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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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