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Archive for July, 2012

The prolonged wet weather that we have endured over the last few months has had a devastating affect on our wildlife says the National Trust, Birds, Bats, Butterflies and Bees have all been affected.

Pembroke Nest Box

Pembroke Nest Box

Birds have struggled to find food for themselves and their young, caterpillars and insects have literally been washed away, we can help birds now by giving them protein rich foods such as live mealworms and putting up nest boxes for shelter.

Double Chamber Wooden Bat Box

Double Chamber Wooden Bat Box

Bats have been affected due to the lack of insects on the wing, although we cannot provide a substitute food source we can provide somewhere warm and dry for them to roost and breed by putting up a Bat Box (or two).

Sedum

Butterflies and Bees have suffered as they cannot go foraging for nectar rich flowers in heavy rain and even the flowers that they found were full of water. Bee Keepers and farmers are warning of honey shortages and reduced fruit crops. We can help them by planting nectar rich flowers in the garden such as Buddleia, Scabious, Sedum, Catmint and Lavender, if you have not got a flower border consider growing these plants amongst your vegetables or in containers and window boxes.

Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station

Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station

Why not put up a Butterfly/Bee Nectar feeding Station or a Butterfly and Moth Feeder to provide some instant food, as well as a Bee Hive or Bee Log for shelter and breeding. Have a look here for more advice on attracting butterflies to your garden.

Frogitat - Ceramic Frog and Toad House

Frogitat Ceramic Frog and Toad House

Frogs and Hedgehogs have actually benefited during the wet weather, they have had a plentiful supply of food including worms, slugs, snails and the insects that have been washed to the ground. It is worth looking after these true gardener’s friends during the winter months by putting a Frogitat or a Hogitat in a quiet, wild corner of your garden.

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

Lets hope that the change in the weather and the new position of the Gulf Stream remains throughout the summer, as we and our wildlife so desperately need some sustained sunshine.

Whilst it’s here let’s get out and enjoy it.

Gill

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Finally, (dare I say it), summer is here and what a difference it makes to everything in the garden as well as to ourselves, we definitely all feel better and happier and just in time for the school holidays and of course the Olympic Games too. Whilst we have this warm weather we should get out, explore and enjoy our environment. 

 

The walk to Ingleborough Caves

Next week 30th July – 5th August is National Parks Week, why not visit one of the 15 National Parks in the UK, there are:

  • 10 in England – The Broads, Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Lake District, the New Forest, Northumberland, the North York Moors, the Peak District, the South Downs and the Yorkshire Dales
  • 2 in Scotland – Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
  • 3 in Wales – the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia

they are areas of protected countryside that everyone can visit, with four main types of habitat:

  • Moorlands,
  • Woodlands and Forests,
  • Wetlands, Lakes and Rivers
  • Meadows and Grasslands.

Visiting a National Park can be as energetic or as relaxing as you want with endless activities to choose from: Walking, Hiking, Dog Walking, Cycling, Mountain Biking, Horse Riding, Water Sports and Boat Rides and even Hot Air Ballooning, have a look at the National Parks website for more details of which parks support these activities.

Little Egrets

Don’t forget the Wildlife! National Parks are teeming with animals, birds and insects and some rare ones too including Red Squirrel, Otter, Water Vole, Osprey, Bittern and the Swallowtail Butterfly (which only lives in the Broads), take your binoculars and your wildlife diary with you and see what you can spot.

Wildflower meadow

National Parks are also host to some spectacular and rare wildflowers, some of which can only be found in the National Parks, such as the Snowdon Lily in Snowdonia and the English Sandwort in the Yorkshire Dales, take your camera with you to record our stunning native wildflowers.

Whether you are at home or on holiday make a visit to a National Park near you, there are lots of things to do as well as organised events throughout the summer.

Love your environment

Gill

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This year, in less than a week, London will host the 2012 Olympic Games and what better reason to celebrate and have a party. In keeping with the colours of the Olympic Rings why not make some delicious fruity kebabs and serve them with a honey and yoghurt dip. This is a great healthy dessert which may tempt children (and adults) to eat more fruit, and will also count towards their 5 a day.

