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garden-spider

In Autumn if I am walking in my garden or out of the front door first thing in the morning I have to tread carefully as the spiders have usually been busy making their webs which stretch between plants, gateposts and across footpaths. The culprits are Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) and although they live in the garden from May to November it is only from mid-August that they seem to appear.

Garden Spiders can vary in colour from very dark brown to pale yellowy brown but they all have a group of white spots on their abdomen in a cross shape, they spin Orb Webs to catch their food which include midges, flies, butterflies and wasps, Orb Webs look like a wheel with spokes and are the most advanced spider webs, they are built by laying spirals of silk around radial threads the spider then waits in the centre of the web for its prey to get caught on the web, it then rushes out and wraps it in sticky silk so that it cannot get away.

Female Garden Spiders lay their eggs in a silken cocoon, they protect this egg sac until they die in late Autumn, the following May the spiderlings will hatch and the cycle begins again.

7 fun and interesting facts about Spider Webs

  1. The threads of spider webs are called ‘silks’.
  2. Spider silk is five times stronger than a strand of steel that is the same thickness.
  3. Many spiders make a new web every day; they eat their old web which contains protein.
  4. Abandoned Spider Webs are called ‘cobwebs’.
  5. Spiders don’t stick to their own webs because they can make parts of one thread sticky and non-sticky, they stay off the sticky spots.
  6. Young Spiders (spiderlings) float through the air on strands of silk this is called ‘ballooning’.
  7. Spiders are the only group of animals to build webs.

Spider webs look beautiful in the morning covered in dew why don’t you see if you can find some and take some photographs or draw a picture of them.

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Have fun

Gill

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Autumn Rasberries

Autumn Raspberries

The Autumn Raspberries are ripening fast in the warm weather and can be picked daily they are delicious with cream or ice cream but freshly picked Raspberries have a limited shelf life of about 3 days in the fridge, if you have a glut make them into delicious jam or freeze them in a single layer on trays then bag them up for use later on either in pies, crumbles, sauces, fruit smoothies, jams/jellies or in cakes. Here is a delicious recipe for you to try:

Raspberry and Lemon Drizzle Cake

Ingredients

  • 115g butter, softened
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 150g raspberries

For the drizzle

  • 80g caster sugar
  • Juice of one lemon

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C and grease and line a 28cm x 18cm rectangular tin.
  2. Put the butter, flour, baking powder, caster sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a bowl and beat for 2 minutes until well combined.
  3. Gently fold in the milk and two thirds of the raspberries
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tray and level out.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining raspberries over the surface of the cake.
  6. Bake for approx. 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cake is spongy to touch.
  7. Mix the lemon juice and sugar together, remove the cake from the oven and while still hot make holes in the top with a skewer and pour over the drizzle, leave to cool in the tin.

Eat cold or as a pudding warm with custard, ice cream or crème fraiche.

 

Raspberry Support With Extension

Raspberry Support

When you have finished picking the Autumn Raspberries (August to October harvest) cut the canes down to soil level, new canes will grow in the Spring that will bear next year’s fruit, if you have Summer fruiting raspberries (June to early August harvest) only cut back this years old fruiting canes, leave tie in and support this year’s new canes these will produce next year’s fruit.

Budget Fruit Cage

Fruit Cage

Raspberries are very easy to grow, bare root Raspberry canes can be ordered now for planting in November-March when they are dormant, they prefer a fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position. Plant the canes of Summer Fruiting Raspberries 40cm apart and Autumn fruiting Raspberries 60cm apart at a depth of 8cm, firm in, water well and reduce the canes to a height of 25cm. Each spring mulch around the canes with well-rotted manure or apply a general fertiliser and then mulch with garden compost, water during dry weather and protect with a fruit cage or netting to stop the birds eating your crop.

Right I’m off to pick some more – it is raspberries and ice cream for tea!

Gill

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Is it me or are there suddenly a lot of Ladybirds, when I bring in the washing I unknowingly bring in with it a couple of these delightful insects, I also found a Ladybird larvae on the washing machine, they are grey and grub like and not very pretty to look at, they don’t resemble a Ladybird and if you didn’t know what they are you might be tempted to squash them.

Ladybird Larvae

Ladybird larvae

In Britain there are 46 species of Ladybirds, 19 species are dull in appearance and do not look at all like the familiar brightly coloured spotted ones that we all love, the 17 spotted varieties have different colour variations, orange with black spots, black with orange spots, white with black spots, yellow with black spots or brown with white spots and also different numbers of spots 2, 7, 11, 14, 18, 16, 22 and 24.

So why are there suddenly a lot of ladybirds?

