Tuesday 31 August 2010

Learning About Ants

This has to have been my favourite 'bug week' so far. Ants are fascinating creatures. They are industrious and clean and I have discovered loads of new things about them. Our Little Garden Helpers also seemed quite fascinated with these little creatures. There didn't appear to be very many of them in our garden when we first went out to look, which surprised me, because earlier in the year we had loads.  But then, quite by accident, we discovered a colony of them in one of our potato bags when we harvested them at the weekend. I assume they liked it because it was lovely and warm inside the black bag. They weren't too impressed with being tipped out however!

Things To Tell Your Toddler 
  • There are over 12000 species of ant worldwide
  • Ants can lift 20 times their body weight. That would be like a child lifting a car!
  • Ants don't have ears. Instead they feel vibrations in the ground through their feet
  • Only Male ants and Queen ants have wings but Queen's lose their wings when they create a new nest
  • Only the Queen ant can lay eggs but in some species a colony can have more than one Queen
  • Ant colonies also have soldier ants to protect the Queen, defend the colony and attack enemy colonies.
  • Ants are very sociable within a colony but will attack other colonies for food or nests
  • Ants live for about 50 days
  • Ants are very clean and tidy; they even have some worker ants whose job it is to put the rubbish out!
  • Ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. Instead they suck all the juice out.
  • An ant has two eyes but each eye is made up of lots of smaller eyes
  • Ants have two stomachs, one for its own food and one for food it will share with other ants
  • Just like caterpillars, ants have little holes in their bodies which they use to breathe
  • Ants usually nest underground. The mound is really just to provide heat in the nest.
  • Some worker ants will sunbathe outside the nest, then share the heat they have soaked up with other ants in the nest. That is the job I would apply for if I was an ant!
  • If you want to keep ants away from your house plant mint close to anywhere they are likely to sneek in. They don't like it.
Activities We Did
  • We made fingerprint ants using an ink pad and black pen. They absolutely loved doing this and it was so simple. Garden Boy's ants (1st photo) look a little like they might have been squashed, but knowing him this might well have been intentional, while Garden Girl put a lot of concentration into hers (photo 2).
  •  We cut food pictures out of magazines and stuck them on paper plates to make a picnic, then drew ants over them, stealing the picnic. It took a lot of effort for me to persuade Garden Boy that ants would not want to eat Ben Fogle and there is quite a difference between their two plates. Fresh fruit and veggies for Garden Girl and a whole variety for Garden Boy. Whose plate would you tuck into? (These first two ideas were pinched  from here.)
  • We printed out 10 pictures of ants from hereand coloured them in. Then drew and cut out a variety of foods for them to carry. I then spent far, far longer than the activity itself cutting out the ants and food and cellotaping them to our window. The result is a line of ants marching across our window. It was worth the time. Our Little Garden Helpers love seeing them there. Garden Boy points excitedly at them at intervals during the day, saying 'There's an ant' with an astonished tone. I keep thinking we have real ants in the house, so I look around saying 'where, where?' before I realise he his looking at the paper ones with a big grin!
  • We looked close up at an individual ant while it scurried over my garden trowel, across a raised bed and under the fence. 
  • We read 'The Ants Go Marching' delightfully illustrated by Dan Crisp.
  • We searched the living room for delicious food I had hidden for them to find. Then we marched in a neat row to the table to sit and share what we had found, just like ants. They loved this. 
  • We intended to watch 'A Bug's Life' but I have yet to acquire it so this will have to wait but I have seen it before and its a great film to watch if you are learning about ants. 
  • We also visited these websites; http://www.schools.ash.org.au/elanorah/inhoney.htm and looked up Jack Jumper ants as suggested by _vtg_ over at This Growing Life. This gave Our Little Garden Helpers a sense of how different ant species can be from each other. 
If you teach your toddlers about just one garden bug this would be my pick of the bunch so far. They are truly fascinating creatures and there is much more to learn about them than I could possibly write here.

