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Manure & Odd Job Week

We have had a mix of wet and dry weather this week here in the East Midlands, but Wednesday was absolutely glorious and it felt like Spring was here already…the sun made everything look more beautiful, especially the waves of snop drops and crocus in our local park:

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One thing I wasn’t expecting to see this early was my first dandelion of the year….this is a reminder that soon it will the time to weed my kitchen garden on a weekly basis:

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The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is actually a wonderful plant, though we do tend to see it as a nuisance weed.  In actual fact it is an excellent food plant for many beneficial insects and it provides an important food source to bees…and bees need our help in every way possible at the moment due to their decline in numbers over recent years.

I wrote a lot of interesting facts about dandelions here if you have a spare five minutes to read them….it does make you see this ‘nuisance’ weed in a completely different light.

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week I have been spreading manure over the beds that I will be growing my brassicas and potatoes in this year.  This is usually a job I start to do when the beds become empty in November, but I am a little bit late this year:

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I decided to buy bags of composted organic manure as I have nowhere to store fresh manure while it composts down.  Ironically, the six bags I bought from the garden centre cost me £24 which is just £1 less than I used to pay the organic farmer who would deliver manure to my four allotments….his manure used to last me two to three seasons when I used it on all four plots:

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“Animal manure is a wonderful soil conditioner which also adds a small amount of nutrients to the soil.  Some animal manures add more nitrogen than others and if you apply it fresh, the nitrogen will ‘burn’ and kill plants.  Compost fresh manure for at least six months before using it”

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I lightly forked my new bags of organic manure into my beds and it looked and felt like compost.  This is a long way from the manure I used to use from the farmer, as this was heavy and stuck in clumps, where as my ‘bagged’ manure could be raked easily over the soil….but it was expensive.

As I forked it into the soil I found quite a bit of different bindweed roots.  I know from experience that you need to keep on top of this weed if you don’t want to use chemicals to kill it.  I keep pulling it out as soon as I see it, as it spreads very quickly if I don’t.  Eventually the plant will weaken and give up, but this can take a long, long time.

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Eventually I want to stop using manure and just use compost (mainly made by me), but for now I wanted to put some ‘umph’ in the soil (as my wonderful old allotment friend Eric used to say to me), to improve my soil and add a few nutrients (though I will still be using a slow release fertiliser like blood, fish and bone before I sow / plant my crops).

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This week in the home:

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This week I have continued to clean my kitchen cupboards.  I am very sad to say amongst my recipe books I found two of the same books, they were just printed at different times but have exactly the same recipes inside.  This just shows me I don’t read my books enough after buying them, so I am going to try and make a conscious effort to look through and use all of my recipe books from now on!

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I have also caught up with a few little jobs that I have been putting off, like cleaning my fridge:

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…..And fixing the hook in the kitchen that for two years has twisted round and around when you hook the curtain tie back on to it!  It took me less than five minutes to fix it with ‘hard as nails’ adhesive:

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I also fixed the curtain holdbacks in the bedroom I recently decorated for my daughter:

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So this bedroom is completely finished now and I am really, really pleased with how it looks and so far my daughter has kept it tidy:

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 This week I also made Mr Thrift some valentine chocolates.  I managed to get a silicone mould in the sales last year for £2.  I just melted a bar of Mr Thrift’s favourite chocolate in the microwave and then poured the melted chocolate into the silicone mould (I didn’t bother tempering the chocolate either).  I let the chocolate set (out of the fridge) and then pushed the chocolates out of the mould.

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I also had enough left over chocolate to make my daughters a few chocolate lollies using a silicone lolly mould I had tucked away.

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If you look carefully at the hearts above, you can see that each heart has a couple of ‘valentine’ words on.

I wrapped them up in cellophane and gave them to Mr Thrift on valentines day.  He really liked them thank goodness.

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It just goes to show you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a gift…..it really is the thought that counts!

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Finally last weekend we celebrated my daughters 18th birthday at a Toby Carvery.  I wanted to mention this as the manager was absolutely brilliant.

My daughter said she didn’t want a party and asked us to go for a quiet meal with her….but then two weeks ago she decided she wanted to ask this person and that person, until the number of people she had asked totalled forty!

So we spoke to the manager at the restaurant and he arranged for everyone to be seated in just one area and allowed us to come a couple of hours earlier to decorate it with banners and balloons:

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The manager even gave us a table to place the cake and presents on, which he could have quite easily given to someone else.

Everyone had a lovely time, the food was great and the staff fell over themselves to help.

