Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2014

Following our Easter break it is now all about pots and propagators.

I tend to sow most of my seeds in April with the exception of Chilli and Sweet peppers which are quite slow to grow and germinate, these were sown in early March and are now ready to be potted up individually into small pots (click here for a guide to growing Chilli Peppers).

Red Chillies

The following were the first to go into my two propagators:

Tomatoes – a must, packed full of flavour and goodness they are so healthy, I usually grow different varieties, cherry/mini plum tomato (perfect for lunch boxes and for putting on skewers on the BBQ) , medium size tomato (general use), large fleshy tomato (for soups/chutneys) and hanging basket tomatoes (handy by the back door, they look great too). Click here for a guide to growing tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercress – easy to grow and doesn’t need running water it has a lovely peppery flavour great in salads or if you grow plenty Watercress Soup, its rich in Vitamin C (click here for a guide to growing Watercress).

Watercress close

Cosmos – one of my favourite flowers and loved by Bees and Insects, planted in groups they make a stunning display and can be cut to enjoy indoors.

All of the above seeds have germinated and are growing on nicely they will be ready to pot on when their first set of true leaves have grown,

they have now been replaced in the propagator with:

Basil, Parsley, Coriander – essential summer herbs for salads or cooking

Coriander

Sweet Corn – pick then cook and eat as soon as possible before the sugar turns to starch, shop bought simply doesn’t compare to home grown

Butternut Squash – not something I have grown before but can be boiled, roasted, mashed and made into soup, they store well for winter use

these will then be replaced with:

Salad Leaves – a summer essential

Frilly Lettuce

Cucumbers – you can’t have a salad without cucumber, home grown are delicious (click here for a guide to growing cucumbers)

Courgettes –easy to grow and will produce a big crop until the first winter frosts

Pumpkins – I always grow these for Halloween but they can be made into soup, pies and cakes, don’t forget to roast the seeds (click here for a guide to growing Pumpkins)

T's Halloween Pumpkin

Sunflowers – the flower of Summer, loved by bees and insects the seeds can be dried to feed to the birds, this year I am planning to grow a ‘crop’ on my allotment (click here for a guide to growing Sunflowers)

Sunflower 1

Many of the above can be sown directly outside but they simply will not grow if it is too cold, I wouldn’t be without my propagators and would recommend them to anyone, the constant gentle temperature really does make a difference to the germination rate of your seeds.

Click here to learn more about growing in propagators.

Growing your plants from seed is easy and very economical and to many children it is pure magic!

 The essential heated propagator

Why not enter our free competitions for a chance to win your own propagator (click here for full details) or one for your School (click here for full details) hurry, the closing date for both competitions is Wednesday 30th April.

Good Luck

Gill

Read Full Post »

Last week we managed to get away for a short break to Silverdale this is one of our favourite places and one we visit regularly throughout the year. The area has a diverse landscape (ancient woodland, flower rich meadows, limestone pavements and coastal saltmarshes) making it a haven for a large, varied and unique range of wildlife, Thomas is very interested in birds and saw a record number of species –  82 in total, but it was the Butterflies that really caught my attention especially the Brimstones which were dancing along the hedgerows.

Photograph of Brimstone from Butterfly Conservation website

Brimstones are quite big butterflies with leaf shaped veined wings which blend in well when they are resting amongst foliage, the females have pale green/white wings and the males have yellow-green underwings and yellow upperwings making them very easy to spot. In Spring the butterflies feed on Dandelion, Primrose, Cowslip, Bugle and Bluebell flowers which can often be found under hedges, the caterpillars feed on Buckthorn leaves.

Butterfly numbers have nearly halved in the last forty years, last year’s hot summer did boost numbers but there is a long way to go before their numbers return to a healthy and stable population. Butterfly Conservation is a charity dedicated to protecting butterflies, moths and our environment (www.butterfly-conservation.org) through conserving and creating habitats, recording and monitoring, raising awareness and encouraging  individuals and families  to get involved. On their website there is lots of information and pictures of Butterflies and Moths and a really useful guide to help you to identify which Butterfly or Moth you have seen.

This April 2014 Butterfly Conservation is offering half price membership (with the code GARDEN50 and paying by direct debit), plus the first 100 people to sign up will receive a free pack of seeds, either Phlox, Pot Marigold or Cornflower, these are not only lovely flowers but are known to attract a variety of Butterflies and Moths, like the Humming-bird Hawk-moth and Peacock, included in each new membership welcome pack is their new gardening book, which contains details of how to encourage Butterflies and Moths into the garden as well as general gardening information, this book is exclusive to members and not for sale anywhere.