Fresh fruit is at its best at the moment, if you can why not use some that you have grown yourself.

Fruity Olympic Kebabs

What you will need

  • Wooden Skewers
  • Fresh fruit in the colours of the Olympic Rings:
  • Blue – Blueberries
  • Yellow – Pineapple, Melon, Banana
  • Black – Grapes, Blackberries, Plums
  • Green – Grapes, Kiwi, Apple
  • Red – Strawberries, Raspberries, Watermelon, Plums
  • Wooden Skewers

For the Yoghurt Dip

  • Greek or natural yoghurt
  • Runny Honey

Method

  1. Wash and cut up the fruit into bite sized pieces.
  2. Carefully thread the fruit onto the skewers in the colour order of the Olympic Rings (as above).
  3. Put the Yogurt into a shallow bowl and drizzle over the honey.

To eat

Simply dip the skewered fruit into the yoghurt or spoon it over the fruit.

Enjoy

GillUnion Flag Kneelo Garden Kneeler

P.S. Why not look the part at your party with an attractive Union Jack Kneeler their luxurious layer of memory foam makes them extremely comfortable to sit on as well as protecting your knees with their shock absorbing EVA foam when you are gardening.

They make a great gift too!

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Last week the Eco Committee members at Thomas’s School were invited by the Parish Council, in co-operation with the Borough Council, to plant a tree as a final act in the local Jubilee celebrations. The tree, an English Oak, was planted in open space land in the village so that it can be enjoyed by future generations and there will be a plaque put next to it to commemorate the Queens Diamond Jubilee. The children (including Thomas) put the top soil around the tree and sprinkled wildflower seeds around the base.

Thomas and the Jubilee Tree

Thomas has been on the Eco Committee this year and has thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the Eco work at school as well as providing his own input with regards to the wildlife that is in the school grounds. The School has put up bird boxes one of which has a camera, a bird table for feeding the birds, a nesting material holder, fat ball feeders and other bird feeders as well as insect houses.

Pembroke Nest Box

Pembroke Nest Box

The school gardening year has come to an end and preparations have been made for the summer holidays. All the young plants in pots have been planted in the ground, climbing plants have been tied in and supports provided, and the raised beds have been weeded and covered with netting to deter unwanted visitors.

 Enviromesh Netting

Enviromesh Netting

During the holidays Thomas and I will make regular checks to keep the garden ticking over until September this ties in well with feeding the school chickens as Thomas has been put on the ‘chicken rota’ again which I have to say I enjoy doing as much as he does. We are both looking forward to those super fresh boiled eggs!

Click here for our top 10 tips for caring for the school garden during the holidays.

Love your environment and enjoy your holidays

Gill

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Pressing flowers, leaves and grasses is easy and fun, follow some simple steps to get the best results, and then enjoy making pictures, cards and bookmarks. Pressing flowers is a great way to preserve flowers and can be done throughout the year to record the Seasons, why not stick them in your Wildlife and Nature Diary or a Scrapbook.

Flower Press

A Flower Press

Firstly, you will of course need a Flower Press!

Before beginning we advise that only flowers from the garden should be picked and pressed. It is against the Countryside Code to remove plants from the countryside and wild flowers should always be left for the enjoyment of everyone.

Garden flowers ready for pressing

  1. When selecting flowers to press always choose those that are looking their best, and are clean.
  2. Removing moisture is the key, so begin by collecting the flowers when they are dry. Wet flowers can go mouldy.
  3. Press your flowers as soon as possible to avoid them drooping or wilting.
  4. Lay the flowers flat face down on the blotting paper. Take care to arrange leaves and petals as you want them to appear when the flower is pressed, try pressing flowers on their side to get a different effect. 
  5. Place another piece of blotting paper or flower preserving paper on the top.
  6. Place the two pieces of paper between two pieces of cardboard.
  7. Place the layers into a flower press as follows, cardboard, paper, flowers, paper and cardboard.
  8. Depending on the press you may be able to fit in several layers like this.
  9. Tighten the wing nuts and leave to dry for a few days, longer if you use large, thick flowers.
  10. Alternatively place the flowers between sheets of blotting or flower preserving paper and place inside a large book such as the phone book and leave for a few days.  Be careful to use enough plain paper sheets to protect the books from staining.
  11. Experiment with different types of flowers. Pansies and violas are particularly easy and tend to keep their colour well. 
  12. Note if the flowers turn brown during pressing it may be because they are taking too long to dry out  

