Feeds:
Posts
Comments

This week it has been glorious with long, dry days of warm sunshine, perfect weather for gardening and getting outdoors and also for Butterflies too, on my allotment I saw quite a few including Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Small Whites and my first Orange Tip, they are all stunning to look at, when they eventually settle to feed on the spring flowers.

In Britain there are 59 species of butterfly that breed here plus up to 30 other species that come here as occasional or regular migrants from elsewhere in Europe, but all is not well for these beautiful fragile creatures, according to a report published in 2011 by Butterfly Conservation three-quarters of UK butterflies showed a 10-year decrease in either their distribution or population levels with numbers of ‘garden’ butterflies dropping by 24%.

DSC03741

Loss of habitat including food plants for caterpillars and butterflies can have a devastating effect, in Spring many species emerge from hibernation and are hungry for nectar and pollen, by growing Spring flowering plants in the garden we can really give them a boost early on in the year, favourite Butterfly plants include Aubretia, Arabis, Forget-me-nots, Polyanthus, Primroses, Sweet Violet, Wallflowers and of course Spring bulbs. Wildflower seeds can be sown now to provide food in the Summer/Autumn they will also benefit Bees and other pollinating insects, there are many different ‘mixes’ available, they need very little looking after but look stunning.

 Short Mix

If you are really keen to do more to help Butterflies and Moths why not consider joining Butterfly Conservation, if you join before 31st May 2015 you can get your first year’s membership for half price, members receive a Gardening for Butterflies and Moths Booklet, colourful identification charts, Butterfly magazines, e-newsletters and more, have a look at their website for full details.

If you have seen an early sighting of a Butterfly you can register it on the Butterfly Conservation website, many of the early Butterflies have already been spotted but there are many more species yet to find, have a look at the list for the species that still haven’t been seen yet this year and keep your eyes peeled.

Which reminds me I must report my Orange Tip Butterfly sighting on the BIG Spring Watch website, they are also asking you to register your first sightings of a Swallow (which are returning from Africa), an Oak Leaf and a Seven Spot Ladybird all the sightings will be studied and used to help save and conserve our wildlife and provide a picture of how it’s doing.

So get out this weekend and get spotting!

Gill

National Gardening Week (13-19 April 2015) was launched four years ago by the RHS and since then has grown into the country’s biggest celebration of gardening. Thousands of people, gardens, charities, retailers, culture and heritage organisations and groups get involved with many events and activities being held up and down the country from beginner’s workshops to guided walks, face painting to garden parties, there’s something for everyone and everyone is invited. Find out what’s on.

There are plenty of things you can do yourself or with your family to get into the spirit of National Gardening Week here is my suggestion:

Sow some seeds

Having been a gardener for most of my life, I must have sown thousands and thousands of seeds, yet I am still excited when they grow and appear out of the compost, it’s magical and also amazing to think that vegetables, flowers, grasses and even trees all start from a small seed.

If you are new to gardening, sowing seeds can be a bit daunting and perhaps scary, why not start off with something very simple that is quick to grow and can be picked and eaten straight away, I remember growing Cress when I was at Primary School. Cress Seeds can be grown on compost in a seed tray or pot, or on kitchen roll or cotton wool; they germinate quickly, grow fast and need very little attention.

Mustard and Cress ready to eat

Grow speedy Cress in a pot

Fast growing crops are best for children, fill your pots with compost, water then sprinkle your Cress seeds onto the surface place in a bright position and watch them grow, simply cut with scissors just above the compost level when ready, usually 7-14 days after sowing, and eat fresh. A brightly coloured Children’s Mini Propagator Kit is the perfect introduction for your budding gardener to sow and grow their seeds and will fit neatly on the windowsill.

 

1. Cress Heads

  1. Decorate a small plant pot or empty container with a happy, funny or scary face using paint, felt tips or crayons, why not add some sequins, wool, glitter.
  2. Once your decorations have dried, place some compost inside the pot, water and sow some cress seeds on top.
  3. Place on a windowsill and water carefully when it starts to dry out.
  4. When the Cress has grown, give your Cress head a ‘haircut’ and enjoy.

Cress Cotton Wool Lamb

2. Cotton Wool Cress Lamb

What you will need

  • Plastic or Polystyrene disposable plates
  • Coloured Felt tips
  • Cotton Wool
  • Glue
  • Cress Seeds

What you need to do

  1. Draw a lamb on the plate, give him/her a large body.
  2. Spread some glue on the lambs body and press on a piece of cotton wool, allow to dry.
  3. Carefully wet the cotton wool.
  4. Sprinkle your cress seeds on the cotton wool and place on a light windowsill, keep the cotton wool moist.
  5. Watch your seeds grow, they will be ready to eat in 7-14 days, simply cut with scissors and enjoy.

