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Posts Tagged ‘school gardening’

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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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Small Tortoiseshell

They say that counting sheep is relaxing and helps you to go to sleep, why not do something which is equally as relaxing that is also fun, educational and very important – why not count butterflies?

This year ‘The Big Butterfly Count’ runs from 17th July – 9th August and the organisers Butterfly Conservation are asking as many people as possible to get involved and count butterflies and moths for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather, good places to count are in gardens, meadows, parks and woods.

If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) – this is so that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once . If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.

To make things easier you can download a handy identification chart from their website to help you work out which butterflies you have seen.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

The ‘Big Butterfly Count’ is a nationwide survey aimed at assessing the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Over 44,000 people took part in 2014, counting almost 560,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.

Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses. The count also assists in identifying trends in species, this will help to plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.

You can submit separate records for different dates at the same place, and for different places. Your count is useful even if you do not see any butterflies or moths.

Once you have done your count submit your records online before the end of August.

There is a great results map showing sightings that have already been submitted, you can see which butterflies and moths other people have spotted near you and across the UK, it is fascinating.

Have a look on their website there is lots of information and wonderful pictures of butterflies and moths which you may spot during your count as well as great ideas to get more people involved such as a Barbecue for Butterflies, Picnic in the Park, Butterfly play date, Butterfly Tea Party, it is a great activity for groups such as the Brownies/Cubs etc. Summer Schools, Child Minders, the W.I., Walking Clubs, Gardening Clubs etc.

So get out there on the next sunny day and look for Butterflies and Moths.

Red Admiral Butterfly

If you want to attract butterflies into your garden you will need to provide nectar rich flowers throughout the butterfly season, as well as food plants for the butterfly caterpillars to eat, click here for advice on which nectar rich plants to grow in Spring, Summer and Autumn and tips on gardening for butterflies.
Love your environment
Gill

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Oak Tree

Trees play an important part in our lives by enhancing our environment and creating wonderful wooded places to spend quality time with our families.

Trees are havens for wildlife too, providing homes and food for caterpillars (leaves), insects (flowers, leaves), beetles and larvae (trunk, rotting wood) these in turn are food for animals and birds especially newly fledged youngsters or hungry chicks still in the nest, in Autumn and Winter their fruits/berries and seeds provide a welcome meal for birds and animals, trees really are a very important part of the wild food chain.

Family pic 5

If you are interested in planting trees to help wildlife, for the environment 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 2015.

The tree packs are available in three sizes:

  • Small – containing 30 saplings.
  • Medium – containing 105 saplings.
  • Large – containing 420 sapling.

The packs come in different mixes of tree species so you can choose the best one for your project.

  • Small – Short Hedge, Small Copse
  • Medium – Wild Harvest, Wildlife, Year Round Colour, Working Wood, Wetland, Wild Wood
  • Large – Wild Harvest, Wildlife, Year Round Colour, Working Wood, Wetland, Wild Wood

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, currently all medium (105 sapling) packs for schools this Autumn have been claimed, limited quantities of the small (30 sapling) and large (420 sapling) packs remain, if you are interested in planting this Autumn apply early to avoid disappointment.

The closing date for Autumn applications is 3rd 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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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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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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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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After 140 years of being in decline there is now evidence that our much loved and endangered Red Squirrels are on the increase, this is fantastic news.

In September it was revealed that a 3 month survey carried out by volunteers of Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) in 300 woodlands in the north including Cumbria and Northumberland found that Red Squirrel numbers had increased by 7% compared to Spring 2012, in contrast to this the numbers of grey squirrels in these areas had declined.

Only this week it was announced that scientists have discovered that some of our Red Squirrels have developed an immunity to the Squirrel Pox Virus, this disease is transmitted by the Grey Squirrel to our native Reds although it does no harm to the Grey Squirrel it can kill our Red Squirrel within weeks.

