Half-Term Actvities and Weed Week, – The ‘Dandelion’

Today is the last day of my ‘ fun and cheap activities to do with children’.  I hope you have found my posts useful.

Firstly though, I will continue with ‘Weed week – know your enemy’. The more you know about a weed, the more likely you are to stop it from taking hold in your garden.

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Todays Weed Is The ‘Dandelion’ – (A Perennial Weed)

Gardeners tend to think there is only one type of dandelion, the one with the Latin name Taraxacum officinale.  However, the dandelions you see in your garden, could be one of the hundreds of other species of Taraxacum.

The name dandelion is taken from a French word “dent de lion”, which means ‘ lion’s tooth’.  This refers to the coarsely-toothed leaves.

The Dandelion is a common perennial herb and is part of the sunflower family. It prefers chalks and loamy soils above a pH of 7.0. It has been found in prehistoric deposits, and has been recorded up to 2,700 feet in Britain.

The flower opens in the morning and then closes in the evening.

The dandelion has a very strong tap root which penetrates deeply into the soil. The flower heads appear from March onwards and it has one of the longest flowering season of any plants.

The dandelion flowers from May to October but mostly in May and June. A period of low temperature seems to intensify flowering. Established plants that bloom in spring can flower again in autumn. The time from flowering to seed ripening is about 9-12 days.

Individual plants may survive for 10 to 13 years in undisturbed sites.

Dandelions haven’t always been troublesome weeds. In Victorian times they were cultivated with care and eaten by the wealthy in sandwiches and salads.

Today, blanched young leaves are used in salads or boiled and eaten as spinach and the flowers are made into dandelion wine. In fact every part of the dandelion is useful for food, medicine and even to use its colour for dye.

Dandelions are also an excellent food plant for many beneficial insects and it provides an important food source to bees. The pollen from this plant helps bees out in the spring because it flowers early and the flowers continue through to the fall providing constant food. In fact no less than 93 different kinds of insects use Dandelion pollen as food.   For this reason, some gardeners leave them to flourish in their wild areas.

The seeds can develop without cross-fertilization, so a flower can actually fertilize itself. Therefore, it can disperse its seeds as early as the day after the flower opens.

After flowering, the seed heads develop into a white mass of seeds which disperse in the wind.  Each seed has a tiny parachute, to help it spread far and wide.  Seeds can often be carried for up to five miles.

A flower head can produce up to 400 seeds, but the average is 180. A plant may have a total of 2,000 to 12,000 seeds.

Generations of children (including me and my children) have helped the dandelion become one of Britain’s most common weeds, by blowing the seed heads to ‘tell the time’.

Ripe seed is able to germinate at once and gives around 90% germination.

Viable seeds have been found in cattle and horse droppings and from various bird droppings.

The dandelion can reproduce from seed and vegetatively.  If you leave a small piece of root in the ground then it will regrow.

To stop dandelions from spreading, it is important to prevent flowering so the seeds do not blow away.  To remove the weed completely, it is important to dig out the long tap root without breaking it.

You can keep hoeing the dandelion and eventually it will weaken and die but it is a slow process.

If you use weed killers, then glyphosate will kill the dandelions.

There is a beautiful film on YouTube that demonstrates the dandelion beautifully and it is worth watching it.  You can see it here

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I really hope you have found my ‘Weed Week’ interesting.

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Today’s Half-Term Activity – ‘Cereal Cakes’

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I remember making these cakes with my two daughters when they were small, and they still sometimes make them even now.

These cakes are good as they are cheap, quick to make and they don’t need cooking in the oven.

Small children will need help melting the chocolate mix, but then they will have fun stirring the mixture and decorating the cakes.  (I’m sure they will eat a fair amount of the mixture too, so make sure you do this activity after they have eaten a meal).

Cereal Cakes

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200 grams of cooking chocolate (or really cheap milk chocolate)

114 grams of margarine

228 grams of plain cereal (e.g. Rice krispies, cornflakes, Weetabix)

2 tablespoons of golden syrup

2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

Sprinkles, silver balls, sweets etc.  to decorate if required

 

Put the chocolate, margarine, syrup and cocoa powder in a large pan and heat slowly until they have all melted.

Take the pan off the heat and pour in the cereal.

Mix until all the cereal is coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into cake cases and have fun decorating with sprinkles, silver balls, sweets or whatever you have, or just simply leave plain.

Leave to set, or just eat straight away.  The kids will love them (and the adults too)

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

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