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Stewart Essential Heated Propagator 52cm

Propagator is essential if you want to get your seeds started earlier and to also ensure a good germination rate as they provide the correct temperature and humidity for your seeds, plants and cuttings to grow. If you already have a Propagator it is a good idea to plug it in and check that it is still working, if you haven’t got one I would highly recommend them they are very easy to use and take the guess work out of growing from seed.

Propagators are cheap to run, to make them as economical as possible keep them full while they are in use, replacing your germinated seeds with newly sown trays. Seeds do not all germinate at the same time so plan ahead, germination times are usually specified on the seed packets, plant slow-growing seeds first e.g. peppers and aubergines followed by tomatoes and herbs and then fast germinating seeds such as lettuce, salad leaves, pumpkins, courgettes and cucumbers.

Propagators are a worthy investment which will increase the germination success of your seeds, enable you to sow and grow earlier and to grow more varieties.

I wouldn’t be without my propagators I have two 52cm heated propagators which in spring are both full for quite a number of weeks, having two gives me that extra room to sow my seeds thinly and individually in pots, which avoids root disturbance when transplanting, and also to repeat sowings if germination has not been as successful as expected.

For more information on sowing seeds and using propagators click on the link below:

Sowing and Growing in a Propagator

Successful Seed Sowing

 

Win a Propagator

For a chance to win a propagator why not enter our two new free competitions in the School Zone and the Family Zone on the Gardening With Children website both include a selection of pots and trays to get you off to a good start.

For details of the School Zone Competition click here or for the Family Zone Competition click here.

Good Luck

Gill

Square Ground Bird Table

This year the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch takes place over three days for the first time, running from Saturday 28 January to Monday 30 January, this means that if you are busy over the weekend or the weather is bad you still have the option to take part on the Monday – you could even do it at work in your dinner hour!

The Big Garden Birdwatch has now been going over 35 years, it originally started in 1979 as a Winter activity that junior RSPB members could get involved in, Biddy Baxter who was then the editor of Blue Peter liked the idea and featured it on one the programmes, the response was amazing with over 34,000 people sending in their forms, it wasn’t until 2001 that adults were invited to join in the fun too.

Big Schools Birdwatch

Schools can take part in the Big Schools Birdwatch anytime before 17 February 2017, either as a whole school or in classes; the Birdwatch is suitable for all ages and abilities and an invaluable educational activity which allows pupils to get closer to nature and become aware of their environment and its wildlife.

CJ Wildlife Giant Fat Ball Bird Feeder

Getting started

Visit the RSPBs website and register for your free pack which is full of fascinating facts, tips and advice.

Make sure that you have plenty of bird feeders and bird food available in your garden; it is recommended that you feed the birds throughout the year and not just for the Big Garden Birdwatch or during Winter. If your bird feeders have been out at while it may be an idea to give them a wash before filling them up, this applies to your bird baths also as good hygiene and clean water are very important.

On the day – Find somewhere warm, dry and comfortable to view the birds, have a pen, your checklist/pad, a pair of binoculars and friends/family who can also look for birds.

What to do – For one hour count the maximum number of each species that you see at any one time, this means that you are less likely to double count the same birds.

Here are some of the more common birds that you might see:

  • Blackbird
  • Blue tit
  • Chaffinch
  • Coal tit
  • Collared dove
  • Dunnock
  • Goldfinch
  • Great tit
  • Greenfinch
  • House sparrow
  • Long-tailed tit
  • Magpie
  • Robin
  • Starling
  • Woodpigeon

Keep watching closely there are many other species that may visit your garden especially if the weather is cold.

Send in your Birdwatch results to the RSPB by 17th February 2017.

For more information and advice on feeding the birds in your garden click here.

I shall be taking part, happy bird watching

Gill

 

calendar-dec-2016

We have all heard of time capsules being found in old buildings that have been left there for future generations, they are a great way to capture a moment in time and very interesting. Making your own time capsule is a great family activity and as we approach the end of 2016 now is the perfect time to do it. You could make your time capsule for future generations or you might want to leave it for yourself/your family in 5, 10 or 20 years time, it may be an idea to record where you have put your time capsule just in case you forget, according to the International Time Capsule Society most time capsules are ‘lost due to thievery, secrecy or poor planning’.

What container should I use?

This depends on where you are going to put your capsule, how much you want to include in it and how long it will be left for.

Indoors:     A Shoe Box, large cardboard box or even a suitcase

Outdoors:    The container needs to be waterproof and non perishable,

What should I put include?

  • A letter to the finder, you may want to include your contact details.
  • Photographs of you, your family, pets, your garden, house, car, fashionable outfits.
  • Photographs of this year’s holidays or memorable places
  • A newspaper for the day that you seal your capsule or perhaps newspapers/magazines of the previous week.
  • Coins and notes – include this years new £5 note and an old one too.
  • Food labels or packaging (if possible those with prices on) – this could be a general selection or your favourites, you could even describe the flavour, smaller food items can be includes in your capsule.
  • An old mobile phone
  • A music CD or a DVD
  • Packets of seeds

Where should I put it?