Have fun

Gill

They say what a difference a day makes; it’s not only a day but a week too, last week it was cold we had wind, gales, rain and wintry showers, this week it is settled and dry with light winds, and sunshine, the weather is just like life full of ups and downs.

The final image.

A couple of months ago I received an email from Toni Abram who is the founder of the website ‘The Information Point for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy’. The Centronuclear Myopathies are a family of rare inherited neuromuscular diseases, which can affect children and adults, and causes muscle deterioration and weakness affecting breathing, feeding and movement making simple everyday tasks such as walking up stairs, rising from a sitting position unaided, lifting and carrying and opening bottles difficult and often impossible.

After Toni and her father were diagnosed with the condition in 1998, she soon realised that it was relatively unknown and information was hard to find so Toni set up a website to help others in their search for information and to bring those with the condition together, whatever their age, whatever form of the condition they have and wherever they may be in the world; and to create awareness of this rare condition.

Bright, vibrant Sunflowers are featured on the website and were chosen for the cheery and positive outlook they convey they can grow to such dizzy heights, as if they are on a mission to touch the sky and nothing can hold them back, I cannot think of a more appropriate flower to use.

The Big Sunflower Project

The Sunflowers were the inspiration for their now annual Big Sunflower Project, which was started in 2011, and raises awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy. The aim of the project is to get as many people as possible growing sunflowers, participants can obtain their own seeds or request seeds from The Information Point by emailing their name and address with the subject line ‘The Big Sunflower Project’, you can request seeds for yourself or on behalf of a group in return just send them photographs of your sunflowers, either as they grow or when they are in full bloom, which will then be displayed on their website, newsletters and on social media.

Sunflowers are easy to germinate and grow and a favourite with all children so why not grow some this year, they are stunning to look at and will brighten up any corner of your garden, as well as taking part in The Big Sunflower Project by growing them you will also be providing a good source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and other insects and the seeds will be enjoyed by the birds in Autumn/Winter.

For more information have a look at their website –

The Information Point for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy

The Big Sunflower Project

I grow Sunflowers each year and will be sowing my seeds at the end of April/early May, here is a picture of Thomas with some giant ones.

T and our Sunflowers

For more information on ‘How to grow Giant Sunflowers’ click here.

Have fun and enjoy the sunshine

Gill

Easter is here and it’s a great time to get outdoors and enjoy all that Spring has to offer, the garden is coming to life, buds are bursting, daffodils are dazzling and the birds are busy building their nests and singing loudly, especially early in the morning.

If the weather is not great and those sneaky April Showers are keeping you indoors here are some activities to pass the time:

Have fun

Traditionally an Easter Egg Hunt takes place in the garden, of course you can always have them indoors around the house, here is another version if space is limited, it’s great fun and perfect for a children’s party.

Mini Eggs in rice

Mini Easter Egg Lucky Dip

What you will need

  • Mini Easter Eggs
  • A bucket/washing up bowl
  • Cheap Dried Rice (enough to ¾ fill the bucket/washing up bowl)
  • A blindfold or scarf
  • An Easter Egg for the winner
  • Extra Mini Eggs for all runners up

How to play

  1. Fill your container with rice and push in your eggs (you could use different sizes of mini Easter eggs).
  2. Place your container on the floor with a table cloth underneath to catch any rice.
  3. Each child takes it in turn to kneel on the floor, blindfolded and find as many eggs as they can in 1 minute.
  4. Count and record the number of eggs found and return to the rice for the next person.
  5. The winner is the one who finds the most eggs.

Grow

Lambs are synonymous with Spring, why not get crafty and make a Lamb which will grow.

Cress Cotton Wool Lamb

Cotton Wool Cress Lamb

What you will need

  • Plastic or Polystyrene disposable plates
  • Coloured Felt tips
  • Cotton Wool
  • Glue
  • Cress Seeds

What you need to do

  1. Draw a lamb on the plate, give him/her a large body.
  2. Spread some glue on the lambs body and press on a piece of cotton wool, allow to dry.
  3. Carefully wet the cotton wool.
  4. Sprinkle your cress seeds on the cotton wool and place on a light windowsill, keep the cotton wool moist.
  5. Watch your seeds grow, they will be ready to eat in 7-14 days, simply cut with scissors and enjoy.