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My daughter certainly had a wonderful birthday!

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Well that’s it for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

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Carrots, Carrots And More Carrots

I wanted to start by saying ‘thank you’ for your lovely comments after my post on Monday.  I love receiving your comments as they spur me on to continue writing.

I’m also sorry there was a bit of a delay before I answered your comments this week, but unfortunately my laptop broke and I had to borrow one, which was a bit inconvenient.  Luckily Mr Thrift works in ICT and he and his friend have managed to fix it.

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

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One of the comments I received this week was from ‘Mum’, who incidentally writes a beautiful blog called

‘Mum’s Simply Living Blog’.

Following on from my post on Monday about slowing down, ‘Mum’ wrote the words to a poem that I had long forgotten about.  This is a poem that we read at school, but unfortunately it meant nothing to a teenager…but now, I see how powerful these words are so I thought I would share the poem with you:

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Leisure

By William Henry Davies

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What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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Thank you for sharing this ‘Mum’

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This week at my allotment I weeded around my ‘Woodland’ area.  I noticed that my bluebells are beginning to grow around my plum tree now, you can just see them in the photo below.

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Unfortunately, I bought the bulbs a couple of years ago, paying extra to make sure they were ‘English’ Bluebells and I was very dissapointed to find that they were actually ‘French Bluebells’, which I wasnt very happy about.  I did however contact the suppier and complained!

My primroses are flowering lovely too now and it’s lovely to have a bit of colour, together with the snowdrops:

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I also noticed my Christmas Rose (Hellebore) has a flower on too

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and the daffodils will soon be flowering

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I also noticed that I have the first little flower on my Aubretia.  I moved my pond to the far (sunny) corner of my Woodland area and transplanted the Aubretia around it in the Autumn…it’s nice to know it has survived the move:

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Finally, I also noticed that one of my favourite flowers is beginning to grow, the Aquilegia.

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So you can see that this week, as the poem said, I did make time tostand and stare’.

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This week I also moved my one raised bed that I use to grow carrots in.  I had no luck whatsoever trying to grow carrots until I used a raised bed.  So now, each year I move the wooden frame to another part of my plot and fill it again.

I started by removing the environmesh and pulling up the remaining carrots

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I then moved the wooden frame to another part of my allotment plot, to avoid the build up of pests and diseases e.g.carrot fly.

I refilled the wooden frame with a mix of my own homemade compost (made from all types of perennial and annual weeds) and leaf mould that had been sitting decomposing for the last year.

I then covered it up with black weed suppressant to let the worms do their work and mix it all thoroughly.

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In May I will mix in some sand to help to ‘lighten’ the soil, before sowing my carrots.

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I froze the carrots without blanching them.  I had two large trays altogether, which I open froze so they didn’t stick together in the bags.  After freezing all of my left over carrots, I had orange hands!

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I also pulled some carrots up that were growing in my polytunnel this week and froze them.  The carrots were smaller in my polytunnel as I had sowed them later than the ones outside:

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I gave my polytunnel a good weed ready to spread some of my homemade compost over the empty soil next week.  I also removed the old Cape Gooseberry plants and removed the last few berries to keep for seed.

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  All I did was cut the berries in half and spread the seed on a piece of paper towel to dry.  When it is dry I will put the seeds in an envelope to keep.  When I am ready to sow them, I will just plant the seed with the paper towel still attached (incidentally, this method also works exactly the same for tomato seeds).

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In my polytunnel I still have beetroot, perpetual spinach, mizuna, corn salad and winter hardy spring onions.  I also found another two rows of carrots that I had forgotten that I had planted, but I will leave these in the ground for the moment.  Unfortunately we have eaten all my winter lettuces now, so I will have to make sure I plant more next time.

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I found that the mizuna had started to flower, probably because it has been such a mild winter.  So I removed the flowers in the hope that I can keep it going a bit longer.

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One last thing I did this week was to plant the garlic that I sowed in January.  I’m hoping it is wasn’t too late to plant it as it needs a period of cold to enable the bulbs to split into cloves.

I planted the garlic into ridges to help with the drainage incase the wet weather we have been having so much of continues.  This area had been covered in a plastic sheet for the last few weeks, so the soil wasn’t as waterlogged as the rest of my plot.

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So that is enough for this week (I do seem to get carried away and write long posts).

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Monday.

Have a good weekend.

The Start Of A New Gardening Year.

I thought I’d start today by saying a ‘Big Welcome’ to anyone that has recently started to follow my blog and a big ‘Thank you’ to the Somerset Waste Partnership, who have included a link to my blog on their website here,  I feel most honoured.