  • Bury it in the garden
  • Put it in the attic
  • Under the floor boards
  • Under your bed
  • In a cupboard

If you are leaving it for yourself/your family put a note on it ‘Do not open before ****’, make sure it is sealed well so that you are not tempted to have a peak earlier than planned.

I hope that you all have a Happy New Year

Gill

holly

We associate Holly with Christmas, its bright red berries and glossy evergreen leaves feature on Christmas Cards, Wrapping Paper, Christmas jumpers and are used in table decorations and garlands on our front doors.

There are hundreds of species of Holly; some ‘shrubs’ only grow up to two metres high, whilst ‘trees’ can grow up to forty metres tall, red berried varieties are perhaps the most common but there are yellow and black berried varieties and even some that don’t have prickly leaves. Each species has ‘male’ and ‘female’ plants which both bear white flowers in May/June, yet only the female plants can produce berries this is dependant on there being a ‘male’ plant nearby for pollination by insects and bees.

Holly berries are toxic to humans causing sickness and severe stomach aches if eaten, yet they are a vital source of winter food for birds such as thrushes and blackbirds, each berry contains four seeds which pass through the birds, germinate and grow into new plants. The prickly leaves are important too, they give birds protection from predators and provide a safe roost amongst the branches.

Holly was considered to be a sacred plant by the Druids who hung it on windows and doorways to fend off evil spirits and witches; they thought that cutting down a Holly tree would bring bad luck, although hanging branches in their homes would bring good luck.

The Romans hung up Holly during the festival of Saturnalia to celebrate Saturn the god of agriculture and harvest.

Christians today associate red Holly berries with the blood that Christ shed when he died on the cross and the pointed leaves the crown of thorns that was placed on his head.

However you think of Holly, it is a beautiful and unique plant that is easy to grow, why not give someone a Holly plant or two as a gift so that they can pick their own Holly in years to come.

We would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year from Gardening With Children and everyone at Gardening Works.

Have a wonderful time

Gill

p1050264

 

Have you seen our Children’s Christmas Quiz in the School Zone under ‘What to do this Term’ on the Gardening With Children website?

It is a fun trivia quiz with a mix of religious and traditional Christmas questions and would be a perfect end of term activity either individually or as a team challenge, it is a multiple choice quiz which makes it easier and suitable for children of all ages.

Click here to go to the Christmas quiz.

Here are the answers: 1b, 2c, 3c, 4a, 5b, 6b, 7c, 8a, 9c, 10b, 11c, 12b, 13b, 14a, 15b, 16c, 17b, 18a, 19c, 20b

 

Congratulations to our September-November Competition Winners.

We had lots of correct entries for our Hedgehog Word Search Competition in the School Zone, the winner was Hempshill Hall Primary School, Nottingham who wins a Hedgehog Pack containing a Hogitat Hedgehog House, a Hedgehog Snack Bowl, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a guide to Hedgehogs.

I really enjoyed looking at all the lovely Hedgehog pictures that were entered in the Family Zone Competition, it was really hard choosing a winner but overall the winning picture was by Leah Jobson with her picture of ‘Sophie’ the hedgehog who ‘loves hugs and dislikes being alone’, Leah wins a Hedgehog pack containing an Igloo Hedgehog House, a Hedgehog Snack Bowl, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a guide to Hedgehogs.

HEDGEHOG

Well done to both of you, I hope that you will soon have a hedgehog in your Hedgehog House.

Gill

CJ Wildlife Blackbird Nest Box

We are all familiar with our summer migrants the Swift, Swallow and the House Martin who come to Britain to breed and escape the harsh African, yet did you know that tens of millions of birds arrive in Autumn from their breeding grounds to escape the bitter cold weather and a shortage of food (hidden under ice or snow) to spend the winter in our mild climate. These birds travel large distances from the north and east (Scandinavia, Northern Europe and the Arctic) and include Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Brambling, Robin, Starling, Blackbird, Bewick’s Swan, Whooper swan, many types of ducks, wading birds and geese including Pink Footed Geese who fly very high in a V-shaped formation called a ‘skein’.

Here are some amazing statistics about some of our Winter migrants:

Brent Goose – Over 120,000 arrive October onwards from the Canadian Arctic flying 19,000 miles to the UK, overwintering mainly in Ireland.

Bewick’s Swan – Over 7,000 arrive October onwards from Siberia flying 2,500 miles to the UK.

Fieldfare – Over 720,000 arrive October onwards from Scandinavia and North West Russia flying 1100 miles to the UK.