These findings were published in EcoHealth by Tony Salisbury, from the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London and suggest that a vaccine can be used to help our Red Squirrels fight the Squirrel Pox Virus.

photos of red and grey squirrels

Population estimated at 211,000 (30k England, 121k Scotland, 10k Wales, 50k N Ireland and Republic of Ireland). Population estimated at 2.77m (2m England, 0.2m Scotland, 0.32m Wales, 250k N Ireland and Republic of Ireland).
Native to GB, probably introduced to Ireland. Native to North America, introduced to Britain in 1870s.
Habitat: deciduous and coniferous forests, but coniferous forests may be advantageous. Wide range of habitats, including broadleaved and conifer forests.
Life expectancy – up to seven years in the wild. Can live up to nine years in the wild.
Squirrel poxvirus is nearly always fatal to red squirrels. Can carry squirrel poxvirus with no effects.
      Source: British Mammal Society/Colin Lawton                           

A long, hard winter can also affect our Squirrels if you want to give them a hand why not put up a Squirrel Feeder in your garden/school garden so that they will always have a permanent and easy source of food.

Wooden Squirrel Feeder

Click here to find out more about helping our other garden wildlife through the winter months including Hedgehogs, Frogs, Toads, Newts, Bats and Dormice.

Love your wildlife

Gill

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Red Admiral Butterfly

What a lovely summer we have had, everything has really benefited from those long, warm, sunny days – fruit, vegetables, flowers, birds, animals, insects and of course ourselves.

During the school holidays Thomas has spent a lot of his time catching and identifying butterflies, moths and insects with the sweep net that I bought from our local hardware store, it is very similar to a fishing net but the net is about 3 times deeper and is pointed at the end. We have taken it with us on walks, visiting friends and family, on holiday, to the coast, in the fields, woods, meadows and up hills and it’s been brilliant and really interesting learning which species live where and which are the most/least common. The insect world is vast there are thousands and thousands of species out there just waiting to be explored so why not get out on a warm, dry day and see if you can catch some, if you haven’t got a sweep net have a go with a fishing net I am sure you will catch something.

Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station

Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station

As the weather has begun to get cooler and nectar rich flowers are becoming less available now is a good time to provide some extra food and a safe and dry place for our wonderful insects to roost and hibernate, we have put up a Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station next to our Buddleia Bush, whose flowers have nearly all gone to seed, and I think I might put up a Butterfly & Moth Feeder nearby too, as well as being a feeding station the insects can also roost and hibernate inside on the cassette which can be lifted out so that you can observe your guests as they rest .

Butterfly and Moth Feeder

Butterfly and Moth Feeder

If you want to catch and identify insects and bugs why not have a look at the Catcha Bug Catcher this clever little device allows you to catch them and easily observe them through the clear sides then release them without harm, it’s very handy for re-locating those large house spiders in the Autumn!

Catcha Bug - Spider & Insect Catcher

Catcha Bug Catcher

If you are interested in attracting butterflies and moths into your garden click here for lots more information.

Why not have a go at catching moths in your garden or school garden click here for full details.

Have fun, love your environment

Gill

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Why not play your part in increasing and preserving our beautiful wildflowers by joining The Recycleworks Wildflower Seed Project 3013/2014.
 
Schools or Community Associations that support children can register FREE and they will receive 5 Seed Collecting Tins to store their valuable seed until the spring followed by instructions of how to sow and grow their wildflower seeds.
                  Seed storage tins
This year, while stocks last, we are giving away to each new member of The Recycleworks Wildflower Seed Project 2013/2014 a beautifully illustrated guide to ‘Collecting and Propagating Seed of Hay Meadow Flowers’ which has been produced by The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, who through their Hay Time Project work with farmers and landowners to restore meadows in the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland that have lost some of their wildlife value using seed harvested from nearby species-rich donor meadows, they involve volunteers in their work and provide educational opportunities for schools and the public. The full colour guide shows hay meadow plants in flower, their seed heads/pods and their seed as well as information on seed collecting, storage and propagation.
 
Hay Meadow seed saving brochure0001
 
 
COLLECTING SEED

Collecting seeds is a wonderful thing to do with children, they will learn where seeds come from, and not only be rewarded with free seeds but also lots of free plants in spring and with the satisfaction that they have grown them themselves from ‘their’ seed.

Some of the most rewarding and valuable seeds to collect are from Wildflowers and Nectar Rich plants which provide food for our bees, butterflies and pollinating insects, by growing these you will be giving back to nature and enriching your environment.
 