Monday 30 August 2010

A Visit to the Park

We visited the local park today. Garden Girl rode her bike and Garden Boy pushed 'Blue Baby' in his pink pushchair (its OK that its pink because it has snails on it). On the way we admired people's gardens. We do this alot. Because we only really grow herbs and vegetables there isn't a lot of colour in our garden, so Garden Girl loves to look at all the colourful flowers we see when we walk about the neighbourhood. While she absolutely loves growing vegetables I know she harbours a wish for pretty things in our garden. This is something we will have to work on. But I have to admit to having very poor knowledge of flowering plants. My experience stretches as far as pansies and nasturtians and the odd rose. I am unable to tell her the names of pretty much all the flowers we see and yet she looks to me for the information. I plan to start taking pictures then identifying them with her on the internet.

She really enjoyed identifying some of the fruits, berries and nuts we discovered in a local park today, looking for similarities in the pictures. We have visited this park numerous times but today was the first day we really looked to see what was there and we found
  • apple (a mix)

  • hazel

  • elder

  • blackberry (sorry picture didn't turn out) and,
  • damson

We will be heading out for a forage next weekend if the weather co-operates!

PS. Thank you to everyone who gave suggestions on how to use dandelions. We tried the leaves out tonight in a stir fry and they were enjoyed by everyone, apart from Garden Boy. They have a very strong flavour which complimented the pork extremely well. We will definately cook this again and try the leaves out in other cooked dishes, although I am less certain of how they will taste in a salad. I think we will give it a go in a tuna salad with a squeeze of lemon, as I think the tuna and lemon will balance well with the flavour. Thats for later in the week though.

Saturday 28 August 2010

In our Garden Today...

  • The 7-Spot Ladybird wins the Harlequin v 7-Spot war.

A few weeks ago when we carried out our Ladybird Survey there were more Harlequin ladybirds than the native 7-spot. Today, while we clearing the peas and preparing the ground for planting tomorrow, we saw loads of 7-spot ladybirds and not a single Harlequin.

  • A solitary mushroom grows

  • We learn one or two fat, slimy reasons against growing potatoes in bags

  • We discover why our brassicas have been munched despite the netting (and yes I did let the butterfly out)

  • We rummaged for treasure in the form of potatoes

  • An excellent alternative to a sandpit was discovered

  • And we said hello to our neighbours - over the fence it goes

Hope you all enjoyed your gardens today too!

Friday 27 August 2010


Last year only one of our pumpkins grew and even then it was small and never turned orange. Now I don't want to jinx it but this year our pumpkins are doing great. They are in fact taking over the garden. They are creeping onto the pathways, smothering some of our other squash and I even found one hiding in the strawberry patch.

How brilliant it will be if we can carve home grown pumpkins this halloween.I want to do everything I can to nurture these plants so any advice you can send our way will be gratefully received. Should we be feeding them? Should we put straw underneath them or should we try to lift them off the ground somehow? We had planted them up against the fence so they could climb but then never got around to tying them up.

Garden Girl and Garden Boy are already talking about face designs for their pumpkins. I don't want to disappoint them with small green things!

Thursday 26 August 2010


I stepped outside today to the most wonderful smell of lavender. The rain has really brought out the fragrance and I stopped for a moment to breathe it in. Garden Girl loves our lavender. She always has. When she was younger she would pick it to smell and pass leaves around to friends and family, holding them up to their noses so they had no choice but to smell it too. I however have always preferred the rosemary. Its a bit more earthy, less perfume like. But today I found myself coming on side a bit. I took the time to consider the lavender a bit more and it really is an asset to the garden. It brings colour and texture to the garden and waves in the wind. It attracts bees and butterflies and provides a cosy safe haven for ladybirds. Garden Girl uses it to make a perfume for herself that I am happy for her to wear because it is natural and she is thrilled because she feels grown up. And best of all we can use it to make extremely delicious lavender biscuits. How could I resist after the lovely smell that greeted me this morning?

