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Posts Tagged ‘recycleworks’

If you have been reading my previous blogs you will know that I love Autumn especially getting out for a walk and collecting leaves, seeds, nuts and fruits I simply can’t resist it. The fruits such as Blackberries and Apples can be cooked to enjoy now in Pies and Crumbles or made into jams, chutneys and preserves to savour over the next few months, the seeds and nuts can be planted and will produce new flowers/wildflowers for your garden or a new generation of trees, all that remains are the stunning colourful leaves and the seed/nut cases.

You can have lots of fun with leaves and when you have finished they can be turned into valuable leaf mould for your garden, for lots of ideas for your wonderful leaves click here. This year the Beech has produced a bumper crop of seeds (which are often called Beechnuts or Beechmasts) and as I have quite a lot of the Beech seed cases I got thinking … they are very dry, hard and often spikey just like the prickles of a Hedgehog, so why not ….

Beech Seed Case Hedgehog

Make a Hedgehog from Beech Seed Cases

What you will need

  • Dry Beech Seed Cases
  • Potatoes
  • A Cocktail Stick
  • Sticky Tack or Glue
  • Conkers
  • Black felt tip pen

What you need to do

  1. Choose a potato preferably with a flat side (to stop it rolling around) this will be the bottom.
  2. Leave one end of the potato bare for the face then make holes with your cocktail stick in rows along the back and sides inserting beech seed cases by their stalks until you have covered your potato.
  3. Draw or stick on some eyes then add the conker nose securing it in place with Sticky Tack or Glue

If you have plenty of materials why not make a Hedgehog family and arrange them on a tray/lid with some of your leaves.

Hedgehogs are busy at the moment looking for a safe place to hibernate and eating plenty of food to build them up for the winter months, why not have a go at the new free Gardening with Children Family Competition or School Competition for a chance to win a Hogitat Hedgehog House, a Field guide to Hedgehogs and some Hedgehog Food for the Hedgehogs in your garden.

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

The Hogitat Hedgehog House – a perfect winter retreat for your prickly garden friends

Have fun

Gill

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National Insect Week logo
 
Next week is National Insect Week (23-29 June) it is organised by the Royal Entomological Society and encourages people of all ages to learn more about insects.
 
Did you know that there are over one million species of insects in the world these are just the ones that have been discovered and named with possibly many more new species out there just waiting to be found? In the UK alone there are more than 24,000 species, they are very varied in appearance (shape, size and colour) and live quite differently in their own habitats, many go unnoticed in our day-to-day life, why not go and explore your patch to see what is living in your school garden or your garden at home.
 
Be prepared
Hopefully the sun will be shining but you may need waterproofs, old clothes and Wellingtons.The Minibeast GuideEquipment
A Minibeast/Insect Identification Guide, Camera, Magnifying Glass, Note Pad, Pencil and a suitable container (not airtight) to study your insects (release your insects as soon as possible and return them to where they were found, please take care not to injure the insects themselves or disturb their environment).
 
Where to look
Have a look under stones/rocks/plant pots/logs and rotting wood, in compost heaps and long grass, on the underside of leaves, on flower heads, in leaf litter and near ponds (always have an adult with you).

Dragonfly

Insects to look out for
  • Dragonflies and Damselflies
  • Ladybirds
  • Grasshoppers/Crickets
  • Beetles
  • Butterflies
  • Hoverflies
  • Aphids/Greenfly
  • Moths
  • Lacewings
  • Ants
  • Wasps
  • Bees
  • Earwigs
  • Flies
  • Bugs
Elephant Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

 
Once you find your insect, make a record of what it is, draw a picture of it or take a photograph, record where you found it, what it was doing or what it was eating/feeding on and the date.
 
When you have been on your Insect Hunt why not tell us what you find or send in your drawing or photograph to enter our free Family Zone competition for a chance to win a Ladybird and Insect Tower and a Field guide to Ladybirds of the British Isles for full details click here or have a go at our Insect Quiz in the School Zone for a chance to win your school a Solar Insect Theatre and a Minibeast Identification Guide for full details click here.
 
If you want to encourage more insects to your garden why not put up some Insect Houses, they will provide a safe winter haven as well as looking attractive.
 
Wildlife World Bee & Bug Biome

Bee and Bug Biome

Solitary Bee Hive

Solitary Bee Hive

The Butterfly Biome

The Butterfly Biome

 
An Insect Hunt is a great way to get children (and adults) outdoors and interested in their environment, everyone can take part whatever their age (I love it just as much as Thomas), here are some of our findings on our Insect Hunt last weekend.
 