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This week there has definitely been a feel of spring in the air, as temperatures have been mild compared to the cold, winter weather that we have had lately.

I have noticed that bulbs are growing nicely, the tiny shoots of my autumn raspberries are forming and unfortunately the weeds are starting to germinate.  In fact, I saw my first dandelion ready to open its yellow flower this week.  This is a stark reminder that the soil is beginning to warm up and spring is on its way and it’s now time to finish winter jobs.

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Before I went on holiday last week, I laid plastic sheeting over the beds that I will soon be planting my onions and shallots in.  This will help to warm the soil nicely for them.

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 I also planted my shallots in newspaper pots and put them in my cold greenhouse, to give them a head start.  Next month when they have rooted, I will plant the shallots, still in their newspaper pots, as the pots will compost down in the soil.  This will also help to stop the birds pulling them up, thinking they are worms.

I will show you how I make the newspaper pots in my  blog post on Monday.

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Also before my holiday, I cut back my Michaelmas Daisys, ready for the year ahead.  They look so unattractive at this time of year and yet they look so beautiful in the autumn and attract many beneficial insects:

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The rhubarb is going nicely now.  I don’t know what variety I have, as I inherited it with the plot, but it is a very early variety.

Two weeks ago I covered some of the rhubarb with a bin to ‘force’ it.  This will give ‘sweet tasting pink stems’ in a few weeks.

The Rhubarb at my plot

The Rhubarb at my plot

This week, I cut back my autumn raspberries to ground level, which is a job I do every February.  Autumn raspberries are treated differently to summer raspberries, as autumn raspberries bear fruit on the new year’s growth, so they can be cut right down to ground level at this time of year.

I have had my autumn raspberries for quite some time and unfortunately they have quite a lot of couch grass and bindweed in amongst them, so I decided it was time to dig them up and start again in a different bed.

I split a few roots and replanted them in a new bed with plenty of compost worked into it and in the next few days I will feed the plants by scattering some sulphate of potash around the roots.  I was very careful not to transport the weeds too.

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Another job I completed this week, was to dig up all my Jerusalem artichokes.  My family love these roasted in olive oil and my daughters eat them like sweets.

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Jerusalem artichokes are one of the easiest vegetables that I know of to grow.  Each February, I dig up any that remain in the soil and replant the biggest ones, approximately 30cm apart and 30cm deep.  Every other year I dig manure into the bed before I replant them and in November, I cut down the old stems so they don’t suffer from the wind dislodging them from the soil.  You can dig them up all through the winter when you need them, as they store really well in the ground and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases.

One thing to be noted though, is they are thugs and once you have them you will find it hard to get rid of them.  So make sure you plant them in an area away from the rest of your vegetables, or you will regret it.

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Remember the area between my summer raspberries, that I prepared the soil and sowed grass seed in the autumn?…I have now edged it with a plastic ‘Lawn Edge’ from Wilkinson’s and gave it a quick mow on a high setting (as it was so long) and I think it has really made a difference:

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This week I have also opened up my oldest compost heap.  It is now 3½ years old and it contained all types of perrenial weeds.  As you can see all the weeds have completely died off and a beautiful, sweet smelling compost is left.

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This proves that perrennial weeds can be composted, provided they are left long enough to fully decompose.  So many books I have read tell people to burn them, which really isn’t a very environmently friendly thing to do.  This way you are returning them to the ground and adding nutrients into the bargain.

One thing to be noted though, there may be weed seeds in the compost, which is why I quickly hoe off the seedlings as they germinate.

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I spread some of the compost in my polytunnel, after I gave it a quick weed and dug up the last of my turnips and celeriac.

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The winter salads are doing well in the polytunnel and are ready for eating and I planted some ‘leggy’ broadbeans that I couldn’t plant earlier due to the wet weather in January.

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For those who are new to my blog, my dad has a small area on my 4th, newest plot.  He had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Last Spring, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of my plot to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

  I love it with him there.

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So finally this week, I bought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put it in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

I finished it off with some left over woodchip and I think he will be pleased when he sees it.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 6pm.

My Allotment Today and A Diwali Meal

Today at the allotment I weeded around my spring cabbages.

Unfortunately the slugs have been eating the cabbages, so I had to put some more organic slug pellets around them.

I also cleared away all the dead rhubarb leaves and weeded around the plants.

I walked around my plot and noticed my poach egg plants are flowering again.  They look beautiful.

