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Archive for the ‘Gardening at Home’ Category

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.

Lovely

Gill

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Nettles

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

Gill

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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

Ingredients

  • 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!

Enjoy

Gill

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DSC03545

 

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.

Gill

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We have had lots of entries to our March April School Competition to win a Wooden Raised Bed Kit containing:

Twin Standard and Deep Tall Post Raised Bed

Wooden Raised Beds With Tall Posts - Deep

3 x 1.5m Cloche Hoops, 12 Cloche Clips and Enviromesh Extra Fine Netting

It is a fantastic prize worth over £100 and perfect for growing a wide variety of vegetables which are easy to plant, tend and pick.

As with most competitions there can only be one winner and the winner is: Fleming Fulton School in Belfast.

Fleming Fulton is a school for children with physical disability, they plan to put the Wooden Raised Beds in the Early Years Nursery outdoor learning space and grow a variety of vegetables to help the children learn about where food comes from, the different heights and depths of the beds will allow all of the children including the little ones and those who need a special chair or walker to reach in and get mucky and dirty like children should!

Congratulations to you, we would love to hear how you get on and see photographs of your progress and your crops.

Here are some suggestions of what you can sow and plant in June:

Sow outdoors: Beetroot, Pak Choi, Carrot, Broccoli, Kale, Courgette, Squash, Peas, Radish, Salad Leaves, Spinach, Spring Onion, Swede, Sweetcorn, Swiss Chard, Turnips, French Beans, Runner Beans, Broad Beans

Plant out: Broccoli, Summer Cabbages, Cauliflower, Kale, Leeks, Celeriac, Celery, Cucumber, Squash, Pumpkin, Tomato

Click here for more ideas of things to do in your garden in June.

For fast results why not order a vegetable, fruit or herb garden pack containing ready to grow plants delivered to your door click here for details

Have fun

Gill

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This Sunday (19th June) is Father’s Day, it is a special day when we show how much we love and appreciate our Dads and Grandads. My Dad is as passionate about gardening as I am which makes choosing a gift for him fairly easy, especially as I work at Gardening Works which has lots of great gardening products, here are my top ideas for Father’s Day gifts from Gardening Works.

 

UNDER £60

Standard Wooden Manger Planter (SM 60) £55.95

Stewart Premium Electric Thermostatic Electric Propagator £43.99

Stewart 52cm Premium Thermostatic Electric Propagator

EM Garden and Home Yoghurt Activator EM Fermenter £41.99

EM Garden & Home Yoghurt Activator Effective Microogamisms Fermentor

Garden Patio/BBQ Table £34.99

Garden Patio / BBQ Table

 

UNDER £30

Barnel Heavy Duty Precision Pruner £27.25

Barnel Heavy Duty Precision Pruner

Wildlife World Coniston Bird Bath £25.99

Wildlife World Coniston Bird Bath

Outside In Westminster Tower Wall Clock £24.95

Outside In Westminster Tower Wall Clock - 15" Black

Wildlife World Urban Bird Feeder £18.95

Wildlife World Urban Bird Feeder

 

UNDER £15

Rostaing Expert Premium Leather Gardening Gloves £14.99

Rostaing Expert Premium Leather Gardening Gloves

Burgon & Ball Potato Harvesting Scoop £12.95

Burgon & Ball Potato Harvesting Scoop

Large Nether Wallop Berry Picker £9.99

Nether Wallop Berry Picker

Stewarts Traditional 10 litre Watering Can £9.99

Stewarts Traditional Watering Can - 2L, 5L and 10L

Order early to avoid disappointment.

Have a lovely Father’s Day everyone.

Gill

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Snail

Snails can be a real problem in the garden eating plants and crops but believe it or not they can be fun too, why not have your own Snail Races?

What you will need

  • Some willing Snails
  • Large piece of cardboard
  • Marker Pen
  • Round containers e.g. plant pots
  • Small labels

What you need to do

  1. In the centre of your piece of cardboard, mark out a series of different sized circles radiating outwards, the smallest centre circle is the starting point where your snails will begin their race, the largest outer circle will be the finishing line.
  2. Find and collect your snails, snails are more active at night and during damp weather, during the day they like to rest somewhere dark and damp, try looking underneath or behind your plant pots.
  3. Carefully stick a label on each snails shell with their number so that you can identify them.
  4. Place all your snails in the centre circle and watch them go!
  5. The snail that crosses the outer circle first is the winner, it make take longer than you think snails do not always move in straight lines.
  6. After your races place your snails back where you found them or in another suitable place away from your plants.

Interesting Snail Facts:

  • In the World there are around 50,000 different types of land snails.
  • During very dry weather and in winter snails retreat into their shells, they seal the entrance to form a hard cap.
  • Snails can see but can’t hear, most land snails have two sets of tentacles, the upper ones carry the eyes, while the lower one has the olfactory organs.
  • Garden snails have a top speed of 45 metres per hour, this is about 1.3 cm per second, they are one of the slowest creatures on Earth.
  • The largest land snail recorded was 12 inches long and weighed nearly 2 pounds, it was a Giant African Land Snail.
  • Depending on the species snails can live 5 – 25 years.

