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Archive for November, 2014

National Tree Week (29 Nov – 7 Dec) begins on Saturday and with it the start of the tree planting season, it was launched in 1975 and is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration inspiring upward of a quarter of a million people to get their hands dirty and plant a million trees.

Trees make an attractive focal point in any garden, they are havens for wildlife too, providing homes and food for caterpillars (leaves), insects (flowers, leaves), beetles and larvae (trunk, rotting wood) these in turn are food for animals and birds especially newly fledged youngsters or hungry chicks still in the nest, in Autumn and Winter their fruits/berries and seeds provide a welcome meal for birds and animals, trees really are a very important part of the wild food chain.

If you are thinking of planting a tree you will need to consider where you are going to plant it, how much space is available and how big your tree will grow when it is mature.

If you only have a small garden don’t worry many trees can be planted in containers, dwarf fruit trees are ideal they have stunning flowers in spring, colourful leaves in autumn and delicious fruits, if you are not sure which tree to buy, have a look at the label for more information, or ask the supplier, some fruit trees can grow very big.

Oak Tree

In Britain we have some very old trees, many are surrounded by myths and legends or were growing during famous and historical events click here if you want to learn more about these ancient trees and if there is one near to you.

How do you tell how old a tree is?

There are two ways that you can find out:

  1. Chop the tree down and count the number of rings found in the trunk, each growth ring represents a year that the tree has been alive.
  2. Measure the circumference of the tree trunk, wrap your tape measure around the widest part of the trunk, measuring in inches each inch represents the age of the tree (52” = 52 years) this method will give you an estimate of the age of the tree as each variety of tree grows at a different rate, firs and redwoods may grow more in a year, while others like cedars may grow less.

So why not plant a tree this week or look for an old tree, give it a hug, and see if you can work out its age (don’t forget your tape measure).

Love your environment

Gill

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Hedgehogs are busy at the moment looking for a safe place to hibernate and eating plenty of food to build them up for the long winter months, if you love Hedgehogs why not have a go at our two free Gardening with Children Competitions, one in the Family Zone and one in the School Zone.

In both competitions you have a chance to win

Hogitat Hedgehog Home

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

A perfect winter retreat for your prickly garden friends

guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

and a pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

All you need to do in the School Zone Competition is to correctly identify which Trees the Seeds and Leaves pictured come from, in the Family Zone Competition you have to correctly identify the Fruit/Berries pictured, in each competition there is a list of options to help you.

Hurry, the closing date for both competitions is 30th November 2014

So what are you waiting for? Click on the above links to enter and find out more!

Good Luck

Gill

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I hope that you all had a fun Halloween, my favourite part is trimming up the front of the house with scary pumpkins, cobwebs, big spiders and bats – it’s funny we only tend to think about Bats at Halloween yet for most of the year they live all around us, in the UK we have 18 species of Bats, many of which we rarely see, they will probably have been flying above you whilst you were trick or treating, searching for flying insects (midges, beetles and moths) brought out by the warm weather, this year was the warmest Halloween on record reaching an incredible 23.6C (74.5F) in London during the afternoon.

Bats are not scary at all in fact they are beautiful, unique mammals that live a secretive life. Bats emerge at dusk to feed whilst they fly, during October/November they are making the most of any available insects and building up their fat reserves which is crucial to their survival during hibernation in the winter months. There is a saying ‘as blind as a Bat’ in fact Bats are not blind they have good eyesight, as good as ours, when they are hunting for insects at night they use their hearing to locate their prey, as they fly they make calls or ‘clicks’ and then listen to the returning echos, this is called Echolocation, it helps them to build up a map of their surroundings , including objects which they do not want to fly into and also to locate flying insects (their prey). The calls that the Bats make are usually pitched at a high frequency that we cannot hear, you can hear these calls if you have a Bat Detector, not only will it pick up the calls of Bats that are near but you can determine which species of Bat it is as each Bat has its own unique call.

Bats begin to hibernate in November, hibernation is a state of inactivity when the metabolic rate slows, body temperature is lowered and breathing is slower, during this time they live off their fat reserves they will begin to emerge in March looking for insects. Bats roost on their own or in small groups often in cool quiet places such as attics, disused buildings, tunnels, bridges, caves, or old trees but due to modern housing and redevelopment their roosting sites are diminishing, in the UK, bat populations have declined considerably over the last century.

We can all give our Bats a helping hand by putting up Bat Boxes, now is a crucial time for them, 2 or 3 placed in different directions will provide a range of roosting temperatures at different times, site as high up as possible, in a semi sunny position and out of prevailing winds and rain (preferably facing south, south-east and south-west). Boxes can be put on buildings ideally up by the eaves or on trees, 2 or 3 can be arranged around the trunks of larger trees, clear away any surrounding branches especially underneath so that the Bats have clear access and can land easily before climbing up into the box, different species will occupy different types of boxes.

The Double Chamber Bat Box  has two chambers with ledges for Bats to cling to.

 Wooden Bat Box

The Conservation Bat Box has vertical chambers with angled cut-away front showing ladder style grooves which allows the bat to climb into one of the twin chambers.

 Conservation bat box

All UK bats and their roosts are protected by law, which means it is illegal to harm or disturb them so don’t be tempted to open your bat box to see who is inside instead you will have to watch closely at dusk to see if anyone comes out, another sign that they are occupied is ‘mouse sized’ droppings that contain insects underneath the box, it may take quite a while for Bats to use your box be patient or you may be lucky and they move in within weeks.

So go ‘batty’ this month and put up a Bat box

Love your environment

Gill

 

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The Red Poppy is a well-known and powerful symbol of Remembrance Day, 11th November, it is worn to commemorate the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces and to show support to those still serving today and their loved ones. This year one of the most remarkable sights must be the ceramic poppies that surround the Tower of London, the art installation is called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ and is to mark the 100th Anniversary of the start of the first World War, its creator is ceramic artist Paul Cummins. The display consists of 888,246 poppies, each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war, all the poppies have been hand-made using techniques which potters would have used during the First World War. The poppies were put on sale by Paul Cummins Ceramics Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red CIC with the support of Historic Royal Palaces to raise money for six service charities and have now all completely sold out, every poppy being a piece of history.

If you have been inspired by the Tower of London Poppies why not have a go at your own Poppy Art and make a ‘hand’ printed Poppy painting, children love getting ‘hands on’ with paint, this will especially appeal to younger artists.

Poppy finger paint art picture

What you will need

  • Paper/card
  • Red/Black/Green washable paint
  • 3 Saucers
  • A thumb, finger and hand!

What you need to do

  1. Place each colour of paint into a separate saucer
  2. Dip your thumb into the red paint
  3. On your paper make four thumb prints in the shape of a circle, repeat to make as many poppies as you like.
  4. Dip the tip of your finger into the black paint and make a black finger print in the centre of your red thumb prints to create the black centre of the poppy flower
  5. Put the side of your hand into the green paint and place on the paper under the poppy for the stem, repeat for the leaves but move your hand slightly so that it is a bit thicker or you can of course use your finger or thumb.
  6. As well as making a picture to put on your wall, you could also make a birthday card (fold your card in half and paint on the right side of the sheet) or some bookmarks (cut your card into strips and decorate with a single poppy flower)

Get creative and have lots of fun

Gill

P.S. If you would like to grow your own Red Poppies click here for more information, Poppy Appeal packets of seeds are available to buy in shops, with a donation from each packet sold going to this worthy charity.

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