Stunning yellow pansies

Pressing flowers the traditional way can take time and lots of patience but if you want faster results flowers can be pressed and dried in the microwave. Repeat the process in the same way as above but if you use your flower press you will need to remove the wing nuts/bolts and secure the wooden boards with wide elastic bands 2 or 3 along each side, if you use a book check that it has no gold embossing and remove any staples. Place in the microwave for two minutes on medium heat, allow to cool then have a look at the flowers to see if they are dry if not return to the microwave for another minute and check again, keep repeating until the flowers are completely dry. This method may need a little experimentation.

Pressed flowers loose their colour if exposed to light so avoid direct sunlight or humid rooms when displaying them.

Love your environment

Gill

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If you are having a Birthday Party, Garden Party, BBQ or a family get together this Summer why not personalise your cakes or deserts with flowers from your own garden, they will look stunning and at this time of year there are plenty to choose from.

This is a lovely fun Summer holiday family activity, from selecting and picking the flowers to painting on the egg white and sprinkling on the sugar, you may need a bit of patience but the results are worth it. The flowers can also be made in advance.

Select flowers that you know are edible, pick a few at a time, when they are dry, and only choose those that are in perfect condition, make sure that they have not been treated with pesticides or chemicals.

Perfect purple pansies

Ingredients for Crystallised Flowers

Edible flower heads (Borage Flowers, Rose Petals, Pansies, and Violets are suitable)
Edible leaves (Mint, Lemon Balm)
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar

How to make 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. Dip the paintbrush in the egg white and brush each flower and leaf with egg white making sure that you cover all the surface.
  3. Hold over the bowl of Caster Sugar and then sprinke on the sugar until fully covered on both sides.
  4. Allow the sugar to absorb and then cover lightly with a second sprinkling if required, take care not to over apply.
  5. Place the finished leaves and flowers on some kitchen paper, and position the flowers to best effect (once they are dry you will not be able to move them), allow to dry at room temperature for around 24 hours.  They are then ready to use.

    Flowers ready for crystallising

Your crystallised flowers can be carefully stored in an airtight container between layers of greaseproof paper at room temperature for up to two weeks.

It is worth remembering that all plants have a certain amount of toxicity which not everyone can tolerate, if in doubt don’t eat them, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Have fun

Gill

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Our two current competitions both have a Butterfly theme, for a chance to win some great butterfly products have a go and enter before the closing date of 31st July 2012.

In the School Zone you could win a 

 
Solar Insect Theatre
 
(Made from durable FSC Timber, it features unique solar lighting that automatically lights up at dusk attracting Moths, Lacewings, Butterflies and other interesting flying insects into the Theatre which can then be studied and identified, the lower shelf has several Solitary Bee nesting holes as added habitat) 

and a

Butterfly and Moth Feeder

Butterfly and Moth Feeder

(Made from solid FSC certified timber, this product is designed for Butterflies and Moths and combines both a feeder and habitat for roosting and hibernating) 

all you need to do to is to complete our Butterfly Wordsearch. For full details and an entry form click here.

In the Family Zone you could win a 

 
Solar Insect Theatre
 
(Made from durable FSC Timber, it features unique solar lighting that automatically lights up at dusk attracting Moths, Lacewings, Butterflies and other interesting flying insects into the Theatre which can then be studied and identified, the lower shelf has several Solitary Bee nesting holes as added habitat) 

and a

 
Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station
 
(Attracts butterflies and bees to your garden) 

by completing our Butterfly Quiz. For full details and an entry form click here.

Good Luck

Gill

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