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Archive for the ‘Gardening at School’ Category

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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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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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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The warm weather has really made a big difference to our gardens, with lots of things emerging; buds, leaves, flowers, seedlings, butterflies, ladybirds, creatures and unfortunately ‘pests’ including:

Lily Beetles

Lily beetleThese are hard to miss they are like bright red jewels with a black head and legs and appear on your Fritillaries and Lilies, the adult beetles munch away at the flowers, leaves, stems and buds and their larvae, which are reddish brown with black heads, eat the leaves. Heavy infestations can be treated with organic pesticides, smaller populations can be picked off by hand ‘carefully’ as they soon drop off the plants and disappear into the undergrowth, you can report sightings of Lily Beetles on the RHS website, they are monitoring the spread of this pest. These two were spotted in my garden and quickly removed.

Ants

Ant Control - Nemasys No Ants

Ants are now becoming increasingly active, the ‘family’ that live under the flags in my greenhouse are becoming rather busy there are not a lot of them and they are not a problem, in summer when the flying young emerge I open the greenhouse doors and the Sparrows go in and feast on them. Large populations of ants can be a problem especially in the lawn or the garden borders creating mounds of earth and root disturbance.

Treat the affected areas with Nemasys No Ants which contains nematodes, it is safe for you, your children, pets, wildlife and for using near food crops, we had an enquiry this week regarding the Nemasys No Ants the customer was having problems with ants in their lawn, they were removing the newly sown grass seed.

Vine Weevils

Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer

It is at this time of the year that the adult beetles emerge and nibble the leaves of your plants, the beetles then lay their eggs on the plant root ball, these eggs hatch into grubs which feast on the roots and cause permanent damage or even death to your prized and often expensive container plants. Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer contains nematodes which attack the grubs before they attack your plants it is safe to use on indoor and outdoor containers as well as on food crops such as herbs and strawberries it is safe for you, your children, pets and wildlife.

Slugs

Nemaslug Slug Killer - Nematodes

It has been reported in the news recently that this year we can expect an invasion of larger than normal slugs (it sounds like a horror story), this is because of the mild winters and wetter summers, Slugs are active above 5C so have been reproducing through the winter when normally they are dormant, Slugs not only munch your prized flowers and your tasty vegetable crops they can also contain Lungworms which may infect dogs and be fatal to them. Nemaslug Slug Killer contains nematodes which invade the slug and kill it, it is safe to you, your children, pets and wildlife including birds, hedgehogs, frogs, toads and ground beetles who love to feed on slugs and their eggs.

slugAnother increasingly popular safe Slug control are Slug Gone which is natural pure organic wool pellets, spread a layer around your plants, once wet they swell and form a barrier which irritates the slugs foot so it looks for food elsewhere, they are ideal for organic gardening and can be used in pots, flower beds, borders, allotments, herb gardens, nurseries, garden centres, green houses and vegetable plots. Copper Slug and Snail Protection Tape is another method of Slug prevention, place the tape around the top of your pots, containers and Raised Beds, it does not kill slugs but gives them a small electrical shock which deters them from crossing over.

Be vigilant and act now before your pests become a problem

Gill

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Aubergine Plant

Aubergines are bright purple fruits that are used in many Greek, Italian, Turkish and Middle Eastern dishes, they have been grown for more than 5,000 years and belong to the Solanaceae family which include tomatoes, potatoes, sweet peppers and chilli peppers. The purple Aubergine that we see today was evolved from a spiny plant from India which bore small white egg-shaped fruit, this is why the Aubergine is also known as the eggplant. Aubergine plants have large green leaves with purple veins and purple stems (see picture above).

Many gardeners think that they are difficult to grow but this is not the case, they do need warm temperatures ideally grow them on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse/polytunnel, they can be put outdoors in a warm, sunny sheltered position but they will take longer to ripen and be smaller. If you want Aubergines in late Summer sow your seeds now before the end of April (seeds can be sown earlier from January onwards indoors), as well the medium, oval purple varieties there are many others available from seed; large, small, round, long and thin, red, green, yellow, white or even striped.

