Friday, 28 May 2010

How Green is My Garden?

The foliage in my garden has now all appeared and as usual various shades and hues of green predominate. So we have been playing the matching the shades game. I first saw this played in an outdoor centre in West Yorkshire with some teenagers, but I didn’t see why it wouldn’t work with younger children. I used some colour paint charts picked up from my local DIY store

We then had fun collecting leaves and trying to match them to the different shades of green for good 15 minutes. I have realised that if you want to get an exact match it is nigh impossible. Nevertheless it is a great game for the outdoors – fun, educational and providing the opportunity for stickers at the end of it. It really got my son looking at the foliage and thinking which shades were lighter and darker. We had a little chat about the variety of green colours in nature and how the leaves were different in size, shape and texture.

If you don’t have access to colour charts a set of coloured pencils may work just as well. Matching different colours is obviously an easier game. It would work well for younger children and help them learn their colours.

We are off to Scotland in a while and I hope to get some walking in. There will now be a couple of colour charts in my rucksack so we can play the spot the colour game as a way to help keep little legs moving.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Crops in Pots: Learning from the Experts

RHS Wisley Garden is a great resource for all things garden-related. It’s a wonderful garden, with acres of plants, fruit and vegetables. It has some good model gardens to gain inspiration from, a glass house, garden centre and a library full of all the gardening books you would ever want to read. They have good children’s activities and a new outdoor natural playground. My visit this week was, unusually, without children in tow. I attended a talk on growing vegetables and fruit in pots. Two hours of tips and advice from two RHS fruit and vegetable specialists plus a tour of the gardens they manage. Heaven.

Here are a few snippets of information I picked up. The grow bag of choice was an organic peat free one from New Horizon. They had found it performed really well. For strawberries and other water hungry plants it is best to slit more drainage holes along the side of the grow bag. The strawberries in the photo had been taken in under glass in early spring to force on. I also learnt that you can get pink flowered strawberries. I’ll be on the look out for them next year.

All fruit bushes and trees grown in pots need to be repotted every couple of years and, if necessary, some of the roots cut away before being repotted in the same container. No wonder my patio pear, never repotted, has just about stopped bearing fruit.

You’ll see from the photo the approach to growing carrots. Complete protection from the carrot fly. The fleece stays over the carrots until they are harvested. I am now beginning to wonder if I am being too optimistic in not having any protection over mine.

They were growing two types of leaves in pots which I had not come across before. Mustard Green ‘Red Giant’ which looked very ornamental with lime green and purple leaves. On checking it out I find that it only takes 45 days to grow and has a mild mustard flavour. The other was land cress. Both are suitable for over wintering so they will be on my seed list for the autumn.

On a more local note my local horticultural society held a plant fair at a nearby allotment site last weekend. It was a well attended event with lots of local families there. So much better to buy plants that have been grown locally. So I took the opportunity of rejoining after a 5 year gap. Membership was £2.50 and came with a free moneymaker tomato plant. Bargain! I know this is where the local gardening experts will be and I intend to make full use of my membership.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

May Flowers

There is usually lots going on my flower garden in May and this year the borders are blooming lovely. Some of my favourite family friendly plants are appearing.

Forget Me Nots, Aquilegia and Californian Poppies. Their pretty flowers all appeal to children and they have easy names to remember – that is if you use the common name of Grannies Bonnets for the Aquilegia. For us adults they are great because they self seed like crazy, require very little maintenance and do not seem to be particularly tasty to slugs and snails. Not so family friendly can be their habit of self seeding into a lawn. Their seedlings are also great for potting up and giving to friends and neighbours.

Today I realized that in fact I have forgotten. Last year I was given a packet of New Zealand Forget Me Not seeds which I had intended to sow in the autumn. This New Zealand native plant has intense blue flowers which group together in large clusters with huge glossy leaves. There are only four seeds in the packet so if I manage to grow them I think that they are going to be quite special. I also note that the New Zealand seed packet has an 8cm long measuring tape printed on it so you do not need to guess at measurements when planting your seeds. What a good idea.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

10 Reasons to get out into the Garden

The weather is picking up and the daylight is here for longer so it is now time to spend those hours in the garden. To motivate myself and my family to move from the sofa, through the french doors, to the garden I have been listing the benefits of outdoor play for all of us.

You move differently and more often when you are in the garden. Children can engage in more physical activity which in turn helps their development.

• It is easier to experiment - with noise, with large objects and anything that needs space. The sense of freedom gets the kids more active and active kids are happier kids.

• You use all of your senses outside. You see the difference between light and shade, your sense of smell is heightened, and you can hear what is going on around you.

• You are literally closer to nature and your kids can observe the birds, minibeasts and monitor the plants growing and other changes in the garden.

• You can get stuck into gardening – digging, growing, weeding and watering – the children can have a go at them all.

• You are more aware of the elements and weather. You can feel the wind and see it moving the foliage, smell the rain and splash in the puddles.

• Outdoors is great for messy play with water and sand, glitter and moon sand, in fact, any craft activity.

• If the kids are outside you are likely to find yourself outside more.

• You can be more creative outside – the more time you spend outside the more you will want to. Think about spending time your front garden as well – it’s a great way to catch up with your neighbours.

• It’s an easy way to stay fit – all those running around games, mowing the lawn and digging. Apparently if you weigh 10 stone, an hour spent weeding uses 290 calories whereas you will use only 60 calories watching TV.

The garden is not only the best children’s playroom in our house, it also an outdoor gym, chill out space, and sensory room for us all. It is a fantastic and indispensable resource.
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