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Last week we managed to get away for a short break to Silverdale this is one of our favourite places and one we visit regularly throughout the year. The area has a diverse landscape (ancient woodland, flower rich meadows, limestone pavements and coastal saltmarshes) making it a haven for a large, varied and unique range of wildlife, Thomas is very interested in birds and saw a record number of species –  82 in total, but it was the Butterflies that really caught my attention especially the Brimstones which were dancing along the hedgerows.

Photograph of Brimstone from Butterfly Conservation website

Brimstones are quite big butterflies with leaf shaped veined wings which blend in well when they are resting amongst foliage, the females have pale green/white wings and the males have yellow-green underwings and yellow upperwings making them very easy to spot. In Spring the butterflies feed on Dandelion, Primrose, Cowslip, Bugle and Bluebell flowers which can often be found under hedges, the caterpillars feed on Buckthorn leaves.

Butterfly numbers have nearly halved in the last forty years, last year’s hot summer did boost numbers but there is a long way to go before their numbers return to a healthy and stable population. Butterfly Conservation is a charity dedicated to protecting butterflies, moths and our environment (www.butterfly-conservation.org) through conserving and creating habitats, recording and monitoring, raising awareness and encouraging  individuals and families  to get involved. On their website there is lots of information and pictures of Butterflies and Moths and a really useful guide to help you to identify which Butterfly or Moth you have seen.

This April 2014 Butterfly Conservation is offering half price membership (with the code GARDEN50 and paying by direct debit), plus the first 100 people to sign up will receive a free pack of seeds, either Phlox, Pot Marigold or Cornflower, these are not only lovely flowers but are known to attract a variety of Butterflies and Moths, like the Humming-bird Hawk-moth and Peacock, included in each new membership welcome pack is their new gardening book, which contains details of how to encourage Butterflies and Moths into the garden as well as general gardening information, this book is exclusive to members and not for sale anywhere.

Gardening for Butterflies and Moths

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more Butterflies in your garden, this Easter keep a look out for Butterflies or why not become a member of Butterfly Conservation and help our beautiful Butterflies and Moths?

Happy Easter

Gill

Chocolate Easter eggs are everywhere they seem to have been in the shops since Christmas, this year why not make some ‘traditional’ Easter eggs with the children to decorate your house this Easter and to celebrate the humble egg too!

Dip and Dye Decorated Eggs

What you will need

  • Cooled Hard Boiled Eggs (White or pale coloured)
  • Food Colouring
  • White vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Bowl or Cup for each colour, deep enough to submerge an egg
  • Spoons

Dyeing eggs can be very messy, wear old clothes if possible and waterproof painting aprons, cover the kitchen table with a plastic tablecloth and newspapers.

For each coloured dye place half/one teaspoon of food colouring and one tablespoon of vinegar in a container then top up to approx. ¾ full with warm water.

The Simple Egg

Carefully lower your egg into the dye with your spoon, the longer you leave it in the dye the darker the colour will be, remove your egg when you are happy with the colour and leave to dry.

The Arty Egg

Using a wax crayon or a birthday candle, draw a picture, pattern or write a message on your egg before dipping as above, the wax crayon/candle will stop the dye colouring the egg, experiment with different colours.

The Abstract Egg

Using masking tape, cut out lots shapes and stick them on your egg, dye several times in different colours after each colour allow to dry before removing some of the shapes before dyeing again alternatively place elastic bands around your egg and remove some after each dipping you could dye the egg a light colour first before covering with the masking tape shapes or rubber bands.

You can decorate all of the dyed eggs further by drawing/painting patterns, shapes, flowers, animals or faces etc. on them or by sticking on glitter, sequins, coloured foil, paper, wool, string, cotton wool etc. the possibilities are endless.

Place your eggs in a basket or bowl filled with tissue paper or straw for a wonderful display, unfortunately you will not be able to eat these eggs unlike the chocolate ones!

Have fun

Gill

Last week I managed to get on my allotment, it was Mother’s Day to be precise, the weather was glorious and the birds were singing – it was perfect! My first job was to tidy up and weed the beds now that they have dried out sufficiently I was delighted to find lots and lots of Ladybirds which have successfully survived our mild winter this is great news but unfortunately our native Ladybirds are under threat from another Ladybird, it is called the Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) and is the most invasive Ladybird on earth, arriving in Britain in the Summer of 2004, it is originally from Asia and was introduced to North America in 1988 and then Europe as a biological pest control where it has now widespread.

Group of harlequin (succinea) ladybirds

Photograph from the UK Ladybird Survey website showing Harlequin Ladybirds

In Britain we have 46 species of Ladybirds although 19 of these are not recognisable as Ladybirds as they are not bright coloured or Spotty. The Harlequin Ladybird has over 100 different colour pattern variations making it very hard to identify, one of the easiest ways to recognize it is by its size it can measure 5-8mm in length which is larger than most of our native Ladybirds the best way to accurately identify it is to have a good Ladybird guide. The problem with the Harlequin Ladybirds is that instead of producing a single generation of young per year like our native species they can produce two or more, a single female can lay over a thousand eggs. Harlequin Ladybirds have a more varied diet and larger appetite and will eat the eggs and larvae of butterflies and moths, small insects and alarmingly other Ladybirds as well as their staple diet of aphids.