Review: Trangia Stoves

Trangia stoves have a very good reputation in the world of camping and outdoor activities and rightly so. They are made to use in extreme weather conditions, are lightweight and compact and are made to a high standard. So when we were offered the opportunity to try one out we jumped at the chance. We were the sent the Trangia 27-6UL which includes the Stove, 2 non-stick 1 litre saucepans, 1 18cm non stick frying pan and a 0.6 litre aluminium kettle. Everything fitted together into a compact bundle with a quality strap holding it all together.The whole lot took up barely any room in our boot and because the stove uses methelated spirit for fuel there was no need for a big gas canister. It is also cheaper than using gas.

In terms of family camping, if you intend to cook big family meals while you are camping this won't really do the job. You would need a two ring stove for that. We tried to cook our sausages on it but it took quite a while due to the quantity of sausages and we needed to keep moving them around as the heat is concentrated on the middle of the pan. However, if you tend to eat out when you are camping and just want a stove for your morning brew, or a mug of mulled wine in the evening then this is perfect as it takes up such a small amount of space in your boot, is fuel efficient and quick to assemble. It is also brilliant for heating up camping meals such as the Wayfayrer meals.

It is also worth noting that the pots and pans included in the set were superb and much higher quality than we are used to, so even if you think the stove is not for you, then I would strongly recommend you look at the Trangia range of accessories. And non-stick is definitately the way to go if you intend to have a fry up!

The stove really comes into its own however for those of you who enjoy backpacking, hiking or mountain climbing. It is very lightweight and compact, as is the fuel, so will easily fit into your backpack. It is also very quick and easy to set up and use anywhere and has an inbuilt windshield that is storm proof. When the children are older and we manage to go on long hikes with them I know that this stove will be an absolute must take with us. Once again I find myself wishing I had discovered this product in my pre-Mummy days. This stove would have been perfect on archaeological excavations, long hikes and scuba diving trips. The Trangia stoves really are a fabulous bit of kit for outdoor activities or for lone/two person camping.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Our Weed Problem Solved

Garden Dad has solved the problem of the weeds on our patio. Given that most of them are dandelions we will simply no longer refer to them as weeds but as edible crops. Which is all very well but I have no idea how to cook dandelion.If anyone has any suggestions I am willing to give them a go.

Garden Dad has also been working hard this week clearing out the garage so I can once again access all the gardening bits and bobs and today he cleaned the wormery in the pouring rain, for which I am very very grateful. Now we just need to get it started again and try to keep the worms alive this time!

Review: Halfords Roofbox and Thule Roof Bars

It was three years ago when we first went camping. We only had Garden Girl then and somehow, despite all the baby paraphenalia, we managed to fit everything in our Clio. We would sit smugly outside our tent watching other campers arrive with their MPV's and roofboxes and wonder in astonishment how they could possibly need a roofbox in addition to their massive boots. But, three years and two more children later and we were one of them. Our Clio has been replaced with a Berlingo and this year, thanks to Halfords, we had a roofbox on the roof. Had Halfords not agreed to lend us a roofbox and roofbars to review we would not have been able to fit everything in.

If you look on Halfords website you will see that they have a wide range of roofboxes, in a variety of sizes. We left it to them to decide which ones to lend us and they supplied Thule roofbars and the Exodus 470l black roofbox. The roofbars they originally tried to fit to our car were too small but Halfords made every effort to get the right ones in time for our holiday, with Pete, their expert fitter agreeing to collect the right ones from another store for me the next day. It is important to get the right roof bars for your car and you can work out which ones are right for yours on their website. It took Pete just 10 minutes to fit the roof bars and Garden Dad had no problem with the simple fittings when he tried it out himself.

One of the things that has always put me off having a roofbox is the worry that it might all come sliding off on the motorway but these are really secure with a decent lock. I was also happy with the way the roofbox attached to the roof bars, although this was a little harder to fit. It took Pete a little over ten minutes to fit, with the help of a colleague. Fitting the roofbox is most definately a two man job and Pete did have the benefit of being quite a bit taller than Garden Dad. The roofbox opens on its side and it is necessary to reach to the far side of the box to fit it into place. Garden Dad found this difficult when he tried it. There is also a luggage strap to stop eveything rolling around inside the roofbox but Garden Dad gave up trying to use this. He just couldn't reach over everything.