Sowing and Growing

  1. Sow seeds about 6mm deep in trays of compost or individually in small pots and water well.
  2. Place in a warm position approx. 20-25C/68-77F (see the back of your seed packet) either on a light windowsill or in a heated propagator, they will germinate in about 14 days.
  3. Transplant the seedlings that have been grown in trays individually into small pots when they have their second set of leaves.
  4. After a few weeks when roots show at the bottom of the pots, plant the Aubergines into their final growing positions either in large pots, growbags or in the greenhouse border.
  5. Water little and often, when their purple flowers appear gently spray them with tepid water to encourage the fruit to set.
  6. Feed regularly once the fruits have set and support the plant with a cane, for large fruit varieties after 5 fruits have formed cut off the growingtip/side shoots and any flowers so that the plants energy goes into producing 5 delicious dark purple fruits for smaller fruit varieties more fruits can be left to grow – see growing instructions on the back of the seed packet.

There are many different ways to cook Aubergines one of the simplest is sliced on the BBQ, serve as a side dish with meat and fish and a Tzatziki dip (click here for the recipe for Tzatziki), sow your seeds now and impress your friends this Summer with home grown and freshly picked Aubergine on your BBQ.

Lovely!

Gill

Dont forget to enter the FREE Gardening With Children competition in the Family Zone for a chance to win a fantastic Kids Wooden Standing Raised Bed Growing Table simply identify the 5 Wildflowers shown in the pictures hurry the closing date is this Saturday 30th April 2016 click here for more details and to enter.

Enter today for a chance to win one of these:

childrens_standing_raised_bed2

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Sweet Pea Flowers

I absolutely adore the smell of Sweet Peas, it takes me back to a very special time in my life and my Wedding Day, I grew Sweet Peas to put on the tables at the reception, looking back it was a brave thing to do but thankfully they were amazing with enough to fill 3 large vases for the top table and 12 small vases for the other tables, it was a little bit of my garden at my wedding.

Every year I grow Sweet Peas but they have never done as well as they did that year, if you want to grow your own Sweet Peas from seed now is the time to get sowing, there are hundreds are varieties to choose from with white, pink, peach, red, lavender and purple flowers either single coloured, bi-coloured or patterned, for earlier flowers seeds can be sown in October/November and the plants overwintered in a Cold frame, Polytunnel or Greenhouse, Spring sowings can be made in March/April, sow seeds 1cm deep individually in root trainers or 9cm pots filled with seed compost (I like to sow 3 seeds to a pot which can all be planted, without separating them, in the same hole) water and keep at approx. 15°C (59°F). There is differing advice on whether to soak your seeds overnight before sowing or whether to plant them dry so this year I am doing a trial, I have soaked half of my seeds the other half I have planted straight from the packet, I will let you know my results later on when they have hopefully germinated.

When the plants are about 10cm tall pinch out the growing tip above a pair of leaves, this will encourage the plant to produce side shoots and more flowers. Harden off your plants for 1 to 2 weeks before planting out 15-20cm apart after the risk of frost has passed. Sweet Peas prefer a sunny position in fertile, well drained soil, add garden compost or well-rotted garden manure 4 weeks before planting along with a general purpose fertiliser, protect young plants from Slugs and Snails and water during dry conditions. Tall growing varieties will need trellis, netting, pea sticks or cane wigwams to grow up and their tendrils to attach to, dwarf bush varieties can be grown in pots, hanging baskets or allowed to spread across the ground.

Dead head and pick Sweet Pea flowers regularly to encourage the plants to produce more flowers and to extend the flowering period.

Sweet Peas are bee friendly plants and will provide food for the bees and insects in your garden.

There are many professional Sweet Pea growers who exhibit and display their blooms at horticultural shows and events, they grow their plants as single stemmed plants which are tied individually to canes, removing side shoots and tendrils so that all of the plants energy goes into producing perfect flowers, if you want to learn more about this method click here to visit the National Sweet Pea Society website.

If you are not confident sowing seeds Sweet Pea plants are available to buy in shops, garden centres and via mail order although they do work out more expensive than seeds and there are less varieties to choose from.

Buy a packet of Sweet Pea seeds and give them a go.

Gill

 

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