Gardening for Butterflies and Moths

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more Butterflies in your garden, this Easter keep a look out for Butterflies or why not become a member of Butterfly Conservation and help our beautiful Butterflies and Moths?

Happy Easter

Gill

Read Full Post »

Chocolate Easter eggs are everywhere they seem to have been in the shops since Christmas, this year why not make some ‘traditional’ Easter eggs with the children to decorate your house this Easter and to celebrate the humble egg too!

Dip and Dye Decorated Eggs

What you will need

  • Cooled Hard Boiled Eggs (White or pale coloured)
  • Food Colouring
  • White vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Bowl or Cup for each colour, deep enough to submerge an egg
  • Spoons

Dyeing eggs can be very messy, wear old clothes if possible and waterproof painting aprons, cover the kitchen table with a plastic tablecloth and newspapers.

For each coloured dye place half/one teaspoon of food colouring and one tablespoon of vinegar in a container then top up to approx. ¾ full with warm water.

The Simple Egg

Carefully lower your egg into the dye with your spoon, the longer you leave it in the dye the darker the colour will be, remove your egg when you are happy with the colour and leave to dry.

The Arty Egg

Using a wax crayon or a birthday candle, draw a picture, pattern or write a message on your egg before dipping as above, the wax crayon/candle will stop the dye colouring the egg, experiment with different colours.

The Abstract Egg

Using masking tape, cut out lots shapes and stick them on your egg, dye several times in different colours after each colour allow to dry before removing some of the shapes before dyeing again alternatively place elastic bands around your egg and remove some after each dipping you could dye the egg a light colour first before covering with the masking tape shapes or rubber bands.

You can decorate all of the dyed eggs further by drawing/painting patterns, shapes, flowers, animals or faces etc. on them or by sticking on glitter, sequins, coloured foil, paper, wool, string, cotton wool etc. the possibilities are endless.

Place your eggs in a basket or bowl filled with tissue paper or straw for a wonderful display, unfortunately you will not be able to eat these eggs unlike the chocolate ones!

Have fun

Gill

Read Full Post »

Last week I managed to get on my allotment, it was Mother’s Day to be precise, the weather was glorious and the birds were singing – it was perfect! My first job was to tidy up and weed the beds now that they have dried out sufficiently I was delighted to find lots and lots of Ladybirds which have successfully survived our mild winter this is great news but unfortunately our native Ladybirds are under threat from another Ladybird, it is called the Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) and is the most invasive Ladybird on earth, arriving in Britain in the Summer of 2004, it is originally from Asia and was introduced to North America in 1988 and then Europe as a biological pest control where it has now widespread.

Group of harlequin (succinea) ladybirds

Photograph from the UK Ladybird Survey website showing Harlequin Ladybirds

In Britain we have 46 species of Ladybirds although 19 of these are not recognisable as Ladybirds as they are not bright coloured or Spotty. The Harlequin Ladybird has over 100 different colour pattern variations making it very hard to identify, one of the easiest ways to recognize it is by its size it can measure 5-8mm in length which is larger than most of our native Ladybirds the best way to accurately identify it is to have a good Ladybird guide. The problem with the Harlequin Ladybirds is that instead of producing a single generation of young per year like our native species they can produce two or more, a single female can lay over a thousand eggs. Harlequin Ladybirds have a more varied diet and larger appetite and will eat the eggs and larvae of butterflies and moths, small insects and alarmingly other Ladybirds as well as their staple diet of aphids.

How can we help?

The spread of the Harlequin Ladybird in Britain is being closely monitored through the Harlequin Ladybird Survey www.harlequin-survey.org who would like Schools, Groups and members of the public to send in their sightings of Harlequin Ladybirds, this can be done through their website or by post, there is even an app available to download with a guide to help you to identify Ladybirds and then to report your sightings. If you find any type of Ladybird you can send in your sighting as above to the UK Ladybird Survey www.ladybird-survey.org who will use your information to help the conservation of all our British Ladybirds.

This Easter (and as often as you can) why not go on a Ladybird hunt in your garden, local park, on a walk or on holiday and send in your sightings to www.harlequin-survey.org or www.ladybird-survey.org, you could take a photograph of them or even draw a picture when you get home, everyone loves Ladybirds especially children.

Happy Hunting

Gill

Read Full Post »