Bake

Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten toasted and buttered, why not have a change and make them into a delicious dessert, it would be ideal for an Easter family get together and is a great way to use up buns that have gone dry.

Hot x Buns

Hot Cross Bun Pudding

What you will need

  • 6 Hot Cross Buns
  • 30g Salted Butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 450ml whole milk
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • Handful of Raisins and Sultanas
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Icing sugar to dust

What you need to do

  1. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish (approx. 25 x 32cm)
  2. Cut your buns in half and butter both sides then cut each half into quarters.
  3. Layer the bottom quarters butter side up in the dish and sprinkle over the Raisins and Sultanas.
  4. Whisk the eggs, milk, sugar and nutmeg together and pour about two thirdsof the mixture over the buns and leave to soak in, then place the remaining ‘top’ quarters on top with the top of the bun upwards and pour over the remaining custard mix, press down lightly and leave to soak in again.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C and bake for approx. 40 minutes or until golden brown on top check that all the custard is cooked through, dust with icing sugar.
  6. Serve with ice cream, cream, crème fraiche or yoghurt
  7. Serves 6-8

For more fun, crafty and delicious Easter activities click here.

Whatever the weather have a great Easter

Gill

Rhubarb buds

I am sure that most of you will have a clump of it in your garden or on your allotment, although it can grow quite big it is often overlooked and not really eaten – it’s Rhubarb.

If you do have a root or crown you will notice that it is coming to life, its large smooth coated ‘buds’ are splitting to reveal new leaves on short stems, to get long, tender, delicious pale pink stems you need to block out all light and ‘force’ them by covering the crown with a large container/bucket, old chimney pot, dustbin or a traditional terracotta Rhubarb forcer, my dad even uses an old dolly tub, place bricks on top to weigh them down, you can start forcing Rhubarb in January for an earlier crop. Harvest the forced stems when they are approx. 20-30cm long, cut off the poisonous yellow leaves, these can be put in your Compost Bin, to pick Rhubarb hold the stalk at the base, pull and twist away from the crown so that it tears off.

Rhubarb is actually a perennial vegetable although we often regard it as a fruit, it is available to pick fresh when other fruits are in short supply and often expensive, even if you have to buy some it is inexpensive when in season.

Forced Rhubarb

This picture shows forced taller, yellow leaved Rhubarb stems and smaller green leaved Rhubarb stems which haven’t been forced

Rhubarb is an easy plant to grow and will thrive on neglect, it prefers a moist fertile soil in a sunny position, plant Crowns in Spring or Autumn, although it can grow quite big it can be grown in a large Dirt Pot or Growing Bag (minimum size 40 litres), fill with a good quality Compost and mix into it well-rotted farmyard manure. Plant the crown about 3cm below the surface and water in well. Place the bags in a sunny spot watering the Rhubarb regularly especially during the Summer and during dry periods, allow new plants to become established for the first year before harvesting any stems, the following Spring only harvest a few stems at a time, remove any flower heads that appear these can be put in the Compost Bin. Rhubarb should only be forced every two years so if you prefer forced Rhubarb have two or more plants so that you can alternate them, don’t harvest stalks later than July. During Summer feed with a liquid or general-purpose fertilizer then in Autumn put your Rhubarb to bed; remove any old leaves and mulch around (not on) the crown with well-rotted farmyard manure.

Rhubarb makes a delicious dessert why not have a go at our

Easy Rhubarb Fool

Ingredients

  • 350g Rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced
  • Finely grated zest and juice of half an orange
  • 55g Caster Sugar
  • 150ml Double Cream
  • 150ml Greek Yoghurt
  • Shortbread or Oat Biscuits

What you need to do

  1. Place the Rhubarb, Zest, Juice and Sugar in a pan and heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the Rhubarb softens and starts to break up, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Softly whip the Cream and Yoghurt together, fold in half of the cooled Rhubarb mixture.
  4. Spoon the stewed Rhubarb/Orange mixture and the creamy Rhubarb mixture in alternate layers into glasses or small dishes and serve with the biscuits.
  5. For a grown up version add a splash of Cointreau Orange Liqueur to the Rhubarb/Orange mixture.
  6. Serves 4

Why not have a go at our other Rhubarb Recipes?

Click here for the Rhubarb Crumble Recipe or here for Rhubarb Muffins, I don’t think you can beat Rhubarb Crumble served of course with Custard, simply delicious.