My chrysanthemums are flowering well too, considering it is their first year.  They were given to me last year, by my good allotment friend, Tina.

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Diwali – A Hindu Festival of Light and a Diwali Meal

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In Leicester, where I live, there is one of the biggest Diwali Celebrations outside of India.  Just over a week ago, on the 4th November, approximately 35,000 people attended the ‘switching on’ of the lights that decorate the road along the ‘Golden Mile’ in Leicester.  The Golden Mile is so called because it is lined with the largest selection of Indian jewellery shops outside of India.

For one night a year, the road is closed and they have a firework display and live cultural entertainment on a stage, as the ‘festival of light’ marks the start of the Hindu New Year.

Diwali is actually a five day festival.  It honors the victory of good over evil, and brightness over darkness.  It also marks the start of winter.

Diwali means “festival of lights,” and people light rows of lights.  The exchange of gifts is also traditional during this holiday, and many people host dinners and parties.

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We are not of ‘Hindu’ religion in our house, but we do enjoy Indian food.  So to join in the celebrations, we had a ‘Diwali’ meal on Sunday.  We lit lots of candles and enjoyed some lovely Indian food:

We had poppadum’s with mango chutney and a yoghurt and mint dip and onion bhaji’s and vegetable samosas.  The yoghurt and mint dip is so easy to make, as you just mix in a couple of teaspoons of dried mint into your natural yoghurt and leave it in your fridge for a few hours before you need it.

I cooked two different curries.  You can find one recipe here and the other recipe is a ‘Chicken and Vegetable korma’ which you can find lower down today’s blog.

I served the curries with rice and homemade naans.  You can find the recipe for naan bread here.

All in all it was a lovely meal, which we all enjoyed.

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Chicken and Vegetable Korma Recipe:

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

200 grams natural yoghurt

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

4 teaspoons turmeric

2 heaped teaspoons of garam masala

1 teaspoon chilli powder

Leftover cooked chicken

Leftover cooked vegetables

 

Preheat the oven Gas 6 / 400F / 200C

Fry the onions in the olive oil until they are soft.

Put the onion, garlic, yoghurt and spices into a bowl and blend with a stick blender until smooth, (or use a liquidiser).  It should be a creamy consistency, add a little water to thin if necessary.

Put the cooked chicken and leftover cooked vegetables into the sauce mix and completely coat them with the sauce.

Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish and cook for approximately 45 minutes, until it is piping hot.

Serve with rice, yoghurt and naan bread.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

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.

Half-Term Kids Activities and Weed Week – ‘Broad-leaved Dock’

As it’s half term for the children here in Leicestershire this week, I thought I’d do something a little bit different. Each day I will be looking at a different activity to do with children. The activity will be fun and obviously cheap.

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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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Broad-leaved Dock – ( A Perennial Weed)

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Broad-leaved Dock are perennial plants that are sometimes known as butter dock, cushy-cows, kettle dock or smair dock.  Its Latin name is Rumex obtusifolius.  It is one of commonest British native plants.

Broad-leaved dock grows on a range of soils but not the most acid of soils.  They are said to favour soils that are high in nitrogen or low in potassium.

Broadleaf dock is a slightly poisonous weed.  Livestock have been known to get sick after feeding on it.

Established plants can withstand quite a lot of trampling and mowing.  They form a deep branched taproot that is difficult to remove and it will regrow from a small amount left in the ground.

Broad-leaved dock flowers from June to October. It can shed seed from late summer through to winter. A large mature broad-leaved dock can produce up to 60,000 ripe seeds per year.

The seeds germinate any time that conditions are favourable but they mainly germinate in March-April and July-October.

I think the seeds are fascinating as they contain a chemical that inhibits microbial decay and they are capable of surviving in undisturbed soil for over 50 years.

Seedlings of broad-leaved dock generally do not flower in the first year.

In the UK, broad-leaved dock is a host for the potato eelworm, so this is a good reason to remove the plants, eelworm can do a lot of damage to potato crops.

The main weakness of broad leaved dock is it’s not good with competition, i.e. crowding causes flowering to be delayed for up to three years.  Also, frequent tilling will disrupt the roots and kill the older plants and seedlings. The plant also thrives in moist environments and improved drainage can also help control its growth.

The best thing is to remove the dock as soon as it appears before the large tap root can develop. If the plant is established then use a fork to dig it out to avoid chopping the root up.

If you want to use a weed killer, then use a glyphosate based weed killer.  This will probably need several applications to actually kill an established plant.

