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At Christmas we decorate a fir tree with baubles, lights, beads and tinsel which has pride of place in our home it seems such a shame that it is only enjoyed once a year and for only about 3 weeks. This year why not start an Easter tradition and make an Easter Tree this could be outside either using a tree that is growing in the garden or one that is growing in a pot which would look lovely near your front door or alternatively you could have an indoor tree.

How to make an indoor Easter tree

The tree

Put on your coat, grab your wellies and go on a walk to collect some nicely shaped branches alternatively if you have been pruning in the garden save some of the thicker branches.

Select the branches that will make an interesting shape once they are placed together, you can leave the branches natural, paint them white or ask an adult to spray them with gold or silver paint.

Find a wide vase and fill with small pebbles or sand to support your branches and keep them in place.

Arrange your branches in the vase and decorate.

The decorations

There are many decorations to choose from in shops these include easter chicks, rabbits and eggs and as with Christmas decorations you can re-use them year after year, also add pom poms, bows and ribbon to decorate your tree

The Easter tree is popular in Europe and has now found a place in British homes, in Germany they are known as Osterbaum or Easter Tree. The biggest Easter egg tree was in Rostock, Germany it was decorated with 76,596 painted hens’ eggs.

Happy Easter

Gill

There are lots of wonderful gifts and flowers in the shops for Mother’s Day but you can’t beat a home-made present that is made with love and especially one which is as delicious as this …

Lemon Curd Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 225g Caster Sugar
  • 225g Self-Raising Flour
  • 225g Margarine/Butter
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • Finely grated zest of one Lemon

To decorate

  • Lemon Curd
  • 50g Icing Sugar
  • Lemon Juice to combine

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4.
  2. Lightly grease and line with greaseproof paper two 20cm round or square cake tins.
  3. Beat the Margarine/Butter in a bowl with the Caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Gradually add the eggs with the sifted Self Raising Flour/Baking Powder and mix well.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and level the tops.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and springly to the touch.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. To finish spread a layer of Lemon Curd over one of the cakes and the lemon icing on the top of the other then sandwich both together.

Delicious!

Happy Mother’s Day

Gill

Stewart Essential Heated Propagator 52cm

Propagator is essential if you want to get your seeds started earlier and to ensure a good germination rate, they provide the correct temperature and humidity for your seeds, plants and cuttings to grow, to get your gardening year off to a good start why not enter our competition for a chance to win a propagator for your school or for home.

 

School Zone Competition

For a chance to win a Stewart Essential Heated Propagator 52cm with a selection of trays, small pots and labels, simply identify the 8 fruit or vegetables being described in our easy ‘Who am I?’ questions for more information and to enter the competition click here.

Family Zone Competition

For a chance to win a Stewart Non Electric 38cm Propagator

and a selection of trays, small pots and labels simply answer the following question:

Tell me what you would grow in a propagator and why?

For more information and to enter the competition click here.

Hurry the closing date for both competitions is Friday 31st March 2017.

Good Luck

Gill

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

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

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

Square Ground Bird Table

This year the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch takes place over three days for the first time, running from Saturday 28 January to Monday 30 January, this means that if you are busy over the weekend or the weather is bad you still have the option to take part on the Monday – you could even do it at work in your dinner hour!

The Big Garden Birdwatch has now been going over 35 years, it originally started in 1979 as a Winter activity that junior RSPB members could get involved in, Biddy Baxter who was then the editor of Blue Peter liked the idea and featured it on one the programmes, the response was amazing with over 34,000 people sending in their forms, it wasn’t until 2001 that adults were invited to join in the fun too.

Big Schools Birdwatch

Schools can take part in the Big Schools Birdwatch anytime before 17 February 2017, either as a whole school or in classes; the Birdwatch is suitable for all ages and abilities and an invaluable educational activity which allows pupils to get closer to nature and become aware of their environment and its wildlife.

CJ Wildlife Giant Fat Ball Bird Feeder

Getting started

Visit the RSPBs website and register for your free pack which is full of fascinating facts, tips and advice.

Make sure that you have plenty of bird feeders and bird food available in your garden; it is recommended that you feed the birds throughout the year and not just for the Big Garden Birdwatch or during Winter. If your bird feeders have been out at while it may be an idea to give them a wash before filling them up, this applies to your bird baths also as good hygiene and clean water are very important.

On the day – Find somewhere warm, dry and comfortable to view the birds, have a pen, your checklist/pad, a pair of binoculars and friends/family who can also look for birds.

What to do – For one hour count the maximum number of each species that you see at any one time, this means that you are less likely to double count the same birds.

Here are some of the more common birds that you might see:

  • Blackbird
  • Blue tit
  • Chaffinch
  • Coal tit
  • Collared dove
  • Dunnock
  • Goldfinch
  • Great tit
  • Greenfinch
  • House sparrow
  • Long-tailed tit
  • Magpie
  • Robin
  • Starling
  • Woodpigeon

Keep watching closely there are many other species that may visit your garden especially if the weather is cold.

Send in your Birdwatch results to the RSPB by 17th February 2017.

For more information and advice on feeding the birds in your garden click here.

I shall be taking part, happy bird watching

Gill