The roofbox itself is spacious and sturdy, with a very secure lock. When I first saw it I thought it would be far too big for us but after loading the boot we still filled it to brimming. I had also heard that roofboxes could be quite noisy but this one seemed to have good wind resistance and it was easy to forget the roofbox was there. We were really pleased with both the roof bars and the roof box and would recommend them to anyone who needs extra boot space. Halfords only loaned these ones to us but we are going to buy them and keep them now we've tried them.

Tuesday 24 August 2010


I am one handed at the moment. Garden Lass is teething so won't let me put her down. As I can't cook a hot dinner with a little wriggly girl on board I thought would use my free hand to upload some happy sunflowers for your enjoyment. They might be small but they are pretty and they survived the neglect earlier in the year. They make me smile.

Review: Wayfayrer Meals

Garden Girl's favourite bit of camping was snuggling down in her sleeping bag and I have to agree with her on that one. However, when we asked Garden Boy what his favourite bit was he said, 'Breakfast, food and pudding'. Only a boy could give that answer. When it comes to food our camping essentials include cous cous, smash (lovely memories from my own childhood holidays in a caravan), angel delight and of course sausages. We took all of that with us this year but we also had a stack of Wayfayrer meals to try out and review and they were delicious.

Wayfayrer meals are designed specifically for activities such as camping and hiking. They can be eaten hot or cold but I must admit that I would have struggled to eat them cold. But this didn't really matter because they are incredibly quick and easy to heat up. Just pop the bag in a bowl of water. Boil for 7 minutes and then tuck in! We tried the All Day Breakfast, Lancashire Hot Pot, Beef Stew and Dumplings, Vegetable Curry, Spicy Vegetable Rigatonni, Sausage Casserole, Chocolate Pudding and Spotted Dick and Custard. There wasn't one we didn't enjoy. They tasted great and our Little Garden Helpers cleared their plates every day without any messing about. That in itself gives these meals a big thiumbs up. The water we boiled the bags in, we used for a cuppa so there was no waiting around for a brew.

The only downside is that they retail at £4 to £5 per bag of food which is quite a lot when one bag feeds one person or two toddlers. We thought this was a bit on the pricy side however they are incredibly convenient and quick and we will consider getting them for our next camping trip. They were really handy to have in the tent for those days when we arrived back later than expected and we were in danger of having to cook in the dark. And aside from their delicious taste, the best thing is there is no pan to wash up. You can even eat them straight from the bag if you want to avoid the washing up all together! I wish I had known about them in my pre-Mummy life when I camped at archaeological excavations with very little facilities. They are so much better than pot noodles!

Wayfayrer meals are available to buy at amazon or at a number of outdoor stores such as Cotswalds. I recommend trying the Lancashire Hot Pot and Chocolate Pudding but honestly pick any and you won't be disappointed.

Monday 23 August 2010

Learning About Snails

Last week we were in Norfolk but the week before our garden bug of choice was the Snail. We were a bit slow moving with our snail activites (haha) because we were busy packing and were also out and about quite a bit but we still managed to have some snail related fun.

