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Archive for November, 2015

Next week is National Tree Week (Saturday 28th November-Sunday 6th December), it is organised by The Tree Council who’s aim is to inspire thousands of people across Britain to join forces and plant upwards of a million trees, it is the UK’s largest tree festival and this year celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Tree planting activities and workshops are taking place around the country by Schools, Community Groups and The Tree Council’s member organisations, details can be found on The Tree Council’s interactive ‘Near You’ map.

With Christmas just over 4 weeks away, we begin thinking about buying the perfect Christmas Tree, Christmas is not complete without a tree, they are the focal point in the home, lots of fun to decorate, and with presents underneath magical and very exciting, the scent from a real tree is amazing.

Christmas Tree

Why not have a go at growing your own Christmas Tree?

If you have space in your garden, school garden or allotment why not plant some young Christmas trees which will take pride of place in your home/school in years to come, small pot grown trees can be bought from nurseries and garden centres the most common types are:

Norway Spruce (Picea abies): The Traditional Christmas tree with a good scent, but quick to drop its needles.

Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmanniana): Denser branches and dark green needles that are very slow to drop.

Blue Spruce (Picea pungens Glauca group): Blue needles, more prickly than other trees, holds its needles better than the Norway spruce.

Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri): Good needle-holding properties, a lovely pine fragrance and the regular shape of a Norway spruce.

Plant your tree to the same depth as it is in the pot, water in well and remove any surrounding weeds which can inhibit growth, keep weed free for the first years whilst it is small.

Christmas trees need very little training when grown outdoors, aim to maintain an attractive cone shape, removing any shoots that spoil the silhouette or any strong upright branches that compete with the main stem or ‘leader’. Every year the tree will produce a set of lateral branches and a leader, during the first years the tree will not produce much growth, but once established in subsequent years you can expect  approx. 14-16”. Prune away any dead, diseased or dying branches, the tree will naturally shed some needles. Christmas trees prefer a slightly acid soil, the Nordmann Fir will cope the best if you garden on chalk.

If you have not got the room to plant young Christmas Trees they can be grown on in pots, simply repot every year into a larger pot, bring indoors for Christmas as late as possible, place in a cool position and keep well-watered, eventually there will come a time when the tree plus pot will become too heavy to bring indoors so trim up with outdoor decorations and enjoy it through the window.

Christmas trees grow slowly; growing your own is a long term project, plant one or two each Autumn/Winter so that you will have one ready to cut every Christmas in years to come.

I am getting excited about Christmas already but I will have to wait another few weeks before I buy my tree.

Gill

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In Britain we love to talk about the weather it must be our favourite topic of conversation, over the past week it will have been discussed a lot, the weather has been dreadful, very wet and very windy in fact you could call it extreme.

DSC06521

This picture was taken on Sunday 15th November at about 12 noon and shows the point where the Duddel Brook meets the River Ribble, you can just make out the polytunnels and cabins on the flooded allotments at the back.

My allotment has been flooded twice in 5 days, not just by inches but over 4 foot of muddy brown water, it is in a lovely position but the allotments are one of the first areas in the village to flood, it is surrounded on one side by the River Ribble and two of the other sides by the Duddel Brook, it has flooded many times and is something that we prepare for, at this time of year I have very little growing, and try to harvest my crops by October, I leave very little equipment there and remove or secure things that may get washed away, there was very little harm done, unlike a flash flood in Summer which can be devastating and ruin many crops.

I am interested in the weather and regularly look online at the forecast, I was thrilled when the BBC launched ‘BBC Weather Watchers’ so today I have signed up online and posted my first weather report.

Once you have joined you can post your weather reports, have a look at other weather reports near where you are, and read lots of weather information and interesting facts and of course see the weather forecast.

To create a report choose a weather symbol to illustrate your weather, then add the temperature and also download your photograph to illustrate the weather at your location (photographs must be of places and not include any people), there are advanced settings for people with data gathering equipment who can also include the rainfall, air pressure, wind speed and direction and air humidity, you can post up to 10 new reports a day and even add a report for yesterday or last week there is lots of guidance and information on how to measure the weather to help you.

This is a great activity that you can do at home or at School, you have to be 16 or over to join, set up and oversee the account, but parents and teachers are welcome to involve children in their care.

I think it is very interesting, there is nothing more changeable and unpredictable as the weather, why not have a look and sign up?

Enjoy the weather

Gill

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Congratulation to our Competition winners

We had lots of entries for our September October Competitions, I hoped that you all enjoyed reading and learning about Hedgehogs and Bees, the first correct entries pulled out of the hat were:

For the Family Competition: Isabella Dolbear-Zaleska from Cambridgeshire who wins a Hogitat Hedgehog House, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a Hedgehog Guide.

