Archive for July, 2009

As a child I have such fond memories of growing my own herb garden.  My mum provided me with a few packets of seeds and a suitable container and off I went.  The results were remarkably good for the novice that I was.  Having said that, I do recall tending them every day and taking such care of my little project.


So if you are looking for something fun to do with the family this week, why not get a suitable container, such as the handy sized FSC wooded Salubrious Salad Bed, a selection of our Herb Seeds and give your own little project a go.  During these warm summer days the seeds should germinate in no time and you can begin harvesting the tasty leaves in a matter of a few weeks. 


These FSC wooden beds are perfect for sowing herbs

These FSC wooden beds are perfect for sowing herbs

I noticed during my last trip to the supermarket that many of the packets of fresh herbs come from all over the globe these days so by growing your own you will be doing your bit for the environment to!

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Sowing Names With Seeds
If there is any space left in the garden, or if a space appears where crops have been harvested, why not let your children sow some seeds in the shape of their initials or first name (depending on length of name and space available?!)

Prepare an area of soil, dig it over and rake it ready for sowing seeds. Then take a peice of chalk and write the childs name / initials onto the soil. Older children will be able to do this themselves.

Next sprinkle seeds such as cress on top of the chalk letters. Sow quite thickly to get a good end result. Gently cover with soil without disturbing the seeds and then water well. Watch carefully of over the next few days and watch as the letters begin to grow!

New Potatoes for Christmas
My daughters usually start talking about Christmas in August, which I have to say I generally discourage. But this year I intend to channel all that expectant energy into sowing potatoes for Christmas Day!, There are lots of bargains to be had on buying Potato Sacs with the seed potatoes included, or you can purchase separately. And if you bought potato sacs in spring these can of course be reused.

Plant our ‘Nicola’ seed potatoes, in stock now, until the end of August and have freshly picked new potatoes on Christmas Day. If you plant too many the ‘surplus’ will make wonderful last minute presents. Big smiles all round!

Keep the Kids Happy On Holiday
This great idea comes from Friends of the Earth and we think its fantastic!Don’t pack loads of toys for your trip. Instead, when you arrive at your holiday destination, go into the local charity shop and buy some toys. Let the kids play with them on holiday and then before you leave donate them back. Think of it like a toy library while helping a charity make some money.


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Well the school holidays are now in full swing and over the next few weeks we will be providing lots of fun ideas for activities to do with the children.  From nature spotting to baking and craft activities keep checking back for more ideas each week.  

My two girls are particularly full of energy at this time of year, and a recent trip to visit Grandma reminded me how important fresh air and exercise is for them.  During their stay, my mum had them out for a good walk each day before breakfast and by 9 am they had colour in their cheeks and a huge appetite.  So if the kids seem as if they have too much energy for the indoors sometimes don’t forget to get them outside into the garden or countryside.

Mushroom Spotting
We are fast approaching the time of year when magically overnight in certain, particular fields wonderful, ghostly white mushrooms appear. Why not arm yourself or the kids with a copy of the Fungi Name Trail?

The Fungi Guide - We have a wide selection of field guides to choose from

The Fungi Guide - We have a wide selection of field guides to choose from


This guide has 16 laminated pages of illustrations, facts and information arranged in print as an identification trail.

Starting with the question, Does it have a cap? Then, Is your Fungus a cup or a bowl sitting on the ground with no stem? And going on to help you identify what you see. 

Be a real nature detective and see how you get on….  But do remember, some types of mushroom are very poisonous and if in any doubt look but don’t touch.





Find Some Wild Food
There is nothing my children like more than picking food in the countryside. During July and August it’s a great time to go Bilberry picking. Here in Lancashire there are many upland places where tucked amongst the heather you will find bilberries aplenty. And later on in September come the blackberries, for all those crumbles and jams.  And don’t forget our handy berry picker for super fast picking!  We have lots of recipe ideas, which will be arriving on the blog over the next few weeks.

Enter Our Competition
Our latest School Gardening Competition and Family Gardening Competition close on 31st July. There are some fabulous prizes to win so if you haven’t entered yet, do it today. You could be a winner!

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 Now is the perfect time to be harvesting the gooseberries and being a lover of all things fattening, I couldn’t resist turning just a few of mine into a beautifully indulgent Gooseberry Fool. 

So if you too would like to have a go at making this heavenly dessert read on.


500g gooseberries
100g sugar
half pint double cream
few drops of vanilla essence
dash of elderflower cordial to taste


Top and tail the gooseberries and place in a saucepan

Add two or three tablespoons of sugar and heat through for a few minutes on a low heat

Allow the gooseberries to soften nicely, add the remaining sugar and then continue heating to allow for some of the water to evaporate

Take care to stir the mixture and avoid allowing it to burn onto the bottom of the pan

Remove from the heat and leave to cool

Sieve the mixture to remove skins, seeds etc

Stir in a dash of elderflower cordial and taste.  Add more if desired

In a separate bowl whip up the cream

Fold the gooseberries carefully into the cream

Place in the fridge to chill

Find a large bowl, a quiet moment and enjoy!

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The summer holidays are often a tricky time for the school garden.  After all the fun and toil of the Gardening Club during the spring and summer term, everyone skips off for their summer holidays and the much loved and enjoyed school garden can fall a little into neglect.  

Without any attention during the holiday season, weeds can take over, plants may die through lack of water and previously tended crops may become over ripe and go to waste. 

 This can all be a little disheartening for children and adults alike on the return to school in September, but with a little planning all this is avoidable.

 So based on our own gardening experiences, we have come up with our top 10 Tips for caring for the school garden during the summer holidays.