Enjoy!

Gill

WOW what an incredible day it was yesterday when 3 amazing celestial events happened:

  1. The Solar Eclipse – which I watched with Thomas at his Primary school all the children were really excited, although it was cloudy we could clearly see it
  2. The Supermoon – this is when either a full or new moon is at its nearest point to earth on its elliptical orbit making it appear larger and brighter than normal
  3. The Spring Equinox – this is the first day of Spring when the length of day and night hours are approximately the same, from today we will have longer days than nights which increase each day slightly until 21st June (the longest day) when unfortunately the day light hours start to reduce.

Daffodils

This weekend the weather forecast is good if you are planning to get out into the garden here are some things that you can be doing:

Start/continue your Spring tidy up

  1. Clear away dead leaves, stems and twigs – why not place them in a corner of your garden and make a wildlife habitat.
  2. Give your lawn its first cut, taking off the tops only, grass has now started to grow quickly.
  3. Give your greenhouse and your gardening equipment a good clean, hygiene is very important when sowing seeds and potting up young seedlings/plants.
  4. Weed any remaining Raised Beds and Vegetable Plots removing large stones, dig over and incorporate a general fertilizer or nutrient rich compost from your Compost Bins, cover with polythene, fleece or cloches to warm the soil.

Chitting potatoes

Planting and Sowing

  1. Plant First Early and Salad Potatoes, if space is limited they will grow successfully in potato bags on the patio, chit second early and main crop potatoes in seed trays/egg boxes for planting next month.
  2. Onions are very easy to grow from sets, plant in soft earth with their tips showing approx. 10cm apart, leaving 23cm between rows, if birds are a problem cover with netting.
  3. Direct Sow Broad Beans, Lettuce, Radish, Spinach, Peas, Spring Onions, Swiss Chard, Leeks, Carrots, Turnips, Beetroot, Summer/Autumn Brassicas and cover with fleece or cloches for protection, if it is too cold or wet they can be started off in pots and trays indoors.

Have a lovely weekend

Gill

This Sunday is Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday, in Britain it is celebrated in March on the fourth Sunday in Lent, it is also celebrated in 46 other countries around the world (on different dates) and is the day that millions of people honour and thank their Mums, Grans, Great Grans and those who care for them for raising, looking after, caring and supporting them and for just always being there.

The origin of Mother’s Day dates back to the ancient Greeks who celebrated an annual spring festival dedicated to maternal goddesses and to honour Rhea who was the mother of many of the Greek gods and goddesses, ancient Romans too celebrated a spring festival, called Hilaria dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. Early Christians honoured the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ, this was later to include all mothers and was then called Mothering Sunday or Rose Sunday because roses were handed out to all women in church on that day. Flowers represent purity, beauty and life they are traditionally given on Mother’s Day and are always well received and much appreciated.

Fresh flowers can sometimes be expensive why not have a go at making your own, I always think that home-made gifts are nicer as they are unique and personal and made with a lot of thought, time and effort, why not have a go at our:

Paper Waterlily 8

Water Lily Mother’s Day Card

What you will need

  • Thin Paper (Coloured, White, Wrapping paper, pages from magazines)
  • Scissors
  • White card
  • Green felt tips/crayons/paint
  • Favourite Sweets/Chocolates (optional)

What you need to do

1. Cut your paper into squares.

Waterlily 1

2. Fold the square paper in half diagonally, corner to corner, crease the centre, unfold and repeat with the two remaining corners.

Water Lily 2

3. Fold all four of the corners into the centre, and then repeat again.

4. Turn your square over and again fold the corners into the centre.

Water Lily 3

5. Then carefully fold each corner over to about half way into the centre.

Water Lily 4

6. Place your thumb on the tip of each corner and carefully pull over the corner flap which is underneath whilst pressing down on the straight edge of the folded corner with your other thumb, this is the tricky part, don’t worry if the corners of the ‘petals’ tear slightly, a bit of practice may be required.

Water Lily 5

7. If you use different sizes of squares you will get varying sizes of flowers, you can then stick one flower inside another.

Paper Waterlily 7

8. Draw a Lily Pad on a piece of card and colour/paint green or cut one out of green paper and stick onto the card, stick your flowers on top of your Lily Pad and add your message, if you wanted to you could make a flat card and put some of your Mums favourite sweets inside the flower.

Have fun this weekend and Mums have a lovely Mother’s Day

Gill

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers