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

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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Today’s weed is Equisetum arvense (Horsetail) – A perennial weed

The Latin name for Horsetail is ‘Equisetum arvense’. It is derived from the Latin words ‘equus’, meaning horse, and ‘seta’, meaning bristle.

Equisetum arvense (Horsetail) is often confused with ‘Mare’s-tail’ which is a similar shaped weed. ‘Mare’s-tail’ (Hippuris vulgaris) is actually an aquatic weed that is commonly found in ponds or slow flowing streams.

Equisetum arvense or Horsetail is a perrenial weed, (a plant that lives for more than two years)

The stems of Horsetails contain significant quantities of silica granules and silica based compounds that give the plant mildly abrasive qualities, which were utilised by early settlements for cleaning pots and polishing wood. Medical records dating back to ancient Roman, Greek and Chinese civilisations show that Horsetail has been used as a herbal medicine with multiple uses.

I think Horsetail is a fascinating weed as it has been around for approximately thirty million years. Its descendants, a group of ancient tree like plants, thrived 300 million years ago. Fossil evidence has been found that show some of these ancestors reached over thirty metres in height.

Horsetail is really hard to eradicate as the rhizomes go very deep into the soil, in fact several meters down. They like moist clay soil and thrive in these conditions, but it will grow in most soils.

Weed killers are not usually effective in killing this weed, as it has a hard waxy cuticle. You can use glyphosate to try and kill Horsetail, but you need to ‘bruise’ parts of each plant to allow the weed killer to penetrate it.

A better choice is to hoe it really frequently, as this will eventually ‘starve’ the plant as it won’t be able to photosynthesize effectively.

When you are next ‘cursing’ this weed, remember it has been around far longer than we have.

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Today’s Half-Term Activity – A Rain Catcher and Weather Chart

As it’s autumn here in the UK and the weather isn’t always good, I thought it would be good to include a Rain Catcher, so kids can record the amount of rain that actually falls and a Weather Chart.

You can tailor this activity to the age of the children.  Older children can do this in far more detail.

All you need is an old bottle and a wooden spoon, and a few drops of food colouring (if you have some).  The colouring just helps the kids see the water better but it isn’t necessary.

Cut the bottle into two pieces.

Put the top half of the bottle upside down, inside the other half of the bottle so it fits snugly.

Add a few drops of food colouring (if you have it) so you can see the rain water easily.

Mark a wooden spoon with lines, one centimetre apart from the bottom of the spoon.

Have fun decorating the wooden spoon, however you want to and then place it inside the bottle.

Put it outside to catch the rain.  I put rocks around mine to stop it blowing away.

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To carry on the weather theme, children may find it fun to fill in a weather chart each day as well. The picture below shows a chart that is more suitable to smaller children.  Older children could do a chart in far more detail and even take this one step further and look at cloud shapes and names or past and current temperatures.

It’s all educational but fun and if they take it into school after half-term, I’m sure it will impress their teachers:

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today

Half-Term Kids Activities and Weeds ‘Know Your Enemy’

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.

Firstly though, I will start with my ‘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.

So this week I will be looking at a different common weed each day.

Weeds are fascinating.  The more I read about them, the more interested in them I become.  After all, a weed is just a plant in the wrong place.

Times I hear people say that they wish their vegetables grew as quickly as the weeds.  The problem is that most weeds are native to this country and have been around for a very long time, whereas most vegetables haven’t been around quite such a long time and a lot of them have been brought in from different countries over the years.  So weeds really have an advantage.

However, some weeds can be useful too.  Parts of them can be used to eat, for herbal remedies, to make wine or drinks, to dye clothes and to feed and shelter beneficial insects. Also, some weeds can be dug into your ground and act like a green manure e.g. chickweed.

So they can be useful too, if you just look at them in a different way.

There are different types of weeds too:

Annual Weeds

Annuals complete their lifecycle in just one year:

Germinate – Grow – Flower – Set Seed – Die.

E.g. Groundsel, Cleavers

 

Ephemeral Weeds

A plant that completes many lifecycles in the same year:

Germinate – Grow – Flower – Set Seed – Die.

They are very short-lived plants and this cycle happens many times over the year.

E.g. Groundsel

Biennial Weeds

Biennials complete their lifecycle in two years:

Year 1 – They germinate and grow

Year 2 – They flower and set seed

E.g. Shepherds purse

 

Perennial Weeds

A perennial weed lives for more than two years and most will reproduce many times.  They reproduce either by seed and / or vegetatively.

E.g. couch grass, creeping buttercup.

If you know their lifecycle, you can eradicate the weed before it reproduces.  Remember the old saying:

“One year’s seeding means seven years weeding”

Over the next four days I will look at four common weeds and their lifecycles, in the hope we can fight the battle of ‘The Weeds’.

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Today’s Half-Term Activity – Play Dough

An easy thing to make is ‘Play dough’.  Over the years, my daughters have had hours of fun making shapes and cutting models out.  I kept my eyes open for cutters and things in charity shops and school fairs and I managed to get quite a collection.

Play dough can be made in any colour.  I used to make batches of three colours. It’s safe for the kids to play with as there are no chemicals and it won’t harm them if they put it in their mouths (though it will taste foul if they do).

 It lasts for a few days if you pop it in the fridge after the kids have finished with it.  Put it in a box or a bag, to stop it from drying out.

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Play dough Recipe:

1 Cup of water

1 Cup Plain flour

½ Cup of salt

1 Tablespoon cooking oil

Few drops of food colouring

 

Put the ingredients into a pan and heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture comes together in one large ball.

Don’t be alarmed at the state of your pan after cooking.  Soak the pan for a while and the play dough will  wash off easily.

Leave the play dough to cool on a plate for a few minutes.

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It’s as easy as that.

Play dough ‘hair’

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today