Common Green Grasshopper

Common Green Grasshopper

Fritillary Butterfly

Fritillary Butterfly

 
Happy hunting
 
Gill
 

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Congratulations to our March/April Competition Winners the School Zone Competition was won by Bowes Hutchinson’s C of E Primary School, Barnard Castle, County Durham and the Family Zone Competition was won by Dominic Nelson from Bishops Stortford both winners received an Essentials Propagator and a selection of seed trays, flowers pots and labels, well done to both of you, I hope that you enjoy your prizes and that you use them to grow lots of flowers, fruit and vegetables.

As the weather warms up and the days get longer you may notice a lot more insects in your garden, but how much do you really know about them and do you know their names, in the New School Zone Competition have a go at our Insect Quiz for a chance to win your School

a Solar Insect Theatre (perfect for catching and watching insects)

Solar Insect Theatre

and a Minibeast Identification Guide (to help you to identify them).

The Minibeast Guide

For full details on how to enter, your entry form and those all important Quiz Questions click here.

There are many bugs living in our gardens to enter our New Family Zone Competition why not go on a bug hunt and tell us what bugs you find or take a photograph or draw a picture of one and send it in to us and you could win

a Ladybird and Insect Tower (a perfect home for Ladybirds and Insects)

 Ladybird and Insect Tower

and a Field guide to Ladybirds of the British Isles (to help you to identify your inhabitants).

Field Guide to Ladybirds

For full details on how to enter and your entry form click here.

The closing date for both Competitions is 31st July 2014.

Good Luck

Gill

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Following our Easter break it is now all about pots and propagators.

I tend to sow most of my seeds in April with the exception of Chilli and Sweet peppers which are quite slow to grow and germinate, these were sown in early March and are now ready to be potted up individually into small pots (click here for a guide to growing Chilli Peppers).

Red Chillies

The following were the first to go into my two propagators:

Tomatoes – a must, packed full of flavour and goodness they are so healthy, I usually grow different varieties, cherry/mini plum tomato (perfect for lunch boxes and for putting on skewers on the BBQ) , medium size tomato (general use), large fleshy tomato (for soups/chutneys) and hanging basket tomatoes (handy by the back door, they look great too). Click here for a guide to growing tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercress – easy to grow and doesn’t need running water it has a lovely peppery flavour great in salads or if you grow plenty Watercress Soup, its rich in Vitamin C (click here for a guide to growing Watercress).

Watercress close

Cosmos – one of my favourite flowers and loved by Bees and Insects, planted in groups they make a stunning display and can be cut to enjoy indoors.

All of the above seeds have germinated and are growing on nicely they will be ready to pot on when their first set of true leaves have grown,

they have now been replaced in the propagator with:

Basil, Parsley, Coriander – essential summer herbs for salads or cooking

Coriander

Sweet Corn – pick then cook and eat as soon as possible before the sugar turns to starch, shop bought simply doesn’t compare to home grown

Butternut Squash – not something I have grown before but can be boiled, roasted, mashed and made into soup, they store well for winter use

these will then be replaced with:

Salad Leaves – a summer essential

Frilly Lettuce

Cucumbers – you can’t have a salad without cucumber, home grown are delicious (click here for a guide to growing cucumbers)

Courgettes –easy to grow and will produce a big crop until the first winter frosts

Pumpkins – I always grow these for Halloween but they can be made into soup, pies and cakes, don’t forget to roast the seeds (click here for a guide to growing Pumpkins)

T's Halloween Pumpkin

Sunflowers – the flower of Summer, loved by bees and insects the seeds can be dried to feed to the birds, this year I am planning to grow a ‘crop’ on my allotment (click here for a guide to growing Sunflowers)

Sunflower 1

Many of the above can be sown directly outside but they simply will not grow if it is too cold, I wouldn’t be without my propagators and would recommend them to anyone, the constant gentle temperature really does make a difference to the germination rate of your seeds.

Click here to learn more about growing in propagators.

Growing your plants from seed is easy and very economical and to many children it is pure magic!

 The essential heated propagator

Why not enter our free competitions for a chance to win your own propagator (click here for full details) or one for your School (click here for full details) hurry, the closing date for both competitions is Wednesday 30th April.

Good Luck

Gill

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If you have had a look at The Recycleworks website you may have seen the range of Raised Bed Tools, they are made by Sneeboer who are a Dutch company that is honoured to carry the label “By Appointment to the King of the Netherlands”, each tool is made from hand forged stainless steel and produced to a very high quality.

As a keen gardener I have got a good selection of tools but I don’t have a Mattock and was quite intrigued with them when we received our first delivery of tools last year.

Sneeboer Mattock Garden Tool

The Mattock is a double sided tool which means that it is two tools in one making it very economical and also very practical when you are gardening; the stainless steel head consists of a flat bladed hoe at one side with a three pronged fork opposite.

The Hoe can be used to break up and loosen soil with a pulling action as well as removing weeds, once weeded the soil needs to be raked (using the fork) to remove large lumps of soil and stones and then leveled, now you are ready for planting/sowing.