How can we help?

The spread of the Harlequin Ladybird in Britain is being closely monitored through the Harlequin Ladybird Survey www.harlequin-survey.org who would like Schools, Groups and members of the public to send in their sightings of Harlequin Ladybirds, this can be done through their website or by post, there is even an app available to download with a guide to help you to identify Ladybirds and then to report your sightings. If you find any type of Ladybird you can send in your sighting as above to the UK Ladybird Survey www.ladybird-survey.org who will use your information to help the conservation of all our British Ladybirds.

This Easter (and as often as you can) why not go on a Ladybird hunt in your garden, local park, on a walk or on holiday and send in your sightings to www.harlequin-survey.org or www.ladybird-survey.org, you could take a photograph of them or even draw a picture when you get home, everyone loves Ladybirds especially children.

Happy Hunting

Gill

Flowers are the most popular gifts given to mums and grandmas for Mother’s Day (on 30th March) often they can be quite expensive so why not make your own flowers complete with a vase, for just a few pence using items that can be found in your kitchen cupboard.

Carrier bag Mothers Day flowers

What you will need

  • Plastic/Carrier Bags (different colours)
  • Drinking Straws
  • Sticky Tape
  • Scissors
  • Clean Empty Jam Jar
  • Kitchen Foil
  • Small Bowl/Cup for a template
  • Pen

How to make your flowers

Flatten your plastic bags and using your template draw circles on them, they can be on the edge or in the middle of the bag.

Carrier bag with templates

Cut out the circles, they do not have to be perfect.

Put 2 or 3 circles together they can be the same colour or different colours.

Pinched flower
Holding the circles in one hand push your finger into the centre and pinch the back of the circles together and fasten with Sticky tape.

Flower on Straw
Tape your flower heads to the top of the straws, either one per straw or 2 or 3 to create a ‘double’ flower.

How to make your vase

Put your jam jar in the centre of a large piece of kitchen foil.
Bring the edges over and into the jar, press the foil firmly against the sides of the jar.
Cut off the carrier bag handles and tie them around your jam jar, trim the ends and scrunch to form a bow.

Arrange your flowers in your vase; you can cut the bottoms off the straws to give different heights.

Why not have a go, they don’t take long to make, Thomas will be giving these to his Grandma, I am sure she will love them.

Gill

Sowing Seeds is fun. The key to a successful crop is good germination, this can be achieved by sowing seeds indoors especially in a Propagator which will provide the perfect environment for your seeds to grow.

Why not have a go at our two free competitions on the Gardening With Children website for a chance to win your own Heated Electric Propagator.

1.  In the Family Zone and Kids Zone

To enter our competition simply:

Tell us what you like to grow in your propagator and why?

The winning entry will receive an

Essentials Heated Propagator 38cm

 The essential heated propagator - 38cm

 The essential heated propagator - 38cm

and a selection of small seed trays, flower pots and labels.

For full details and your entry form take a look here.

2.  In the School Zone

Have a look at our Propagator Wordsearch and find the following ten hidden words.

HEAT

GERMINATE

POT

LABEL

TEMPERATURE

SEEDS

WATER

SEED TRAY

COMPOST

PROPAGATOR

The first correct entry drawn out of the hat will receive an

Essentials Heated Propagator 52cm

 The essential heated propagator

and a selection of seed trays, small flower pots and labels.

For full details, the Propagator Wordsearch and your entry form take a look here in the School Zone.
The closing date for both competitions is 30th April, 2014.
Good Luck
Gill

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

Doesn’t time fly, it’s Shrove Tuesday tomorrow and Pancake Day, I have been organised this year and made my batter and a sample Pancake just to make sure that it tastes alright!

Pancake

Pancakes are great fun to make and delicious to eat but did you know that:

The average Briton will eat 2 Pancakes each, making a total of 117 million eaten in Britain on Pancake Day.

In Britain we will use an estimated 52 million eggs on Pancake Day that’s 22 million more than on any other day.

The world record for the most people collectively tossing Pancakes is 890 and took place in Sheffield, UK in February 2012.

The highest Pancake flipped reached a height of 9.47 metres, it was flipped by Dominic Cuzzacrea in New York USA.

The largest Pancake to be flipped was 15 metres in diameter.

The biggest Pancake ever made weighed 3 tonnes, was 2.5cm thick and measured 15 metres in diameter it was created in Rochdale, UK in 1994 by the Co-operative Union Ltd. and was estimated to contain 2 million calories.

The World record for the highest stack of Pancakes measured an incredible 76cm tall, it contained 60 large Pancakes.

Click here for my Pancake recipe or why not make a Pancake Cake click here for all the details.

Whatever you do with your pancakes, have fun!

Gill

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