If it’s an area you can leave unattended for over a year, you can apply thick, black polythene sheeting, anchored down round the edges, it will kill everything beneath it you leave it for no less than a year.  The polythene must be thick to exclude all light, air and water.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this weed.

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Today’s Half-Term Activity – Salt Dough

This is a lovely rainy day activity for all ages and you can make some lovely ornaments using salt dough.  In fact a couple of years ago, my girls made letters that spelt out ‘Happy Christmas’ and painted them.  They hung each one from a piece of tinsel and they lined our fire place beautifully over christmas.

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Salt Dough

300g plain flour

200ml water

300g salt

2 teaspoons cooking oil

 

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix it all with your hands until it rolls into a ball.

Roll the mixture out and have fun making shapes.  Keep the shapes small and chunky so they don’t break easily.  (Make sure your shapes are a similar size so they cook evenly).

Place your shapes on a baking tray, and cook for 20 minutes – Gas mark 4 / 180C / 350F

When the shapes are cold, paint them with acrylic paint or poster paint.

Tips: 

  • Put a hole in each shape so you can thread string through to make necklaces or hang them to make a salt dough mobile.
  • Put a paper clip in the top of the shape before you cook the dough, so you can pin it up (see the panda below)
  • If you mix a little bit of PVA glue with the paint (1 part PVA to 2 parts paint) this will make the surface tough and shiny.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

Half-Term Kids Activities and Weed Week – ‘Groundsel’

As it’s half term for the children here in Leicestershire this week, I thought I’d do something a little bit different.  Each day I will be looking at a different activity to do with children.  The activity will be fun and obviously cheap.

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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 taking hold in your garden.

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 Today’s Weed Is ….Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) – An Ephemeral Weed

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Groundsel is a common garden weed, found on all types of soil, though it favours heavier, moist soils.

It has yellow daisy like flowers with fluffy seed heads.  It can grow all year round.

It is part of the asteracea plant family and it is also sometimes known as ‘Old-man-in-the-spring’.

Groundsel is an ephemeral weed (a plant which germinates, grows, flowers and sets seed several times in one growing season).  In fact it can complete its life cycle in just 5-6 weeks.

 The flowers are self-fertile and an individual plant produces approximately 1200 seeds.  Because of this and the fact that it is a fast growing plant, it can smother younger crops around it.

The seeds are dispersed by wind.  Seeds have been found in bird droppings and found in cow manure too.

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Groundsel acts as a host for Cinerara leaf rust and the fungus that causes black root rot in peas.

Groundsel is a good food source for the caterpillars, butterflies and moths and is one of only two plant species that provide food for the cinnabar moth caterpillars.

You can find details of the cinnabar moth here.

How To Control Groundsel:

I find it’s best to just hoe the seedlings while they are small, before they set seed, or just pull them out by hand.  If you do decide to use a chemical weed killer, you need to do it early in the plants life, otherwise the weed killer may not kill the plant.

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Today’s Half-Term Activity – Gingerbread Men

Today I thought I would write about an activity that I regularly did with my children when they were smaller…Ginger Bread Men.  They are really easy to make and kids love to get their fingers into the mixture and play with the dough.

They can be decorated with raisins, cherries or anything you have available.

While my daughters were eating them, I would tell them the  ‘Gingerbread Man’ story.

If you don’t know the story, you can all watch it together here.  My daughters would pretend that their gingerbread men were running, as I chanted the words from the story:

“Run run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m a gingerbread man”

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Ginger Bread Men

400 grams self raising flour

3 teaspoons ground ginger

100g caster sugar

50 grams margarine

3 tablespoons golden syrup

4 tablespoons of milk

currants, glace cherries to decorate

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Preheat your oven Gas mark 3 / 160C / 325F.

Put the flour and ginger into a bowl.

Melt the margarine, sugar and syrup in a pan over a low heat.

Add the margarine mix, to the flour and ginger.  Mix well.

Add the milk and mix to a firm consistency.  Knead lightly with your hands.

Roll the dough thinly, using more flour to stop it from sticking.

Use a cutter to make the gingerbread man shapes and place them on a greased baking sheet.

Cut the cherries for the mouths and use the raisins for eyes and buttons.

Cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Allow them to cool slightly before transferring them to a cooling wire rack.

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I managed to make seventeen gingerbread men with the mixture, but I suppose it depends on how big your cutter is and how thin you roll the dough.

The gingerbread men cost me just 63p to make, plus the cherries and currants to decorate, but you can use what you have handy in your cupboards to decorate them.

It’s another cheap and fun activity to do with your children.

I hope you find todays blog helpful.