Use the Hoe to dig out planting Holes or make Seed drills using the corner of the blade, for larger seeds such as Peas make a shallow trench using the Hoe or make a furrow if you are planting potatoes, once your potatoes have come through use the Hoe again to earth them up (cover the leaves with soil). The compact size of the head makes weeding between your crops very easy.

I am very impressed with the Mattock it is a well-balanced lightweight tool that is easy to use, the ash handle is warm and comfortable to hold, it will stand up to lots of wear and tear and last a lifetime, I would definitely recommend one, they are ideal for using in Raised Beds and smaller gardens. On Friday evening whilst watching a popular gardening programme on television I noticed that one of the presenters was using a spade made by Sneeboer this confirms how good these tools are, have a look at our full range here.

 Sneeboer childrens garden tool selection

Gill

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They say that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, there is no better way to do this than with Chocolate, these Double Chocolate Chip Cookies are just perfect to show how much you care, they are quick and easy to make too.

Valentines Chocolate cookies

Valentines Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

What you will need

  • 225g butter/margarine
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 225g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 100g milk or dark chocolate chips

To decorate

  • Icing sugar/red food colouring
  • Ready-made icing in tubes
  • White Chocolate
  • Cake Decorations

What you need to do

  1. Mix the butter/margarine and the caster sugar in a bowl until fluffy and light in colour.
  2. Add the egg yolk and the vanilla essence and beat thoroughly.
  3. Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl (a bit at a time) and mix, the dough will become quite firm.
  4. Stir in your chocolate chips.
  5. If the mixture is slightly soft and sticky place it in the fridge to chill for at least 20 mins this will make it easier to handle.
  6. Divide the mixture into 12 balls, roll and put onto a baking tray lined with parchment, 6 to a tray allowing room for them to spread, and squash down slightly.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 190C/Gas 5 for 10 minutes, remove and leave to cool and set for at least 15 minutes before decorating when cold.

To decorate

Hearts, crosses and patterns can be made from icing or runny white chocolate (melt in a bowl over hot water) add cake decorations when wet – sugar strands, mini marshmallows, silver/gold balls, glitter sugar, sugar hearts.

Don’t forget to reward your young helpers with a sample of their hard work.

Delicious!

Gill

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Oranges are always a favourite at our house, especially Tangerines at Christmas but wouldn’t it be nice to grow your own Orange Tree.

Oranges and Lemons

Many children will not have seen oranges growing on trees except in books, on the television or maybe in garden centres. If you have a bit of time and a lot of patience (it can take 8 years for a tree to produce an orange) why not have a go at growing your own tree from pips that you have collected.

How to Grow your own Orange Tree

Peel your orange and break into segments, hold each segment up to the light you should be able to see the pips inside, carefully split the skin and remove the pips.

Rinse the pips in warm water (keep your pips moist this helps them to germinate).

Sowing Orange pips

Fill some small pots with compost and plant your pips about 1-1.5cm deep, one or two to a pot.

Water lightly to moisten the compost but not too much to make it soggy.

Make a label recording the date, what and how many seeds you have sown.

If you have a propagator put your pots inside and place on a warm, bright windowsill, alternatively push 2/3 sticks into the compost around the edge of the pot and cover with a plastic bag, tie loosely with string around the pot or use a rubber band.

At night remove your pots from the windowsill as it can become quite cold especially if you have the curtains closed, returning them during the day.

Check regularly that the compost is moist, once your seedlings appear remove their protective cover and place in a sunny position avoiding the midday sun.

Re-pot your plants individually as they grow.

When your plants are much larger stand them in a conservatory or porch or outside on a sheltered patio in warm weather during the summer bringing them inside, before any frosts, for the winter.

Why not try growing lemon or grapefruit pips too?

Have fun!

Gill

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If you find some slightly soft fruit and vegetables in your cupboard that are past their best why not dig out your paints and make some fun pictures with them.

Fruit and Vegetable Prints

What you will need

Equipment

  • Poster paints in various colours
  • Plastic plates
  • Paint brushes
  • Knife
  • Paper or card
  • Aprons
  • Plastic Table Cloth

Fruit and Vegetables

  • Mushrooms – Cut in half lengthways or cut the stalk off to reveal the gills
  • Broccoli Heads – Keep whole, paint the heads and roll onto the paper or cut lengthways this will resemble a tree
  • Broccoli/Cabbage Leaves – paint or dip the leaves
  • Sweet corn – keep whole, paint the kernels and roll onto the paper
  • Carrots – Cut into chunks for a round print
  • Potatoes – Cut in half for a large round print or cut in half then with the flat side down cut off 3 sides to make a triangle or four sides to make a square or a rectangle
  • French/Runner Beans – Cut at an angle across the pod to make a leaf shape
  • Celery – Cut into chunks, paint the bottoms for crescents or the sides for stripes
  • Apples – Cut in half horizontally to reveal the inner star shape
  • Starfruit – Cut across to make a perfect star
  • Pomegranate – Cut in half horizontally, knock out the seeds to reveal the sections

