autumn fruiting Raspberries 60cm apart at a depth of 8cm, firm in, water well and reduce the canes to a height of 25cm. Each spring mulch around the canes with well-rotted manure or apply a general fertiliser and then mulch with garden compost, water during dry weather and protect with a fruit cage or netting to stop the birds eating your crop.

Right I’m off to pick some more – it is raspberries and ice cream for tea!

Gill

Is it me or are there suddenly a lot of Ladybirds, when I bring in the washing I unknowingly bring in with it a couple of these delightful insects, I also found a Ladybird larvae on the washing machine, they are grey and grub like and not very pretty to look at, they don’t resemble a Ladybird and if you didn’t know what they are you might be tempted to squash them.

Ladybird Larvae

Ladybird larvae

In Britain there are 46 species of Ladybirds, 19 species are dull in appearance and do not look at all like the familiar brightly coloured spotted ones that we all love, the 17 spotted varieties have different colour variations, orange with black spots, black with orange spots, white with black spots, yellow with black spots or brown with white spots and also different numbers of spots 2, 7, 11, 14, 18, 16, 22 and 24.

So why are there suddenly a lot of ladybirds?

They are this years newly hatched Ladybirds, during August they emerge from their pupae and then feed up on lots of aphids to build up their reserves to see them through the Winter months (October-February) when they go into a dormant state. In March-April they will emerge and search for food (aphids), the male and female then mate and the female will lay up to 40 eggs during June-July these are bright yellow and can often be found on the underside of leaves, they hatch within 4-10 days and over the following 3-6 weeks the larvae feed on aphids and grow fast shedding their skin 3 or 4 times before attaching to a stem/leaf and becoming a pupae, during the next two weeks the pupae changes dramatically and emerges as a Ladybird in August.

Ladybird Pupae

Ladybird Pupae

Ladybirds are great for the garden the Seven Spot Ladybird can eat 5,000 aphids in its year-long life span so as well as being beautiful they are a true gardener’s friend and worth looking after, unfortunately some native UK Ladybirds species are in decline. During September Ladybirds are feeding up and looking for a safe, dry place to spend the winter why not put some Ladybird and Insect Towers around your garden, each one has a hollow centre filled with straw which provides insulation and drilled holes to allow the Ladybirds access to the inner chamber, place them somewhere warm and sheltered either amongst the flowers, in a wooded area or even in a planter.

Wildlife World Ladybird and Insect Tower

Ladybird and Insect Tower

The collective name for a group of Ladybirds is a ‘loveliness’, I cannot think of anything more fitting.

Love your environment

Gill

 

Mud pie

When I was young we lived in a new build house, unlike todays new houses the back garden was still a building site when we moved in but it was great we had so much fun playing there covered in mud with our buckets, spades and watering cans, such happy memories.

As well as being lots of fun playing with mud has lots of health benefits too:

Mud makes you happy

Mud contains friendly soil bacteria which stimulate the body’s immune system and triggers the brain to release serotonin the endorphin which regulates our moods and makes us feel happy, regular mud play can reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression.

Mud reduces childhood illnesses

There is much research and evidence that living in a ‘clean’ environment is a contributor to increased levels of childhood illnesses, including immune disorders and allergies, early exposure to mud which contains bacteria and organisms boosts the immune system, reduces allergies and improves a child’s resistance to disease.

Mud aids creativity and development

There is no limit to the things you can make and do with mud, through play children develop fine and gross motor skills, sensory awareness, balance and coordination.

Mud connects you with nature

Mud play connects a child with nature and the environment which can lead to a lifelong passion and appreciation of the outdoors.

Here are some wonderful activities with mud:

Mud foot and hand prints

Fill a bucket with soil and water to a lovely squidgy consistency, first get your hands in and then your feet and make mud prints on the paving.

Mud painting

Put some water in a small pot/bucket and add some soil keep it thin and watery, dip in an old paintbrush and paint pictures, patterns or write words on the paving.

Mud Pies

Mix mud and water in a bucket so that it is really thick and can be scooped up, use to fill old foil pie tins or food containers, decorate with flowers or stones and then leave to ‘bake’ in the sun.

Mud creatures

Using a really thick mud mixture with very little water, grab a handful or a spade full and mould into a creature then add eyes/teeth or decorate with stones, twigs, flowers and leaves why not try a hedgehog, butterfly, beetle, snake or a fish.

Make a construction Site

More for boys and a perfect way to put their diggers and dumper trucks to good use.

Build a Mud castle

Apply the same construction techniques as with sand castles using a very thick mud mixture build it in the sun and allow it to dry/set and then see how long it will remain intact when it rains.

This week, before School starts, get in the garden and make some of your own happy mud memories.

Gill

Does every day seem the same?

Then why not have a ‘Green Day’, when you get up in the morning announce to your children that you are going ‘Green’, this is where your imagination plays a part and a bit of forward planning is advisable.

Here are some ideas for a ‘Green Day’:

  • Get dressed in green clothes.
  • Place a drop of food colouring in some milk so that you can have green milk with your cereal.
  • Go shopping for green and healthy food – Cucumber, Lettuce, Apples, Avocado, Kiwi Fruit, Peas in the Pod, Limes, Broccoli, Peppers, Courgettes, Cabbage, Celery.
  • Do some green ‘cooking’ – Make an Avocado Dip, a Green Jelly, an Apple Pie, Fairy Cakes with Green Icing and decorations and Green Cordial Ice Cubes.
  • Paint a picture using only green paint – You can make different shades of green by adding a bit of black or white paint.
  • Grow something green – Mustard and Cress Seeds are very fast to germinate, you can watch them growing day by day and can be eaten in about a week.
  • Go for a walk and collect green leaves, see how many different types you can find, take them home and make some leaf rubbing pictures with your green crayons.
  • At the end of the day have a lovely bath with some green bubble bath or add a few drops of green food colouring to the water.

