Archive for July, 2016

Have you seen our new Gardening With Children Competition in the Family Zone?

Vegetable face

When we were young many of us will have been told not to play with our food, well now you can and you might even win a prize.

Create a face on a plate using fruit and vegetables; it can be sad, happy or just silly it doesn’t have to be a person it can be an animal, bird, creature, an alien or a figment of your imagination, why not experiment you can send in as many entries as you like.

An Illuminated Minibeast Centre

The Illuminated Minibeast Centre - Solar Insect Theatre

Not only is it great for collecting and studying insects, it also features a solar light which glows in the dark and can attract moths.

The centre can be used in 3 ways

  1. For insect sample collection/ field trips
  2. General Insect Study
  3. Moth Study

Your minibeasts can be placed inside the study centre either via the opening top or through the opening side ports with the perspex windows, twigs and flower stems can also be put inside to provide a temporary habitat whilst you study your bugs and beasties. A rope handle makes the Minibeast Centre easy to carry so you’ll want to take it out and about to collect interesting creatures.
On the top of the Minibeast Centre is the solar lamp this is perfect for attracting night flying insects and bugs such moths and night flying beetles, make sure that the rechargeable battery gets a good charge by leaving the minibeast centre out in bright light during the day, in the evening open the side windows to allow the insects attracted by the light to enter the study chamber, release your creatures as soon as you have studied them.

The Minibeast Centre is made of slow-seasoned FSC timber so will be durable and not require any chemical treatments.

Take a photograph of your creation and send it to us with your details on the entry form (click here) to gill@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk or by post to Gardening with Children Family Competition, Gardening Works, Unit 1, Bee Mill, Ribchester, Preston PR3 3XJ by the closing date of Wednesday 31st August 2016.

Have fun


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Lavender Flowers

Summer is here, the weather is warm and the flowers are out in abundance, if you want to capture the essence of Summer to enjoy in Autumn and Winter why not have a go at making your own Potpourri?

What you will need

  • Fragrance/Essentisl Oils of choice – Lavender, Rose, Lemon
  • Flower petals – experiment with a wide variety
  • Whole Small flowers – Lavender, Buddleia, Verbena Bonariensis
  • Herbs – Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender
  • Whole Spices – Cinnamon Sticks, Cloves, Allspice
  • Glass beads, shells, pebbles/stones

What you need to do

  1. Pick your flowers/herbs in the morning once the dew has dried; handle them carefully to avoid bruising, choose those that are clean and pest and disease free and flowers that are newly opened, collect a generous amount as once dried the flowers and leaves will shrink in size.
  2. Arrange your flowers in a single layer, with space around each one, on trays covered with baking parchment or net/wire screens.
  3. To air dry place somewhere warm and dark that has good air circulation.
  4. Turn the flowers to help them to dry out, this usually takes 1-2 weeks, the petals are dried when they are crispy.
  5. Store your Potpourri in an airtight container or plastic bag, add 6 drops of your favourite fragrance oil, mix up and re-seal for a couple of hours for the scent to penetrate the mixture.
  6. Display your potpourri in small bowls and decorate with shells etc., top up with a few drops of the essential oil when required.

Keep fragrance/essential oils out of reach of children and pets and avoid contact with polished, painted and synthetic surfaces.



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You may disagree with this statement but Nettles are valuable plants to have in the garden so read on…

Nettles are a good soil indicator

It may seem like nettles grow everywhere but they are quite fussy about the soil that they grow in and prefer a soil rich in phosphates and nitrogen, which indicates a fertile soil.

Use Nettles to feed your plants

To make a nitrogen rich liquid Nettle feed, cut nettle leaves/stalks into small pieces and place in a large container, weigh down with stones/bricks and cover with water, store the container somewhere out of the way as it will start to smell, leave for 3 to 4 weeks, to use dilute one part mixture with 10 parts water.

Nettles make compost quicker

Adding chopped up nettles (excluding the roots) to your Compost Bin will speed up the decomposition process, for best results mix them in thoroughly with different materials (wet, dry, soft and woody).

Peacock Butterfly Caterpillar on Nettles

Nettles are good for Butterflies and Moths

Many of our beautiful butterflies (Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell) and Moths (Burnished Brass, The Spectacle and Beautiful Golden Y) need Nettles; they lay their eggs on the underside of their leaves and are the food plant of their larvae (caterpillars).

Aphids love Nettles

This doesn’t sound beneficial but aphids are a valuable food source for many beneficial insects and birds, grow a clump to attract this nuisance pest away from your valuable plants/crops.

Nettles attract Ladybirds

Nettles are the first choice plant for Ladybirds to lay their eggs on, their Larvae will devour the aphids as well as Whitefly and Red Spider Mite, adult Ladybirds can eat 5,000 aphids in their year-long lifespan no wonder they are loved by gardeners.