What you need to do

  1. Cover your working surface with the plastic table cloth and put on your aprons (it can be very messy).
  2. Ask an adult to cut and prepare your vegetables as above.
  3. Put the paints onto separate plates, you may need to add a little water if they are very thick, then spread them out across the base of the plate with a paint brush.
  4. Dip you fruit/vegetables into the paints or paint them with the brush.
  5. Stamp, roll or dab your fruit/vegetables onto the paper to create your masterpiece.
  6. Leave your pictures to dry.
  7. Give your hands a really good wash!

As well as making pictures why not see if your children can identify the fruit and vegetables and where and how they grow.

When you have finished with your fruit and vegetables give them a rinse and recycle them in the Compost Bin.

Have fun

Gill

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This weekend it is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch (25-26 January), so why not take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey, it will only take up an hour of your time, all you need to do during the hour is to record the different species of birds that you see and the highest number of each species that you see at any one time. Schools and Youth Groups such as Brownies and Cubs can get involved too by taking part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch again by watching and recording birds for an hour but this can take place 20 January – 14 February. Send in or register your results online, these results are invaluable and will be used to monitor our bird populations and help with their conservation.

If you are going to take part it is a good idea to put out plenty of bird food and feeders beforehand to attract as many birds to your garden as possible click here for ‘Our guide to feeding garden birds’, if you have time why not make some of your own Bird Cakes.

My Fat Ball and Feeder

Home-made Bird Cakes

An adults help is needed to make these bird cakes as you will need to melt your lard or dripping in a pan.

Ingredients

  • Blocks of supermarket Lard or Dripping
  • Bird Seed
  • Raisins
  • Chopped Nuts/Peanuts

Utensils

  • Thin coated garden wire
  • Brush handle
  • Saucepan
  • Clean empty Yoghurt, Jelly or Custard Pots

Making my Fat Balls

What you need to do

  1. Cut your garden wire into 30cm lengths (with adult help)
  2. Wrap half of the length of wire around the handle to form a spiral and bend over the top to form a loop.
  3. Arrange your empty pots in a tray/seed tray, place a wire spiral in each one then fill to about 2/3rd with the seed mixture.
  4. Melt your lard of dripping in a pan, and leave to cool slightly.
  5. Slowly and carefully pour the melted fat into the pots.
  6. Place your pots in a fridge or somewhere cool to set.
  7. To remove your cakes from their pots, dip them in a bowl of warm water and pull out carefully with the wire handle.

Place your hanging bird cakes around your garden in trees, bushes or from your bird table well out of the way of cats and other predators.

If you have a metal fat ball feeder you can make refills by following the above instructions but omitting the wire spiral from the pots, again warm the pots to remove the cakes and drop them into your feeder.

Happy Birdwatching – Have Fun

Gill

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Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are all plants that we associate with Christmas, but there is more to Mistletoe than you might think.

Mistletoe is very special as it does not grow in soil but grows on the branches of trees, it sends its roots under the bark taking nutrients from its host tree, it is often found on apple trees but it can also grow on Hawthorn, Lime, Poplar, Willow, Rowan, Quince and Whitebeam.

In European folklore Mistletoe was considered a mysterious, magical, and sacred plant, from the middle ages branches of Mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits as well as over doors to prevent witches from entering. The appearance and growing habit of Mistletoe will have added to the fascination with this unique plant, its bare symmetrical branches, with a single symmetrical pair of smooth, long evergreen leaves at the tip and its glossy, pure white berries almost suspended amongst the tangle of branches which from a distance resemble a sphere.

How to grow your own Mistletoe

If you are buying Mistletoe at Christmas, choose the sprigs of Mistletoe that have ‘ripe’ plump white berries rather than unripe green or yellow ones.

Cut off the ends of the branches and place the sprigs in water on a cool, frost free windowsill until March/April.

Select a tree with branches at least 10cm in diameter, underneath the branches or under a branch joint carefully make a scratch in the bark, this will bring the seeds into contact with the tree, and then squash one of the berries into it, mark its position by tying a piece of string or wool around the branch with a label.

Many berries will drop off or be eaten, to ensure a good success rate sow at least twenty at a time, growth is slow and it will be the following spring before any leaves appear, for your new plants to produce berries you need to have a male and female plant, it will take about four or five years for the new plants to mature and produce berries.

If you have apple trees at school or at home you can ask each child to ‘plant’ a seed and put their name on the label with the date then they will (fingers crossed) be able to watch their own Mistletoe grow.

Have fun

Gill

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