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Archive for the ‘Gardening at School’ Category

garden-blueberries

Blueberries are dark, sweet, delicious and often quite expensive; they are a cousin to our native Winberry, (also known as the blaeberrie, bilberrie, whortleberrie or huckleberrie) which can be found growing on moors amongst the heather and are ready to pick July-September. I think Winberries have a better flavour and are sweeter but not everyone is fortunate to have them growing nearby, if this is the case why not try growing your own Blueberries, which are now regarded as a ‘super fruit’ as they are extremely high in antioxidants and vitamins (especially Vitamin C) so have many health benefits.

Blueberry pants can be bought from Garden Centres, Nurseries or by Mail Order either to grow in pots or to plant in the garden.

Blueberries prefer an acid soil with a pH level of 5.5 or below this can be measured with a pH meter or a Soil pH testing kit, if your soil conditions are suitable add plenty of acidic organic matter such as pine needles, composted conifer clippings or ericaceous compost when planting. They prefer a sunny sheltered position and are best watered with rainwater whenever possible. If your garden soil is not acidic Blueberries will happily grow in pots in ericaceous compost, for young plants choose one that is at least 30cm (12in) in diameter, then move into a 45-50cm (18-20in) container when it is outgrows the first one, place some crocks/pieces of polystyrene in the bottom of the containers to help retain moisture.

Plant two different varieties of Blueberries to ensure cross-pollination, a single plant will produce fruit but yields will be higher and fruits bigger if more than one plant is grown. Use netting to protect ripening fruit from birds, not all the fruit ripens at the same time the berries are ready to pick when they are deep blue and can easily be pulled off.

Blueberries produce fruit on previous years branches, young plants will not need pruning for the first two or three years, after this prune between November and March take out any dead, dying and diseased branches first then one or two of the oldest branches at the base especially any low branches to create an upright bush.

My three container grown Blueberry plants are now in their third year and I am hopeful that I will have a good crop this year.

Why not make this a half term holiday project with each child having their own Blueberry plant, they could even give it a name!

Have a fun half term

Gill

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primrose

Although it may seem slow Spring is on its way, in our garden the frogs have been croaking, the buds on the early Clematis are nearly ready to open, the snowdrops are up and the Primroses are in flower.

Primroses have to be one of my favourite flowers; they bring back happy childhood memories of walks up the fields gathering small bunches for my mum – although picking them nowadays isn’t the done thing.

Primula Vulgaris is the British native Primrose that can be found growing in hedgerows or on banks in the wild, but it will also grow happily in gardens.

They prefer a well-drained soil and will thrive in clay, chalk, loam and sand; they will grow quite happily in semi-shade making them perfect to plant under hedges, trees and in a woodland setting as well as in a wildflower meadow.

Primroses can be grown from seed, these are sown in Autumn and remain dormant during the Winter months they will begin to grow when the weather warms up, alternatively you can buy them bare root to plant in Autumn or as pot grown plants which are available now to plant straight away. When primroses have become established they will form thick clumps that can be divided and replanted, ideally during September, they will also self seed naturally. Primroses thrive on leaf mould which can be incorporated when planting or used as a mulch around the plants.

Primroses provide an early source of nectar for Bees, Brimstone Butterflies and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies they are also the food plant of the caterpillars of the rare Duke of Burgundy Butterfly.

Did you know?

  • The Primrose is the county flower of Devon.
  • Its name derives from the Latin ‘Prima Rosa’ meaning ‘first rose’ of the year although it is not a member of the rose family.
  • Since Victorian times, April 19 has been known as ‘Primrose Day’ it is the anniversary of the death of the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the Primrose was his favourite flower and on this day every year they are placed at his statue in Westminster Abbey.

Primroses do not take up much space in your garden their pale lemon flowers are a glorious sight and their sweet delicate fragrance is a delight, they are well worth growing and a sign that Spring is on the way.

Gill

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Stewart Essential Heated Propagator 52cm

Propagator is essential if you want to get your seeds started earlier and to also ensure a good germination rate as they provide the correct temperature and humidity for your seeds, plants and cuttings to grow. If you already have a Propagator it is a good idea to plug it in and check that it is still working, if you haven’t got one I would highly recommend them they are very easy to use and take the guess work out of growing from seed.

Propagators are cheap to run, to make them as economical as possible keep them full while they are in use, replacing your germinated seeds with newly sown trays. Seeds do not all germinate at the same time so plan ahead, germination times are usually specified on the seed packets, plant slow-growing seeds first e.g. peppers and aubergines followed by tomatoes and herbs and then fast germinating seeds such as lettuce, salad leaves, pumpkins, courgettes and cucumbers.

