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Take a look at our latest  Schooland Family Competitions for budding gardeners.  They are easy to enter and have some great prizes up for grabs!  Good Luck with your entry.
 
For the School Competition  we are looking for the best Indoor Grow Your Own project carried out in the Autumn term.  If crops aren’t ready to harvest when the competition comes to a close, don’t worry just send your entry with news of where the project is up to so far. 

The winning school will win over £150 worth of gardening equipment for spring, including a wooden cold frame, a salad / herb bed, a raised bed and a potato growing kit, all from The Recycleworks Ltd.  Plus all entrants will receive 10% off their next order from them.  To find out how to enter click here.

 This salad bed is great for growing winter herbs and bulbs.
These easy to assemble wooden beds are great for growing winter herbs and bulbs.

For the Family Competition  we would like you to tell us all about a growing project that you have carried out this Autumn.  It could involve planting a tree or several, setting bulbs ready for spring, or growing some winter vegetables.  The project can be carried out indoors or outside, which ever you prefer.

Amarylis - Merry Christmas

This Amarylis called Merry Christmas can be grown in autumn for a lovely winter display

The winner will receive over £100 of gardening equipment ready for spring, including a wooden cold frame, a salad / herb bed and a potato growing kit, all from The Recycleworks Ltd.  Plus all entrants will receive 10% off their next order from them.  To find out how to enter please click here.

Huge congratulations also go to Ruhitha Choudhury for her winning pressed flower entry in our summer competition.  Called Sleeping Beauty her beautiful picture was in the shape of a sunflower and even included lavender, which smelt wonderful as we opened the envelope.  Totally original and very creative she won £100 worth of gardening tools and bird care goodies.  Well done to Ruhitha!

 

Congratulations also to Teresa Armstrong and pupils from Llangennech Infant School, Carmarthenshire.  They are the winners of our recent Letterbox competition, and correctly answered that squirrels don’t actually hibernate.  An Apprentice Hand Fork and Trowel are on the way to them.

For our weekly competition we’re thinking about autumn gardening. 

At a time of year when the days are getting shorter and the weather is a little less hospitable, there are still lots of things that can be sown in the garden or on the window sill. 

So we would like you to suggest something that’s nice to grow in autumn and why.  Our favourite entry this week will win a copy of a fantastic book called Grow it  Eat It from the Royal Horticultural Society. 

A great growing and cooking guide for schools and families

A great growing and cooking guide for schools and families

It’s full of great little gardening projects and delicious recipes, all put together with kids in mind.  It would make a great classroom resource or a  lovely present for someone.  So email your entry in to charlotte@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk to reach us no later than 27th September 2009. 

If you would like to receive Letterbox, our weekly emailed newsletter packed full of news, seasonal activities and competitions, email charlotte@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk.

 

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Each week we are featuring our favourite bulbs, and this week we have gone for this lovely little Hyacinth Water Culture Growing Kit

hyacinth_kit02

 Simply fill the glass with water, place in a cool, dark, well-ventilated spot and in around 10-12 weeks, you will be rewarded with a beautiful hyacinth bloom to brighten up your window sill during the dark winter days.  And priced at under £9 this would make a lovely little present for someone.

 

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If you are in the enviable position of having a surplus of ripe tomatoes why not have a go at making this delicious soup. If you haven’t grown your own, or if like mine they are still green, locally sourced tomatoes are fairly cheap to buy at this time of year.

Food tastes 100 times better if you grow your own!  For all your Grow Your Own needs visit www.recycleworks .co.uk.  With everything from raised beds, compost bins, tools and books there is something for everyone.

This recipe is totally yummy and extremely nutritious!

Ingredients
Knob of butter
1 clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 onion
1 medium potato
1 lb fresh tomatoes
dash of tomato puree
1 pint vegetable stock
quantity of milk

 

What to do

  1. Chop the onion and gently fry in the butter until clear
  2. Add a clove of crushed garlic, mix and fry a little longer
  3. Peel and chop the potato and add
  4. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add
  5. Add in the bay leaf and stock
  6. Simmer gently for 20 minutes
  7. Allow to cool
  8. Blend until smooth
  9. Add milk as desired to obtain preferred thickness
  10. Reheat before serving

Serve with crusty bread or my children’s favourite cheese on toast croutons!

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If you have lots of green tomatoes sitting there and refusing to go ripe, why not try our yummy fried green tomatoes.

Ingredients

3 medium, firm green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs (beaten)
2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Method

Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Let tomato slices stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes.

Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Dip tomato slices in milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. Fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 4-6 minutes on each side or until brown. As you cook the rest of the tomatoes, add olive oil as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Sowing Names With Seeds
If there is any space left in the garden, or if a space appears where crops have been harvested, why not let your children sow some seeds in the shape of their initials or first name (depending on length of name and space available?!)

Prepare an area of soil, dig it over and rake it ready for sowing seeds. Then take a peice of chalk and write the childs name / initials onto the soil. Older children will be able to do this themselves.

Next sprinkle seeds such as cress on top of the chalk letters. Sow quite thickly to get a good end result. Gently cover with soil without disturbing the seeds and then water well. Watch carefully of over the next few days and watch as the letters begin to grow!

New Potatoes for Christmas
My daughters usually start talking about Christmas in August, which I have to say I generally discourage. But this year I intend to channel all that expectant energy into sowing potatoes for Christmas Day!, There are lots of bargains to be had on buying Potato Sacs with the seed potatoes included, or you can purchase separately. And if you bought potato sacs in spring these can of course be reused.

Plant our ‘Nicola’ seed potatoes, in stock now, until the end of August and have freshly picked new potatoes on Christmas Day. If you plant too many the ‘surplus’ will make wonderful last minute presents. Big smiles all round!

Keep the Kids Happy On Holiday
This great idea comes from Friends of the Earth and we think its fantastic!Don’t pack loads of toys for your trip. Instead, when you arrive at your holiday destination, go into the local charity shop and buy some toys. Let the kids play with them on holiday and then before you leave donate them back. Think of it like a toy library while helping a charity make some money.

 

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Well the school holidays are now in full swing and over the next few weeks we will be providing lots of fun ideas for activities to do with the children.  From nature spotting to baking and craft activities keep checking back for more ideas each week.  

My two girls are particularly full of energy at this time of year, and a recent trip to visit Grandma reminded me how important fresh air and exercise is for them.  During their stay, my mum had them out for a good walk each day before breakfast and by 9 am they had colour in their cheeks and a huge appetite.  So if the kids seem as if they have too much energy for the indoors sometimes don’t forget to get them outside into the garden or countryside.

Mushroom Spotting
We are fast approaching the time of year when magically overnight in certain, particular fields wonderful, ghostly white mushrooms appear. Why not arm yourself or the kids with a copy of the Fungi Name Trail?

The Fungi Guide - We have a wide selection of field guides to choose from

The Fungi Guide - We have a wide selection of field guides to choose from

 

This guide has 16 laminated pages of illustrations, facts and information arranged in print as an identification trail.

Starting with the question, Does it have a cap? Then, Is your Fungus a cup or a bowl sitting on the ground with no stem? And going on to help you identify what you see. 

Be a real nature detective and see how you get on….  But do remember, some types of mushroom are very poisonous and if in any doubt look but don’t touch.

 

 

 

 

Find Some Wild Food
There is nothing my children like more than picking food in the countryside. During July and August it’s a great time to go Bilberry picking. Here in Lancashire there are many upland places where tucked amongst the heather you will find bilberries aplenty. And later on in September come the blackberries, for all those crumbles and jams.  And don’t forget our handy berry picker for super fast picking!  We have lots of recipe ideas, which will be arriving on the blog over the next few weeks.

Enter Our Competition
Our latest School Gardening Competition and Family Gardening Competition close on 31st July. There are some fabulous prizes to win so if you haven’t entered yet, do it today. You could be a winner!

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 Now is the perfect time to be harvesting the gooseberries and being a lover of all things fattening, I couldn’t resist turning just a few of mine into a beautifully indulgent Gooseberry Fool. 

So if you too would like to have a go at making this heavenly dessert read on.

 

Ingredients
500g gooseberries
100g sugar
half pint double cream
few drops of vanilla essence
dash of elderflower cordial to taste

Method

Top and tail the gooseberries and place in a saucepan

Add two or three tablespoons of sugar and heat through for a few minutes on a low heat

Allow the gooseberries to soften nicely, add the remaining sugar and then continue heating to allow for some of the water to evaporate

Take care to stir the mixture and avoid allowing it to burn onto the bottom of the pan

Remove from the heat and leave to cool

Sieve the mixture to remove skins, seeds etc

Stir in a dash of elderflower cordial and taste.  Add more if desired

In a separate bowl whip up the cream

Fold the gooseberries carefully into the cream

Place in the fridge to chill

Find a large bowl, a quiet moment and enjoy!

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