For the School Competition: Canolfan Addysg Y Bont, Isle of Anglesey who wins a Bug and Bee Biome and a Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station.

Why not have a go at our two new free competitions on the Gardening With Children website, there are some more great wildlife prizes for you to win:

In the School Zone

Send in to us a picture of a Robin, it can be painted, crayoned, drawn in pencil or even as a collage and you could win for your School

a Square Ground Bird Table

Square Ground Bird Table

and a Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder (supplied with a jar of bird peanut butter with mealworms)

Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder

Click here for full details and an entry form.

In the Family Zone

Simply tell us which is the most interesting bird you have seen in your garden, park or on a walk and you could win

a Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder (supplied with a jar of bird peanut butter with mealworms)

Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder

and a Birdie Bistro Seed Feeder (one supplied)

Bird Bistro Feeder

Click here for full details and an entry form.

The closing date for both competitions is Thursday 31st December 2015.

Good Luck

Gill

 

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There is no doubt about it, it is a very exciting week for children and adults too, the Halloween costumes and decorations been just been packed away, and now we are looking forward to Bonfire night this Thursday. Bonfire nights are great fun with a lovely roaring fire to keep you warm, spectacular fireworks and delicious treats to eat such as Parkin, treacle toffee and toffee apples, unfortunately not everyone enjoys Bonfire Night, spare a thought for our wildlife and of course our pets.

Hedgehogs are having a tough time, and their numbers are declining which is a huge concern, at this time of year they will be looking for a cosy place to hibernate and may have chosen the pile of twigs and wood that you have been gathering for your bonfire for their winter retreat, on the afternoon of your planned bonfire night have a good look through your bonfire and if necessary dismantle it to check for sleeping hedgehogs, you may also find frogs, toads, newts, grass snakes, mice and voles that need re-locating to a safe part of your garden.

Cats and dogs should be kept indoors, consider also bringing in rabbits and guinea pigs that are normally kept in cages outside, keep the curtains and windows closed and leave on the television/radio and the lights to disguise the loud bangs and flashes, in rural areas you may want to bring horses and donkeys in to their stables.

If you are planning a display with loud bangs, let your neighbours know especially those with pets, the elderly and families with young children, fireworks are fun but not everyone enjoys them.

Firework safety is very important, follow these rules to stay safe:

  • Only buy fireworks that comply with British Standard 7114 or its European equivalent.
  • Keep fireworks away from children and in a closed box.
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework and check that they are suitable for home use.
  • Make sure that everyone is stood at a safe distance.
  • Light fireworks at arm’s length using a taper and stand well back.
  • Direct rockets away from spectators and nearby buildings/trees.
  • Never go near a firework that has been lit, if it hasn’t gone off it still may explode.
  • Never throw fireworks or put them in your pocket.
  • Always supervise children around fireworks and bonfires, make sure you know where they are at all times.

Sparklers can be beautiful but they are not toys, did you know that sparklers can reach temperatures 15 times hotter than boiling water?

  • Always supervise children with sparklers.
  • Don’t give sparklers to children under five years old.
  • Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves.
  • Teach children to hold them at arm’s length and not near anyone else.
  • Have a bucket of water handy to put the sparklers in as soon as they have gone out.

Before you begin constructing your bonfire here are some guidelines to ensure that everyone is safe and everything goes to plan.

  • Build your bonfire in the open away from sheds, fences, trees and overhead power lines and cables and not near a road as drifting smoke may cause a traffic hazard, burning damp materials will create a lot of smoke.
  • Don’t build it too large, you can add more twigs/wood later, make sure that it is stable so that it won’t collapse outwards or to one side.
  • Don’t use petrol or paraffin to start the fire, these accelerate the flames and may cause the fire to burn out of control.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a hose pipe handy just in case.
  • Don’t leave the fire unattended, at the end of the night once the fire has died down pour water over the embers to stop them re-igniting.

Here are some ideas for quick, no cook children’s treats for that last minute Bonfire Night celebration.

Edible Sparklers

Dip Chocolate fingers quickly into warm water and then into hundreds and thousands to make your very own edible sparklers.

Children’s Punch

Take some warm apple juice, add small slices of oranges and sprinkle in cinnamon for a warming drink.

Popping Chocolate Apples

Melt some milk chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, insert lolly sticks into small eating apples next to the stalk, then dip and spin your apples in the melted chocolate, sprinkle with popping candy and place on greaseproof paper in the fridge to set.

Have a very safe and fun Bonfire Night

Gill

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