Propagators are a worthy investment which will increase the germination success of your seeds, enable you to sow and grow earlier and to grow more varieties.

I wouldn’t be without my propagators I have two 52cm heated propagators which in spring are both full for quite a number of weeks, having two gives me that extra room to sow my seeds thinly and individually in pots, which avoids root disturbance when transplanting, and also to repeat sowings if germination has not been as successful as expected.

For more information on sowing seeds and using propagators click on the link below:

Sowing and Growing in a Propagator

Successful Seed Sowing

 

Win a Propagator

For a chance to win a propagator why not enter our two new free competitions in the School Zone and the Family Zone on the Gardening With Children website both include a selection of pots and trays to get you off to a good start.

For details of the School Zone Competition click here or for the Family Zone Competition click here.

Good Luck

Gill

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holly

We associate Holly with Christmas, its bright red berries and glossy evergreen leaves feature on Christmas Cards, Wrapping Paper, Christmas jumpers and are used in table decorations and garlands on our front doors.

There are hundreds of species of Holly; some ‘shrubs’ only grow up to two metres high, whilst ‘trees’ can grow up to forty metres tall, red berried varieties are perhaps the most common but there are yellow and black berried varieties and even some that don’t have prickly leaves. Each species has ‘male’ and ‘female’ plants which both bear white flowers in May/June, yet only the female plants can produce berries this is dependant on there being a ‘male’ plant nearby for pollination by insects and bees.

Holly berries are toxic to humans causing sickness and severe stomach aches if eaten, yet they are a vital source of winter food for birds such as thrushes and blackbirds, each berry contains four seeds which pass through the birds, germinate and grow into new plants. The prickly leaves are important too, they give birds protection from predators and provide a safe roost amongst the branches.

Holly was considered to be a sacred plant by the Druids who hung it on windows and doorways to fend off evil spirits and witches; they thought that cutting down a Holly tree would bring bad luck, although hanging branches in their homes would bring good luck.

The Romans hung up Holly during the festival of Saturnalia to celebrate Saturn the god of agriculture and harvest.

Christians today associate red Holly berries with the blood that Christ shed when he died on the cross and the pointed leaves the crown of thorns that was placed on his head.

However you think of Holly, it is a beautiful and unique plant that is easy to grow, why not give someone a Holly plant or two as a gift so that they can pick their own Holly in years to come.

We would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year from Gardening With Children and everyone at Gardening Works.

Have a wonderful time

Gill

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CJ Wildlife Blackbird Nest Box

We are all familiar with our summer migrants the Swift, Swallow and the House Martin who come to Britain to breed and escape the harsh African, yet did you know that tens of millions of birds arrive in Autumn from their breeding grounds to escape the bitter cold weather and a shortage of food (hidden under ice or snow) to spend the winter in our mild climate. These birds travel large distances from the north and east (Scandinavia, Northern Europe and the Arctic) and include Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Brambling, Robin, Starling, Blackbird, Bewick’s Swan, Whooper swan, many types of ducks, wading birds and geese including Pink Footed Geese who fly very high in a V-shaped formation called a ‘skein’.

Here are some amazing statistics about some of our Winter migrants:

Brent Goose – Over 120,000 arrive October onwards from the Canadian Arctic flying 19,000 miles to the UK, overwintering mainly in Ireland.

Bewick’s Swan – Over 7,000 arrive October onwards from Siberia flying 2,500 miles to the UK.

Fieldfare – Over 720,000 arrive October onwards from Scandinavia and North West Russia flying 1100 miles to the UK.

Many birds arrive on our shore hungry and exhausted, some make emergency stops on their journey and rest on oil rigs and boats out at sea (as seen in this year’s Waitrose Christmas advert).

Wildlife World Open Fronted Teapot Bird Nester and Nest Box

You might be surprised to hear that Robins, Blackbirds and Starlings are winter migrants as we see them throughout the year, in the UK we have our own resident populations but during the winter their numbers are boosted by birds escaping the extreme cold of Eastern Europe. These visiting birds act differently as they are not used to their new surroundings and having people nearby, they skulk in the undergrowth and near the feeders before darting out for food they are easily frightened unlike our residents that dive on the feeders, they will after time adjust to their new environment and become more confident.