Have fun

Gill

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Spring Plants – Pussy Willow, Apple/Crab Apple Trees, Lungwort, Crocus, Redcurrant, Kale

Late Spring Plants – Cotoneaster, Hawthorn, Comfrey, Phacelia, Chives, Strawberry

Summer Plants – Lavender, Honeysuckle, Monarda ‘Bee balm’, Foxglove, Sunflower, Runner/Broad Bean, Sage

Autumn Plants – Abelia ‘Bee bush’, Strawberry Tree, Sedum, Perennial Wallflower, Marjoram, Raspberry

Winter Plants – Mahonia, Ivy, Winter Aconite, Snowdrop

For more information and ideas how to help Bees in our gardens and our communities click here.

Bumble Bee

Bees play a huge part in our lives, much of the food that we eat, the plants and flowers that we love and the crops that we grow wouldn’t be possible without them. There are around 250 species of Bee in the UK which include 24 species of Bumblebees, around 225 species of Solitary Bees and one species of Honeybee. Bumblebees are easy to identify as they are usually larger and covered with dense hair but do you know which species it is? Identifying Solitary Bees is even trickier with a choice of 225 species, help is at hand – download the FREE Great British Bee Count App this will enable you to identify the Bees that you see and submit your sightings.

Last year over 100,000 individual sightings of Bees were submitted, this year an amazing 18,200 have been recorded already, it is a great way to learn how to recognise our British Bees as well as the different species that we have, so join the Great British Bee Count, download the App today and get outdoors: at home, at School, in the park or on a walk and get spotting.

Have fun

Gill

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A big thank you to everyone who entered the March April Family Competition we had lots of entries, the winning entry was from Lily Fisher aged 7 from Exeter who correctly identified the Wild flowers, she has won a fantastic

Kids Wooden Raised Bed Growing Table

Kids Wooden Standing Raised Bed Growing Table

and a Selection of Seeds.

SCHOOL ZONE COMPETITION DEADLINE FRIDAY 27TH MAY

Don’t forget to enter the School Zone Competition time is running out for a chance to win a Wooden Raised Bed Kit for your School containing:

Twin Standard and Deep Tall Post Raised Bed

Wooden Raised Beds With Tall Posts - Deep

3 x 1.5m Cloche Hoops

12 Cloche Clips

Enviromesh Extra Fine Netting

THIS IS A FANTASTIC PRIZE WORTH OVER £100

What you have to do

Join our Club – become a member of the Gardening with Children Club its FREE, members receive special discounts and offers on gardening equipment and wildlife products as well as Seasonal Newsletters containing fun activities to make, cook and do and their own unique membership number which you will need to enter this competition.

NB As there is not much time to process new club applications and issue membership numbers before the competition closes, competition entries will be permitted from non club members who by entering this competition will automatically be made members and later issued with a membership number, please state ‘NEW MEMBER’ on the entry form.

Then answer the following questions

Why would you like to win the Wooden Raised Bed Kit for your School?

What would you grow in it?

Send in a photograph of something that you have grown or are growing at School.

For full details and an entry form click here, the closing date is Friday 27th May 2016.

Good Luck

Gill

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Nasturtiums

Why not impress your friends and liven up your salads with Nasturtium petals, flowers, leaves, stems and seeds, they are all edible and have a peppery watercress like taste, the flowers are the mildest and the seed pods the strongest.

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are easy to grow, have wonderful bright orange, yellow and red flowers and are delicious to eat, sow now to pick throughout the Summer.

Nasturtium seeds are widely available in shops, and garden centres, check on the packet that it is an edible variety. Sow seeds 1cm deep in small pots of compost and place on a warm sunny windowsill at 15-25C to germinate this will take approx. 7-14 days. Grow your plants on and harden off before planting outside after all risk of frost has passed.

Nasturtiums are fast growing and will sprawl across the ground if planted in the border or trail and create an attractive cascade if planted in a hanging basket, window box or container. Nasturtiums need very little attention, they grow best in full sun preferring the soil to be slightly dry, containers can dry out quickly so may need to be watered more often, Rain Gel Water Storage granules added to the compost will hold the moisture in and reduce the frequency of watering.

Start picking from your plants when several leaves and the bright flowers (approx. 6 weeks after sowing) have appeared. Always ask an adult before eating anything from the garden.

Here are some culinary suggestions for your Nasturtiums:

  • Make attractive flowery ice cubes, place the flowers/petals in an ice cube tray with water and freeze.
  • Nasturtium Butter – use to flavour potatoes, vegetables, fish or chicken.
  • Make Flavoured Oils, Vinegars or Dressings using the flowers and leaves.
  • Stuffed Nasturtium flowers – fill large flowers with, cream cheese, humus or guacamole and gently fold in the petals.
  • Include in a Salad or use as a garnish.

Towards the end of Summer allow some flowers to set seed, collect the seeds when they change from green to a tan colour, spread them out on a paper plate indoors to dry out for approx. two weeks before storing in an airtight container in a cool, dry place – you can plant these next year.

Even if you don’t fancy eating Nasturtiums or you dislike their taste they are definitely worthy of a place in your garden they are vibrant, easy to grow and will brighten up any corner.

Gill

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