Many birds arrive on our shore hungry and exhausted, some make emergency stops on their journey and rest on oil rigs and boats out at sea (as seen in this year’s Waitrose Christmas advert).

Wildlife World Open Fronted Teapot Bird Nester and Nest Box

You might be surprised to hear that Robins, Blackbirds and Starlings are winter migrants as we see them throughout the year, in the UK we have our own resident populations but during the winter their numbers are boosted by birds escaping the extreme cold of Eastern Europe. These visiting birds act differently as they are not used to their new surroundings and having people nearby, they skulk in the undergrowth and near the feeders before darting out for food they are easily frightened unlike our residents that dive on the feeders, they will after time adjust to their new environment and become more confident.

We all know the importance of feeding the birds throughout the cold winter months, knowing that thousands of winter migrants are coming here to feed makes it even more important, if you haven’t got any birdfeeders in your garden now is a good time to invest in some, they are inexpensive and will provide many hours of pleasure for you and the birds! It is a good idea to put up different types of feeders that will hold a variety of bird food, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, mixed bird seed, fat balls and mealworms, different types of food will attract more species of birds. If you are fortunate to have an apple tree or maybe know someone who has, store any surplus apples now to put out later on for the ground feeding birds, this year has been a very good year for fruit. Some kitchen leftovers can be put out for the birds these include grated cheese, cooked potatoes, rice or pasta, porridge oats, fruit, biscuit and cake crumbs. Water is just as important as food, fresh water changed regularly will provide birds with drinking and bathing water.

For more information on feeding birds through the Winter click here or to see our range of bird feeders click here.

This weekend make time to put up some bird feeders in your garden.

Gill

bread

This Thursday 17 November is Homemade Bread Day, it is a day to celebrate and make our own homemade bread. Bread is a staple food using flour, water, yeast and sugar, usually it is oven baked but in some cuisines it can be steamed, fried or cooked on a skillet, there are many ingredients that can be added to bread to either make it sweet (sultanas, raisins, cherries, orange peel, cranberries, chocolate chips, bananas, apples, spices) or savoury (onions, pumpkin, herbs, nuts, cheese, seeds such as poppy and sunflower).

Bread is often referred to as the “Staff of life” and has been prepared for at least 30,000 years, there have been two major developments in the industrialization of bread-making the first was in 1912 when Otto Frederick Rohwedder began work inventing a machine that would slice bread, bakeries were reluctant to use it as they thought that sliced bread would go stale, later in 1928 it was re-developed to slice and wrap the bread, then in 1961 came the development of the Chorleywood Bread Process which used intense mechanical working of the dough this dramatically reduced the fermentation period and the time taken to produce the bread, this process is today used around the world in large factories.

White bread was once the preferred bread of the rich whilst the poor ate whole grain bread however in the late 20th Century in most western societies this was reversed as whole grain bread was found to have a higher nutritional value whilst white bread became associated with the lower class.

Homemade bread is far superior in taste, aroma, quality and appearance although it does have a shorter ‘shelf life’ which is not really a problem as it is usually eaten within hours of being made, if you want to have a go at making your own bread see below.

Charlotte’s guide to making delicious bread with children.

When bread making with the under 10’s we recommend preparing the dough in advance, up to step 7, and dividing the mixture into balls to make rolls.  Each child can then finish their own fairly easily.

Ingredients

  • Just over a pint of tepid water
  • 2 sachets of dried yeast
  • 1 dessert spoon of brown sugar
  • 5 cups of strong white bread flour (note our cup takes around 160g of flour
  • 2 cups of either wheat bran, ground oatmeal, wholemeal flour or granary flour (experiment to see which you prefer)
  • Handful of seeds – sunflower, poppy, sesame etc.

 

Method

  1. Add the dried yeast and the brown sugar to a jug containing the tepid water and whisk until the sugar has dissolved
  2. In a separate large deep bowl add the strong white flour and the 2 cups of either wheat bran, ground oat meal, wholemeal flour or granary flour (this will give the bread a little more texture) and mix together
  3. Add contents of the jug and stir and then with your hands form into a ball of dough
  4. If its too sticky add a little more flour but don’t add too much
  5. Work the dough by stretching, folding and kneading for 10 to 15 minutes
  6. Stand in a covered bowl in a slightly warm place until twice the size (about an hour)
  7. Knead for a second time for around 3 to 4 minutes
  8. At this stage you can add seeds of your choice (little hands love to prod them into the dough)
  9. Put into bread tins or make into roll shapes.  When making rolls with children you can be creative, try cobs, plaits and cottage rolls
  10. When the children have finished leave the dough to rise a second time, for around half an hour until it doubles in size
  11. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes for rolls.  For a loaf allow 30 – 35 minutes at Gas mark 4 to 5 or 180 C.
  12. When the bread is cooked, place on a rack until cool.  Store in a sealed tin or bag to keep the bread fresh for longer

 

Happy bread making

Gill