Try the challenge again on another day with a different colour.

Why not use some of your fruit and vegetables to enter our free, fun face on a plate Summer Competition in the Gardening With Children Family Zone?

Vegetable face

Create a face on a plate using fruit and vegetables; it can be sad, happy or just silly it doesn’t have to be a person it can be an animal, bird, creature, an alien or a figment of your imagination, why not experiment you can send in as many entries as you like.

An Illuminated Minibeast Centre

The Illuminated Minibeast Centre - Solar Insect Theatre

Not only is it great for collecting and studying insects, it also features a solar light which glows in the dark and can attract moths.

The centre can be used in 3 ways

  1. For insect sample collection/ field trips
  2. General Insect Study
  3. Moth Study

Your minibeasts can be placed inside the study centre either via the opening top or through the opening side ports with the perspex windows, twigs and flower stems can also be put inside to provide a temporary habitat whilst you study your bugs and beasties. A rope handle makes the Minibeast Centre easy to carry so you’ll want to take it out and about to collect interesting creatures.
On the top of the Minibeast Centre is the solar lamp this is perfect for attracting night flying insects and bugs such moths and night flying beetles, make sure that the rechargeable battery gets a good charge by leaving the minibeast centre out in bright light during the day, in the evening open the side windows to allow the insects attracted by the light to enter the study chamber, release your creatures as soon as you have studied them.

The Minibeast Centre is made of slow-seasoned FSC timber so will be durable and not require any chemical treatments.

Take a photograph of your creation and send it to us with your details on the entry form (click here) to gill@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk or by post to Gardening with Children Family Competition, Gardening Works, Unit 1, Bee Mill, Ribchester, Preston PR3 3XJ by the closing date of Wednesday 31st August 2016.

Have fun

Gill

Black currants

This week on the allotment I have been picking the last of my Blackcurrants, once picked they then need sorting through to remove leaves, stems, squashed or bad berries and any unwanted creatures that have managed to find their way into the tub, I wash them in a colander and spread them out onto trays covered with kitchen roll to dry out before placing in containers and in to the freezer to use later on.

Blackcurrants are packed full of Vitamin C and potassium, hot blackcurrant juice is a long established remedy for sore throats as it contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In Britain there are over 5,000 acres of Blackcurrant Bushes producing 30,000 tonnes of Blackcurrant although you won’t find many Blackcurrants for sale in shops the main reason being that 95% of the Blackcurrants grown in Britain are used to make a well-known Blackcurrant Cordial.

Blackcurrants are easy to grow in the garden and when established you can expect 4.5kg of fruit per bush, they can remain productive for 10-15 years. Blackcurrant bushes are widely available in garden centres, nurseries and online they are supplied either bare root or in containers, there are many different varieties available cropping from early July until late August giving you a long harvesting season.

Bare Root plants ideally should be planted November-March but not when the ground is waterlogged or frozen, container grown plants can be planted at any time of the year if the weather is suitable, leave 1.5m between each plant.

Choose a sunny, sheltered site which isn’t prone to waterlogging, if this is a problem grow in Raised Beds which have improved drainage, a few weeks before planting your fruit trees/bushes dig over the bed incorporating compost, well-rotted manure or garden compost, remove any weeds or large stones and sprinkle a general fertilizer on the surface. To protect your fruit crop from birds and animals consider planting your fruit bushes/canes inside a fruit cage, this will also protect any vegetable crops too.

To plant bare root plants dig a hole wide enough for the roots to spread out, the old soil mark on the stem needs to be at least 5cm deeper than it was originally, planting deeper encourages young vigorous shoots to grow from the base of the plant. Backfill the hole with the soil and some compost/well-rotted manure, firm in well and water.

Blackcurrants are produced on mature stems, each year between November and March prune out the oldest stems these are the ones that are very dark in colour and any that are weak, diseased, crossing and very low leaving an open bush, next year new stems will grow which will replace the old ones that you have removed. In Spring sprinkle a general fertilizer around the bush and then apply a thick mulch of garden compost or well rotted manure.

My Blackcurrants are destined to be used in delicious Crumbles or made into Blackcurrant Jelly, here is the recipe that I use for my Blackcurrant Jelly from the Certo website.

Ingredients

2 lb (900g) Blackcurrants
1 pint (600ml) Water
3 lb (1.4kg) Sugar
1⁄2 Bottle Certo

What you need to do

  1. Wash fruit and crush thoroughly.
  2. Put the fruit into a pan. Add the water bring to the boil then simmer covered for 10 minutes or until the skins are soft.
  3. Strain through a jelly bag and measure the juice into a pan. If necessary make up to 2 pints (1130ml) with water.
  4. Add the sugar and heat slowly stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 1 minute.
  6. Add the Certo and continue boiling for 30 seconds.
  7. Remove from the heat, skim if necessary.
  8. Pot and cover in the usual way.

Makes 5lb of Jelly.

Delicious and a taste of Summer to enjoy throughout the year, a jar makes a lovely home-made gift.

Enjoy

Gill