Here are some of the many plants that are beneficial to insects: Buddleia, Ox Eye Daisy, Borage, Verbena Bonariensis, Evening Primrose, Calendula, French Marigold, Teasel, Thistles, Foxglove, Cornflower.

Ox Eye Daisy

Where to look for seeds
The best places to find wildflowers are in uncultivated areas such as on grass verges, under hedges, on the edges of parks/playing fields (where the grass cutters can’t reach), church yards and meadows. Nectar rich flowers can usually be found in gardens. You may need to ask the landowners permission before entering their land to collect seed.
 
How to collect seed
You will need paper bags or envelopes, scissors and a pencil.
Some seed heads will shed their seeds very easily, simply empty their contents into your bag, or cut off the ripe seed head/pod and place in your bag then write the plant name on the bag, the date, the place and also where it was growing in sun/shade or in dry/wet soil this will help you when you grow your new plants next year. If some of the seed heads/pods are damp, lay them out on paper to dry before removing the seeds. If you are not sure of the name of the plant cut off the seed head/pods and a leaf or take a photograph so that you can identify it later.

Evening Primrose

Storing your seed
Some of the seeds will need to be cleaned by removing the husk and extracting the seeds from their pods/seed heads as these may contain small insects too. Place your dry seeds in a cold, dry and dark place until February/March. This can be in a container in the fridge so that they go through the natural cold winter conditions. It can be in a sealed tin (which will protect them from insects and animals) in the shed, but dry, cold and dark is important. If they get wet or warm they may start germinating and if it is too early for spring they will not survive.
 
Some seeds can be toxic, take care when collecting seed and always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
 
Make the most of the warm Autumn days and collect some wildflower seeds.
 
Gill

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This year both the garden and the allotment are flourishing, what a huge difference the sun makes, the flowers in the garden are in full bloom with many now producing seed for next years plants, even the vegetables are outstanding with some even worthy of the show bench (local only). Soft fruit picking has been never-ending from Strawberries to Red/White/Blackcurrants, Gooseberries, and Raspberries with the promise of a good crop of Blackberries, Apples, Pears, Damsons and Plums yet to come.

If you have grown some vegetables which have produced an exceptional and tasty crop why not try saving some of their seeds to grow next year, this is not a new idea. Millions of people, for many thousands of years have been saving their own seeds to grow year after year, this has led to the preservation of many old ‘Heritage’ seed varieties and the creation of many new varieties.

Collect seed from strong, healthy, vigorous plants when they are fully mature/ripe choosing the largest seeds and those that are not damaged or deformed. Allow fruits to fully ripen on the plant before collecting their seeds. Don’t be tempted to collect seeds from F1 hybrids they will not grow true to the parent plant, producing an inferior plant and crop.

You can harvest seeds from most types of vegetables, the following varieties are perhaps some of the easiest to start with:

Beans and Peas

Let the pods mature and ripen on the plant.  Pick the pods whole when they are dry and start to turn brown and lay them out on newspaper indoors to dry out for at least two weeks, remove the individual seeds from the pods, allowing them to dry out further before storing.

 

Pepper SeedsRed Chillies

Collect seeds from Peppers that have fully ripened on the plant and have started to go soft and wrinkly. Remove the seeds and place on a plate to dry out, when they are completely dry they are ready to store. Care must be taken with Chilli Peppers, it is advisable to wear gloves and allow an adult to remove and handle the fruits and the seeds.

Beef Tomatoes

Tomato Seeds

Pick tomatoes that have been left to fully ripen on the plant. Scoop out the seeds and the pulp, place them in a container with water for a few days swirling the water each day. The seeds should come free from the pulp and sink to the bottom, drain off the liquid and any seeds that float, rinse the seeds in a small plastic sieve. Place the seeds on a plate to dry out, when they are completely dry they are ready to store.

Place your dried seeds in paper envelopes, labelling them with the name, variety and the date that you collected them, adding any growing instructions or notes. Store the seeds in a cool dry place in an airtight tin, which will keep moisture, unwanted insects and animals out.

Allowing the seeds to mature on your plants will reduce any further crops as the sole intention of any plant is to put all its energy into making seeds so that they will grow again next year and once this has been achieved its job is done.

Collecting seeds will save you money, is rewarding, fun and educational, teaching children about the life cycles of plants and how the food that they eat grows.

Gill

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