1.   Harvest everything you can in the last few days before the school holidays begin


2.   Get out your tools and have a few good weeding sessions in the run up to the end of term.  Have a look at our Apprentice range of Garden Tools for a good selection.  Unchecked weeds will take nutrients and water from the crops you are growing


3.   Consider using a mulch such as old hay or straw, green waste or composted bark.  This can be placed on the soil around summer crops.  Mulch helps to conserve water in the soil and also suppresses weeds.  Make sure you water the soil well before applying the mulch, for maximum benefit.  Our clever no spill, no waste, no mess Watering Can is great for little helpers.  If you want a ready supply of recycled rainwater take a look at our Rainmate Water Butt.

4.   Take a walk around the school garden and make a list of essential tasks for the holidays.  Things to remember include watering, harvesting and keeping the weeds at bay.  If you are making use of helpers who are not normally involved with the school garden, it might be worth providing written instructions, and information on where to find the watering can etc.  If you have fruit bushes to harvest over the coming weeks our cleverly designed Berry Picker is easy to use and makes fruit picker so much easier and quicker.

5.   Put together a rota.  Depending on your garden, a visit every other day or twice a week may be adequate to keep things ticking over.  It may also depend on how many willing volunteers you are able to find

6.   Circulate your rota amongst pupils, parents, teachers, neighbours, and any local interested groups such as for example the local allotment society.  Also speak to the school holiday club, if you have one, as they may be willing to include gardening into their daily activities

7.   Keep things flexible, to encourage people to take part.  Even if someone can only manage one visit during the holiday season, take their help and find a slot in the rota for them

8.   Offer helpers the fruit and vegetables they harvest, as a reward for their efforts 

9.   Make sure access arrangements to the school grounds are in place, and helpers are aware of these procedures

10.   Ask participants to make notes in a communal journal or diary, so the school children can find out about what’s been going on in the school garden during their absence.  This sort of record may also assist helpers to see where things are up to when they take over to do their stint

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Here at Gardeningwithchildren.co.uk we are all a bit mad about wildlife.  Jemima, the youngest member of the team has been avidly watching the tadpoles in our garden, as they make the amazing transformation into frogs.  

For help with your wildlife observations you might be interested in a new website being developed by the Open University. 


 iSpot is a place to learn lots about wildlife.  So if you’ve spotted something of interest but need help to identify it, there is a whole community of people there who can help.  Share photos, latest sitings and identification tips.  Plus there are lots of useful links to other websites if you have a particular specialist interest.

hummingbird hawkmoth

For my own nature walks with the children, I also find these wildlife guides excellent.  They are clearly and beautifully illustrated, packed full of fascinating and useful information, plus they are laminated making them practical for outdoor use.   


For collecting little finds and treasures along the way this small trug is lightweight and lovely for small hands.  From here shells, sticks, leaves and seeds all make their way onto the nature table.  And our wildlife cameras  will record all the activity both on land and in water. 


And if you would like to stay fit over the summer and love the great outdoors the BTCV Green Gym is worth a look.  Its a great opportunity to improve your fitness by getting involved in practical conservation activities such as planting hedges, creating and maintaining community gardens, or improving footpaths. You can join for an hour or more on a weekly or twice-weekly basis – find out more at  http://www.btcv.org/greengym

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As the raspberries begin to ripen, and the temperatures continue to soar we thought that now would be a good time to make some of our delicious raspberry cordial.  And if you would like a little help to speed the fruit picking along take a look at our berry pickers.  Their clever design means you can pick your soft fruit 10 times quicker, which will leave enough time to make some of this delicious cordial.



300g raspberries
220g caster sugar
sparkling or still water


Combine the raspberries and sugar and heat over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved

Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes until the syrup begins to thicken

Remove from the heat

Blend in a food mixer

Strain through a sieve to remove the raspberry seeds

Pour into a sealable glass bottle

When ready to serve, put some cordial in a glass and add sparkling or still water, some ice and a slice of lemon.  Take your glass, find a shady spot and enjoy!


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Now is the time to send us your competition entries.  We have a competition for schools and one for families.  The prizes are fabulous and are all provided by The Recycleworks Ltd!!  Read on for more details, and remember the closing date for both competitions is 31st July 2009.

To enter our latest schools competition we would like you to put on your chefs hat and create your very own recipe.  If can be for anything you like but must include one item of fruit or veg that you have grown yourselves.  We’d then like you to make the dish of your choice, have a taste and then let us know how it all turned out.  Include photos with your entry if you can.
Assembling our Wooden Composter Bin is childs play

Assembling our Wooden Compost Bin is childs play

The best entry will win over £150 worth of Autumn Gardening Goodies including one our childrens’ twin wooden compost bins, a leaf mould composter, a Hogitat house for hibernating hedgehogs and a Frogitat house for frogs, plus a great selection of laminated full colour wildlife guides
Our Hogitat makes a snug winter home for a hedgehog

Our Hogitat makes a snug winter home for a hedgehog

All this will be delivered to your school at the start of the Autumn Term.  Plus all entrants will receive 10% off their next order from us.
For our latest family competition we would like you to go out into the garden and collect a few flowers and leaves that catch your eye – make sure you ask a grown up first or better still why not do it together.  Once you have a nice selection carefully press them in a flower press or large heavy book. 

For more advice on pressing flowers take a look at our Simple Guide to Pressing Flowers and Leaves.  After a few days take your pressed flowers and leaves and make into a picture or your choice. 

So why not have a go and in return you could win £100 worth of high quality gardening tools and bird care goodies.   Plus every household that enters will receive 10% off their next order from us.

The Apprentice Tools are very high quality, and made of stainless steel with a solid wooden handle

The Apprentice Tools are very high quality, and made of stainless steel with a solid wooden handle


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