They are this years newly hatched Ladybirds, during August they emerge from their pupae and then feed up on lots of aphids to build up their reserves to see them through the Winter months (October-February) when they go into a dormant state. In March-April they will emerge and search for food (aphids), the male and female then mate and the female will lay up to 40 eggs during June-July these are bright yellow and can often be found on the underside of leaves, they hatch within 4-10 days and over the following 3-6 weeks the larvae feed on aphids and grow fast shedding their skin 3 or 4 times before attaching to a stem/leaf and becoming a pupae, during the next two weeks the pupae changes dramatically and emerges as a Ladybird in August.

Ladybird Pupae

Ladybird Pupae

Ladybirds are great for the garden the Seven Spot Ladybird can eat 5,000 aphids in its year-long life span so as well as being beautiful they are a true gardener’s friend and worth looking after, unfortunately some native UK Ladybirds species are in decline. During September Ladybirds are feeding up and looking for a safe, dry place to spend the winter why not put some Ladybird and Insect Towers around your garden, each one has a hollow centre filled with straw which provides insulation and drilled holes to allow the Ladybirds access to the inner chamber, place them somewhere warm and sheltered either amongst the flowers, in a wooded area or even in a planter.

Wildlife World Ladybird and Insect Tower

Ladybird and Insect Tower

The collective name for a group of Ladybirds is a ‘loveliness’, I cannot think of anything more fitting.

Love your environment

Gill

 

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Mud pie

When I was young we lived in a new build house, unlike todays new houses the back garden was still a building site when we moved in but it was great we had so much fun playing there covered in mud with our buckets, spades and watering cans, such happy memories.

As well as being lots of fun playing with mud has lots of health benefits too:

Mud makes you happy

Mud contains friendly soil bacteria which stimulate the body’s immune system and triggers the brain to release serotonin the endorphin which regulates our moods and makes us feel happy, regular mud play can reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression.

Mud reduces childhood illnesses

There is much research and evidence that living in a ‘clean’ environment is a contributor to increased levels of childhood illnesses, including immune disorders and allergies, early exposure to mud which contains bacteria and organisms boosts the immune system, reduces allergies and improves a child’s resistance to disease.

Mud aids creativity and development

There is no limit to the things you can make and do with mud, through play children develop fine and gross motor skills, sensory awareness, balance and coordination.

Mud connects you with nature

Mud play connects a child with nature and the environment which can lead to a lifelong passion and appreciation of the outdoors.

Here are some wonderful activities with mud:

Mud foot and hand prints

Fill a bucket with soil and water to a lovely squidgy consistency, first get your hands in and then your feet and make mud prints on the paving.

Mud painting

Put some water in a small pot/bucket and add some soil keep it thin and watery, dip in an old paintbrush and paint pictures, patterns or write words on the paving.

Mud Pies

Mix mud and water in a bucket so that it is really thick and can be scooped up, use to fill old foil pie tins or food containers, decorate with flowers or stones and then leave to ‘bake’ in the sun.

Mud creatures

Using a really thick mud mixture with very little water, grab a handful or a spade full and mould into a creature then add eyes/teeth or decorate with stones, twigs, flowers and leaves why not try a hedgehog, butterfly, beetle, snake or a fish.

Make a construction Site

More for boys and a perfect way to put their diggers and dumper trucks to good use.

Build a Mud castle

Apply the same construction techniques as with sand castles using a very thick mud mixture build it in the sun and allow it to dry/set and then see how long it will remain intact when it rains.

This week, before School starts, get in the garden and make some of your own happy mud memories.

Gill

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Does every day seem the same?

Then why not have a ‘Green Day’, when you get up in the morning announce to your children that you are going ‘Green’, this is where your imagination plays a part and a bit of forward planning is advisable.

Here are some ideas for a ‘Green Day’:

  • Get dressed in green clothes.
  • Place a drop of food colouring in some milk so that you can have green milk with your cereal.
  • Go shopping for green and healthy food – Cucumber, Lettuce, Apples, Avocado, Kiwi Fruit, Peas in the Pod, Limes, Broccoli, Peppers, Courgettes, Cabbage, Celery.
  • Do some green ‘cooking’ – Make an Avocado Dip, a Green Jelly, an Apple Pie, Fairy Cakes with Green Icing and decorations and Green Cordial Ice Cubes.
  • Paint a picture using only green paint – You can make different shades of green by adding a bit of black or white paint.
  • Grow something green – Mustard and Cress Seeds are very fast to germinate, you can watch them growing day by day and can be eaten in about a week.
  • Go for a walk and collect green leaves, see how many different types you can find, take them home and make some leaf rubbing pictures with your green crayons.
  • At the end of the day have a lovely bath with some green bubble bath or add a few drops of green food colouring to the water.

Try the challenge again on another day with a different colour.

Why not use some of your fruit and vegetables to enter our free, fun face on a plate Summer Competition in the Gardening With Children Family Zone?

Vegetable face

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

Gill

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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

Gill

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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.

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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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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