Archive for May, 2015

Dinosaur garden

Children have a great imagination and love being outdoors so… this half term holiday why not take the toys outside and make a miniature garden, there are lots of themes that you could choose, here are a few suggestions:

A Farm complete with tractors and farm animals

A Railway with trains, tracks, bridges, people and stations

Wild West with Cowboys, Indians, horses with Sand, Cacti and Succulents

Construction Site with Diggers, Trucks, sand and gravel, why not use your sand pit

An Enchanted garden with Fairies, wooden toadstools, small animals

Prehistoric Garden with dinosaurs, volcanos

Jungle with lions, tigers, monkeys,

Creepy Crawly World with bugs, spiders and minibeasts

A traditional mini garden complete with paths, flower and vegetable beds and a scarecrow

Choosing your container

You can make your garden any size you like why not use an ice cream container, seed tray, large pot, window box, old sink, plastic storage box, or make it on the lawn, in the sandpit or in a corner of your garden.


As well as your toys have a look around your garden/kitchen/play room for props and accessories.

Lollipop sticks and twigs can be made into fences, gravel and pebbles into paths, shallow containers, lids, tin foil or mirrors can be used to make a pond, use sand to create a desert or beach, Small rocks, old branches and pieces of bark to create a jungle/woodland feel. Girls may wish to use Coloured aquarium gravel, glass pebbles or sand with shells and beads why not sprinkle glitter for frost or as fairy dust, you can also use modelling clay to make any extras.


You can use freshly picked flowers from your garden these need to be put in water and sadly will not last very long, it is better to use plants that are growing that way the children will see their garden mature and develop and be encouraged to look after it, if you are using plants in a container check that there are adequate drainage holes at the base. Ferns and grasses are good structural plants, moss can be used as a lawn, low, small and slow growing plants such as Alpines and Thymes are ideal, Cress can be used to fill any gaps, dried Seed heads, tree seeds and cases (an acorn shell makes a nice cup) can be used, plant ivy at the edges to trail over the sides and hide your container.

There are so many variations let your imagination go wild.

Have lots fun and enjoy your holiday


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This week (18-24th May) we are being encouraged by the British Tomato Growers Association to buy home grown British tomatoes, tomatoes are very healthy and delicious whether they are eaten raw or cooked, they are a good source of Vitamins A, C and E and contain minerals such as potassium which can lower blood pressure and calcium which we need for healthy bones and teeth.

Here is a simple tasty idea to use your British Tomatoes:

Easy Pizza with home made Tomato Sauce


  • 800g ripe fresh tomatoes
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 to 2 tsp dried Italian or mixed herbs or a handful of fresh Basil chopped or torn into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground Black pepper
  • Grated Mozzarella Cheese and toppings

What you need to do

  1. In a large pan heat the oil on medium/low and cook the onion until soft and translucent then add the crushed garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, do not allow to burn.
  2. Chop your tomatoes and add to the pan with the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool and blend until smooth.
  4. This sauce is delicious with pasta and can be frozen.
  5. If you are making pizzas with children for speed and convenience use a packet pizza base mix or buy ready made pizza bases, then spread your Pizza Sauce over the base with the back of a spoon, sprinkle on grated Mozzarella Cheese and add your favourite topping the combinations are endless: Ham, Salami, Pepperoni, Chicken, Tuna, Prawns, Mushroom, Onion, Peppers, Pineapple, Olives, Sweetcorn…
  6. Bake in the oven at 230C/450F/Gas mark 8 for about 15 minutes until crisp and golden.

Making Pizzas

Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked home grown tomatoes, when they are ready it’s often a race as to who gets to them first, make sure you grow plenty a lot won’t make it back to the kitchen.

If you want to have a go at growing your own tomatoes young plants are widely available now in shops and garden centres for more information and full growing instructions click here.

Why not have a go at making your own Pizzas this week.



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In Britain, during May, we are surrounded by vibrant carpets of gold, in our fields, along our roads, in parks, on waste ground and in our gardens, they’re Dandelions and they are at their best now. Often classed as ‘weeds’ Dandelions are very interesting plants, their name comes from the French ‘Dent-de-lion’ which means Lion’s tooth and refers to their deeply jagged leaves, their technical name is Taraxacum officinale the word officinale means that it is used in medicine and herbalism, the roots, leaves and flowers are all edible and have been eaten worldwide for thousands of years. Dandelions are full of vitamins, especially A, C and K, and a good source of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese, medicinally they have been used to treat infections and blood, liver and digestive disorders.

Dandelion roots

Dandelions have long taproots which are twisted and brittle making them hard to dig up, if you leave a small piece of root in the ground the plant will regrow, much to the frustration of many gardeners, on the positive side their taproots bring up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and add minerals and nitrogen to the soil. Dandelion roots can be roasted and ground to make caffeine-free Dandelion Coffee and are one of the ingredients in Root Beer, Dandelion and Burdock is a well-known drink which contains the fermented root extracts of Dandelions and Burdock plants, although many of the drinks that are available contain just flavourings, Fentimans sell a faithful recreation of the original naturally brewed Dandelion and Burdock drink, containing true plant extracts.


Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion leaves form a rosette and can grow between 5-25cm long, when picked the leaves and stems emit a milky, white liquid (latex) which can be hard to wash off. The leaves are a good food plant of the larvae of many species of Butterflies and Moths including Riband Wave, The Flame, The Gothic, Large Yellow Underwing. Dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salads, boiled or sautéed.

Dandelion flowers

Dandelion flowers provide nectar and pollen early in the season for Bees and insects and are an important source of nectar for the pearl-bordered fritillary which is one of the earliest Spring emerging butterflies.

Once pollinated, the flower head dries out for a day or two, the dried petals and stamens drop off, the bracts (leaves below the flower) curl backwards and the seed head opens into a white ‘starry’ ball often called a ‘clock’, each seed has its own tiny parachute which enables it to be blown great distances in the wind. Children love picking the clocks to ‘tell the time’, you keep blowing them until there aren’t any seeds left, each blow represents an hour!

Dandelion flowers can be used in sweet and savoury dishes including Dandelion; Muffins, Syrup, Cookies, Fritters and Risotto.

Dandelion Clock

There is a lot more to the Dandelion than you might think, if you are tempted to have a go at cooking with them make sure that you identify the plant correctly and follow the recipe, be cautious if it is the first time that you have eaten them.

I have plenty of Dandelions on my allotment that have been blown in from the surrounding fields, I also have three big plants in my garden which I have previously attempted to dig up and have now won their place in the border, they are stunning flowers and really don’t deserve to be called weeds, my only condition in allowing them to stay is that I remove their seed heads before they open into clocks.

Take a closer look at Dandelions this week, why not photograph, draw, paint or press their flowers and leaves (click here for a guide to pressing flowers).

Have fun


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It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week (3-9 May) with many ‘hedgehoggy’ events being held around the country, it is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and aims to highlight the problems that Hedgehogs face and how we can help them.

There is no doubt about it a lot of you have been thinking about Hedgehogs this week, many of our wonderful Hedgehog Houses have been flying of the shelves complete with Hedgehog Food, Dishes and Hedgehog Guides what caring people you are.

We all love Hedgehogs but rarely get the chance to see them as they are nocturnal, usually only coming out at night to look for food having spent most of the day sleeping. At night Hedgehogs tend to ‘do the rounds’ and will visit many gardens unfortunately many gardens are fenced off, our gardens could provide the perfect habitat for Hedgehogs, just imagine if they were all joined together what a massive area this would be, in fact over half a million hectares.

Hedgehog Street is a campaign by The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species and The British Hedgehog Society which aims to ensure that the Hedgehog, the UK’s only spiny mammal, remains a common and familiar part of British life. Hedgehogs are in trouble, we’ve lost a third of all our hedgehogs in ten years. Their campaign is as much about getting people to cooperate as it is about gardening for wildlife.

Here are their top 10 tips for encouraging Hedgehogs into your neighbourhood

Tip 1   Link your garden

Make a hole in your fence or wall so that Hedgehogs can wander in and out, 13cm x 13cm is big enough but too small for most pets, ask your neighbours to do the same.

Tip 2  Make your pond safe

Hedgehogs are good swimmers, but can’t climb out of steep-sided ponds and will drown, set a pile of stones, a piece of wood or some chicken wire at the edge of your pond to create a simple ramp.

Tip 3  Create a wild corner

Leave the plants/weeds/grass to grow in a corner of your garden, don’t cut them back in winter, include some thick stems or branches to add structure this is an ideal place to put a Hedgehog House.

Tip 4  Deal with Netting and Litter

Hedgehogs can often become tangled and trapped in netting or litter such as food or drink cartons, replace netting with a rigid structure and keep taut, store netting inside when not in use.

Tip 5  Put out food and water

Hedgehogs really benefit from extra food, using it as a supplement to their natural diet, meaty cat or dog food, hedgehog food, and mealworms are all suitable. Put out a bowl of fresh water daily, water can be scarce at certain times of the year.

Tip 6  Stop using chemicals

Lawn treatments reduce worm populations, pesticides, insecticides and slug pellets are toxic and unnecessary in a healthy, well-managed garden, if you have a big slug problem use safe deterrents such as Slug Gone and Copper Tape or try Slug Traps or Nemaslug.

Tip 7  Check before strimming

Hedgehogs will not run away from the sound of a mower or strimmer – check before you cut and avoid causing horrific injuries or death. Single hedgehogs are easily moved, but use gloves! Moving a hedgehog family is more complicated and ideally they should be left undisturbed.

Tip 8  Be careful with bonfires

Piles of twigs, branches, leaves and grass are irresistible to a hedgehog looking for somewhere to hibernate or nest – if you have debris to burn, build your bonfire or move an existing bonfire on the day of burning.

Tip 9  Build a log pile

One of the best features for encouraging all kinds of wildlife – and so easy to make, it will attract insects, creatures and animals and provide nesting opportunities all year round.

Tip 10  Become a Hedgehog Champion

For lots more information and to register to join an army of over 30,000 volunteers all working together to help our native Hedgehogs take a look at www.hedgehogstreet.org

Most of the above tips are very simple and would make such a huge difference to our Hedgehogs, why not see what you can do in your garden, have a chat with your friends and neighbours too.

Work in harmony with nature in your garden


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