Always wear gloves when handling Nettles, if you are unfortunate to get stung:

Can Dock leaves treat Nettle stings?

They do seem to grow near each other but does rubbing a nettle sting with a dock leaf actually work? Stinging nettles are covered by tiny hairs, when we brush against them the tips break off and pierce the skin releasing acids which cause inflammation and pain, it is said that the sap in a dock leaf is alkaline and by rubbing one on the affected area it will alleviate the symptoms, this does tend to work with me but if you google this there there are lots of articles for and against this method and as such very little medical evidence to back it up, it is recommended that you apply an antihistamine cream on the sting.

So when you are about to dig up that clump of Nettles pause and think if they could benefit your garden.

Love your environment


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Sweetheart Strawberry

It’s Wimbledon fortnight and that usually means that Strawberries are ready for picking, the ones in my Strawberry Pot are ripe, delicious and big. This April I started afresh and planted it up with new one year plants which I bought online, it is recommended that you should replace Strawberry plants every three years as after this they will produce considerably less fruit and are more susceptible to disease, re-plant in new ground or if in containers in new compost.

Strawberries can be planted in the ground, raised beds or in containers (Strawberry tables, Strawberry bags/pots) which raise them off the ground and make them less accessible to pests such as slugs, snails and birds who always seem to find the ripe ones before you do, to further protect your delicious crops cover them with fleece or netting (make sure that it has a fine mesh and leave a big enough gap between the fruit and the net so that the birds cannot push their beaks through) or apply Copper slug and snail tape around the bottom of your container this will give out a small electrical charge which deters the slugs/snails from crossing.

Strawberry plants reproduce by sending out ‘runners’ in Summer, if your plants are young it is recommended that you remove these as they will weaken the plants but if your plants are ready for replacing you can propagate new plants by pinning down the runners where the leaves are growing into the soil or into pots, when they have rooted they can be cut from the parent plant and planted up in late Autumn or Spring.

Here is a delicious treat to enjoy whilst you are watching the tennis;

Strawberry Tarts


  • 55g (2oz) Caster Sugar
  • 225g (8oz) Strawberries washed, hulled and cut in half
  • A pack of ready-made Shortcrust Pastry
  • Lemon Curd
  • Icing Sugar to dust

What you need to do

  1. Roll out the pastry thinly, cut out 12 x 5cm discs and put into a lightly buttered and floured bun tray.
  2. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of each disc and some baking beans and bake for 12-15 minutes in a preheated oven 180C/350F/Gas 4, removing the beans and parchment paper for the last 4 minutes to lightly brown, remove and leave to cool.
  3. Heat the Caster Sugar in a pan until caramel has formed, add the berries and coat in the caramel.
  4. Put a teaspoon of Lemon Curd in the bottom of each pastry case then top with a Strawberry half.
  5. Dust with the Icing Sugar.

You may have enough pastry to make a double batch, 12 are not going to last long!



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We may take trees for granted as they have just always been there, but the truth is we couldn’t live without them, trees:

Produce oxygen and clean the air

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, removing and storing the carbon whilst releasing the oxygen back into the air, in one year an acre of trees will absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive a car 26,000 miles; an acre of trees will also produce enough oxygen for 18 people. Trees also absorb and filter odour and pollutant gas particles from the air (nitrogen oxide, ammonia) by trapping them on their leaves and bark.

Produce and conserve water and prevent flooding and erosion

There would be no rain without trees, trees absorb water from the soil and release it through evapotranspiration back into the air, trees can be used to prevent flooding as they hold vast amounts of water which would otherwise run down hills and surge into rivers and towns, they reduce soil erosion as they break the force of the wind and rain on the earth and their roots hold the soil together.

Provide food and habit

Trees produce food (fruit, nuts) not just for ourselves but for birds and wildlife too, as well as offering an invaluable habitat to shelter, breed and nest, even the smallest tree can make a big difference.

Make us feel better

Studies have shown that hospital patients with views of trees from their windows get better faster and with less complications, children with ADHD have less symptoms when they are exposed to trees and nature aiding concentration and reducing mental fatigue and a walk in the woods works wonders improving our physical and mental health.

Bring communities together

Tree planting brings communities of all ages, cultures, genders and abilities together creating an enhanced environment in which to live and improving our quality of life.


If you are interested in planting trees to help wildlife or to enhance your local area The Woodland Trust are currently offering Schools and Community Groups the chance to apply for free trees for delivery in November 2016.

Communities and Schools can apply for free tree packs twice a year which will be sent out in March and November when the trees are dormant and ready to plant.

There is always a high demand for their tree packs, if you are interested in planting this Autumn apply early to avoid disappointment.

The closing date for Autumn applications is 7th September or upon full subscription.

If you are a School I would strongly advise that you apply asap before the end of this term, it would make a great Autumn project which all the children could get involved in.

For more information and how to apply click here.


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