Archive for April, 2010

This is a great idea from Friends of the Earth.  It gives seedlings a great head start and is a handy way to recycle plastic bottles too! 

All you need to do is cut empty plastic bottles in half and place them over seedlings to give them their own individual greenhouse.  Very young plants will benefit from the warm micro-climate underneath the plastic, which also protects them from hungry slugs and snails.

If you would like to be a little greener why not subscribe to receive Friends of the Earths free Tip of the Day by email.  All the details can be found here.

For all your gardening needs this spring visit www.recycleworks.co.uk.

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These delicious cupcakes complete with pretty, crystallised flowers are a real taste of Spring sunshine.  Enjoy with afternoon tea or at a springtime party… The crystallised flowers can be made in advance.  The recipe here makes approximately a dozen and a half cakes.


Ingredients for Cupcakes
175g unsalted butter at room temperature
175g caster sugar
Grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
3 large free-range eggs
175g self-raising flour

Ingredients for Lemon Icing
250g icing sugar
lemon juice – enough to make a paste

Ingredients for Crystallised Flowers
Edible flower heads (violets, primroses, rose petals and pansies are suitable)
Edible leaves (mint, lemon balm)
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar



  1. Line your cupcake trays with paper cases
  2. Heat the oven to 180 C (fan oven)
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until it is light and fluffy
  4. Add the lemon zest
  5. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the mixture a little at a time, beating the mixture well between additions
  6. Fold the flour in with a large metal spoon
  7. Fill the paper cases, but leave a little room at the top for the cakes to rise
  8. Place in a preheated oven for around 20 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown
  9. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a clean bowl and add enough lemon juice to make a paste
  10. When the cakes have been cooked and allowed to cooled, spoon icing onto the top and allow it to set

For the Crystallised Flowers

  1. Take the egg whites in a large bowl and add a spoonful of water.  Whisk with a fork until a few bubbles appear in the mixture
  2. Brush each flower and leaf with egg white
  3. Coat each flower and leaf with a sprinkling of sugar
  4. Allow the sugar to absorb and then cover with a second sprinkling
  5. Place the finished leaves and flowers on some kitchen paper and allow to dry at room temperature for around 24 hours.  They are then ready to use.

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We are still enjoying a steady supply of mushrooms from our Mushroom Growing Kit, and as promised this week we have one of our favourite yummy mushroom recipes for you.  My children love this recipe, which is always a good sign, and it’s ready in around 20 minutes!

Garlic & Mushroom Pasta


Knob of butter
1½lb mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 medium onion peeled and chopped finely
350g pasta
Dash of lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and black pepper
Fresh cream
Grated parmesan cheese


1. Melt the butter in a pan, add the onions and cook until soft.

2. Add the mushrooms, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes.

3. To the pan of mushrooms and onions, add the lemon juice and garlic, cover and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the parsley, salt and pepper and mix well. Add around 5 tablespoons of cream and heat through.

4. Drain the pasta well and toss in the sauce. Add more cream if necessary.  Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on the top and serve.

For a healthier option try substituting some of the cream for creme fraiche.  This dish is nice with a side dish of crispy salad leaves.

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Have you ever had a problem identifying wildlife, be it a bird, a beast, a fish,  a flower or or even a fungi – if so, then you need to visit the iSpot website.

Run by the Open University, this is a brilliant site . You simply upload photos of the whatever it is you can’t identify to the website for all to see and someone will answer your query.

You can learn more about wildlife and share your interests with a friendly community. Take a look at the latest “spots”, start your own album of observations, join a group and get help identifying what you have seen.

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If you follow our blog regularly you will know that we received our lovely Mushroom Growing Kit a few weeks ago.  We were very excited and took it straight home to get started.  The kit includes full, easy to follow instructions along with everything you need to get a good crop of mushrooms!

First we took the casing soil, placed it in a bucket and added some tap water.  We then covered it in some foil and left it for 24 hours.

Next we opened the growing kit which was full of mushroom spores.  We gently spread the moist casing soil evenly over the top of the kit. 

We then sprayed the soil with a hand spray everyday to keep it nice and moist.  We kept the kit closed in between times to keep the atmosphere inside damp. 

Very soon the compost became covered with small white dots – the beginnings of our mushrooms!

We kept spraying the soil to keep it moist and on day 7 we installed the water reservoir (included in the kit).

After around 3 and a half weeks our mushrooms were big enough to start picking.  It is best to pick them when they are around 3-5cm in size.  We have a steady stream still coming and pick a handful every few days! 

The kit has been fantastic fun for the family ..the children’s expectation and excitement making it so much fun …And as the mushrooms literally double in size some nights, we now understand where the description of something having mushroomed, comes from!!

 To buy your own Mushroom Growing Kit click HERE.  …And visit the blog next week for our favourite mushroom recipe!

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April 23rd is William Shakespeare’s birthday so we thought if would be fun to have a story telling theme to our competitions this month.

As usual there will be two competitions one for Families and one for Schools, but the challenge this time is the same for both. 

We would like you to tell us a story about anything that’s special to you, a garden you enjoy, somewhere you like to walk, wildlife, a happy holiday memory, spring time…the choice is yours but the challenge is you can use only eight words or less.  To help get your ideas flowing here is Jemima’s story about her new pet rabbit:

“Soft, white, whiskery, new friend… happiness”

And a couple from us….

“Muddy dog gets bath, smells sweet”

“Garden with children, …eat strawberries for tea”

Be as creative as you like  and we look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Prizes For Schools

The winning school will receive a copy of the lovely new book Kids in the Garden, plus 2 Non-Electric Propagators, a Mushroom Growing Kit, a Strawberry Planter and a Kids Traditional Watering Can.




Prizes For Families

The winning family will receive a Kid’s in the Garden Book, a Mushroom Growing Kit, a Non-Electric Propagator and a bottle of Antibacterial Hand gel


Full details of how to enter are on the Family Competition page and School Competition page. 

Please send your entries to competitions@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk by 30 April 2010.  

Or you can post your entry to Family / School Competition, Gardening With Children, Unit 1, Bee Mill, Ribchester, Preston. PR3 3XJ 

 Good Luck with your entry!

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