We all know the importance of feeding the birds throughout the cold winter months, knowing that thousands of winter migrants are coming here to feed makes it even more important, if you haven’t got any birdfeeders in your garden now is a good time to invest in some, they are inexpensive and will provide many hours of pleasure for you and the birds! It is a good idea to put up different types of feeders that will hold a variety of bird food, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, mixed bird seed, fat balls and mealworms, different types of food will attract more species of birds. If you are fortunate to have an apple tree or maybe know someone who has, store any surplus apples now to put out later on for the ground feeding birds, this year has been a very good year for fruit. Some kitchen leftovers can be put out for the birds these include grated cheese, cooked potatoes, rice or pasta, porridge oats, fruit, biscuit and cake crumbs. Water is just as important as food, fresh water changed regularly will provide birds with drinking and bathing water.

For more information on feeding birds through the Winter click here or to see our range of bird feeders click here.

This weekend make time to put up some bird feeders in your garden.

Gill

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The days are shorter and the nights are colder, now is the time to think about our garden wildlife and give them a helping hand with a safe retreat to spend the winter months, why not enter our two free competitions on the Gardening With Children website for a chance to win Wildlife products for the Hedgehogs in your garden:

In the School Zone you could win a Hedgehog Pack containing:

Hogitat Hedgehog House

Wildlife World Hogitat Hedgehog House Habitat

Hedgehog Snack Bowl

Wildlife World Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

220g pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

A field guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

To enter all you need to do is to find the hidden words in our Hedgehog Word Search the first correct entry drawn out of the hat will win.

For full details, The Hedgehog Word Search and an entry form click here, the closing date is Wednesday 30th November 2016.

 

In the Family Zone you could win a Hedgehog Pack containing:

An Igloo Hedgehog House

Wildlife World Hedgehog Igloo House Habitat Shelter

A Hedgehog Snack Bowl

Wildlife World Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

220g pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

A field guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

To enter draw or paint a picture of a Hedgehog and give him/her a name and our favourite picture will win.

For full details and an entry form click here, the closing date is Wednesday 30th November 2016.

Good Luck

Gill

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dsc06813

Last Saturday we went to our friend’s wedding, it was at a beautiful old hotel in the Forest of Bowland surrounded by glorious countryside, the weather couldn’t have been better it was calm, sunny and mild, the surrounding trees were looking at their best in stunning shades of gold, amber and red – it was perfect.

The groom is an Arboriculturalist, and trees played a part at their wedding, they were on the invitations, order of service and the menus, at the wedding breakfast each table had been named after a tree and at each place setting was a favour for each guest, it was a tree sapling beautifully presented in its own woven pouch. We were sat on the ‘Rowan’ table so received a Rowan tree, other tables included Beech, Sweet Chestnut, Hawthorn, Wild Cherry, Field Maple Oak, Crab Apple, Birch what a fantastic idea and a gift that will last a lifetime (ours, our children’s and grandchildren’s) it went down well with all the guests and everyone took their trees home.

Trees make a lovely and unusual gift they can be planted to mark a special occasion, the birth of a child, a wedding, birthday, retirement, mothers/fathers day, an anniversary, and also to remember someone by they are a powerful symbol representing eternity and life.

Growing your own trees

Now is the ideal time to grow your own trees, this year there is a bumper crop of tree seeds/fruits such as acorns, conkers, beech seeds and sycamore/maple/ash keys, most are now on the ground and ready to be collected. Choose seeds that are firm, undamaged and mould/disease free, place in a plastic back to retain their moisture before planting. Sow your seeds in trays, modules or pots depending on their size, in a mixture of 50% multi-purpose compost and 50% perlite or coarse grit, water the compost and allow to drain, sow your seeds to a depth of roughly the height of the seed, small seeds will only need covering lightly with compost, label with the variety and date.

To prevent the compost from drying out cover with an inflated plastic bags, cloche, plastic lid or sheet of clear Perspex, place on a cool windowsill, in a cold frame, greenhouse or polytunnel, keep the compost moist but not soggy. When your seedlings start to emerge remove the cover and when large enough (a good indicator is when you see roots growing through the bottom of the container) transplant into individual pots to grow on. In Spring harden them off and grow on outdoors, if they are large enough in Autumn plant out in their final growing position, this can be delayed a year or two to allow your trees to grow to a larger size, you will need to repot each year into a larger container to allow their roots to grow, container grown trees will need regular watering and feeding once a month with a liquid fertilizer.

If the weather is good this weekend get outdoors, collect and sow some tree seeds.

Gill

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