Things to Tell Your Toddler
  • Snails are related to shellfish such as Oyster and Clam
  • Snails have long, slimy bodies with a shell to protect them
  • A snails body needs to stay wet so they hide in their shells when the sun comes out
  • Snails come out and about when the weather is wet and dark so it will not dry up
  • Snails leave a slimy trail behind them wherever they go
  • The slimy trail protects its body from sharp things on the ground
  • Snails have two sets of tentacles; the longer ones have eyes on the end while the shorter ones are for feeling and smelling
  • A snails teeth are located on its tongue which is called a radula
  • Snails eat leaves and flowers
  • A snail will lay about 85 eggs which is why they are so common
Activities We Have Done

  • We had snail races to see who could move the slowest. Anyone who knows Garden Boy will know that he easily won these races. He now believes that he wins every race because he always comes last. There was a particularly upsetting moment on holiday when he just could not understand why Garden insisted she was the winner when she reached the finish line a good two minutes before Garden Boy.
  • We spent a day hiding in our basket shells every time I shouted 'It's raining'. This was great as I shouted 'Its raining' every time it looked like a fight might be about to break out. Great distraction.
  • We made glittery snails with an egg box and some air drying clay. They are called, Glitter Pink Snail and Green. They have since been sliding along the living room floor, having races with the ladybirds we made a few weeks ago and sometimes getting into fights with the ladybirds. Apparently the ladybirds always win but given the loss of legs and antennae I think perhaps the truth is actually the other way around!
  • We made snail biscuits.

  • Then we ran out of time before we went holiday so we hunted for snails in the garden today because it was lovely and wet. But we didn't find a single snail. I was going to put one in a pot with some leaves so we could observe it munching away. We obviously did a good job getting rid of them all earlier in the season. I should be pleased really but I would hasve liked just one snail, just this once! We spent a whole half hour searching!
  • I came across no decent snail picture books to read. If you know of any let us know.
 I must admit that whilst our Little Garden Helpers enjoyed all the activities above, they were much less enthusiastic learning about snails than butterflies and ladybirds. They are however, having fun with ants this week and they seem engaged. Maybe it was just the excitement of the forthcoming holiday that distratced from listening to me about snails.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Review: Vango Nitestar Junior Sleeping Bags

Sleeping while on a camping trip can be difficult with three small children. The ground can be too bumpy, the weather can be too cold, the wind can create a noisy flappy tent that causes endless nightmares, there is too much excitement and blankets get dislodged. This has never stopped us from camping. The fun outweighs the difficulties by far but a good nights sleep always helps so we were absolutely thrilled when we were sent two sleeping bags from Vango to review. And we weren't the only ones excited when they arrived in the post. Our Little Garden Helpers couldn't get inside them quick enough. Luckily they didn't have to wait long to try them out for real as they arrived just days before we set off to Norfolk.

By the time we arrived at the campsite the excitement still hadn't worn off. Once the tent was up Garden Girl barely even wanted to stop for dinner. 'I can't wait to go to bed in my sleeping bag. Can I go to bed now?' are the exact words she used that first day. How many toddlers have you heard ask to go to bed before their dinner? And this was the first holiday that our Little Garden Helpers slept all night, every night in their own sleeping bags, without waking once. In fact they managed to lie in till around 7.30am every morning, rather than rising at their usual 6.30am. When I asked Garden Girl what her favourite part of the holiday was she said 'Going out and about and snuggling in my sleeping bag', so there are no doubts that they were a hit with the children. And I was also very impressed.
Garden Boy, who has just turned two, slept in the Nitestar Baby, which is suitable up to a maximum height of 80cm. Garden Boy is just about 80cm, so this bag will definitely not still fit him next year. However, we felt that the small size was a massive bonus as Garden Boy moves about a lot in his sleep. We often find him with his head at the foot of the bed so we were worried that if he slept in a sleeping bag we would find him with his head buried at the bottom. This just would not have been possible with the Nitestar Baby and really gave us peace of mind, so we could also have a good nights sleep!

The Nitestar Baby also has two full length zips which allowed us to totally unzip the sleeping bag into two seperate pieces. This means you can use them as blankets which can be removed, rather than as a sleeping bag, if it gets quite warm and we also used them as a soft, warm place to lie Garden Lass (3 months) when she was having a kick about in the tent. And although we didn't make use of this feature, it is possible to attach this sleeping bag to a pushchair, so if you want to be able to lift your little one straight into the tent already snug in their sleeping bag after an evening stroll this gives you that option. Vango have really thought about the details with this one and I think it is great product. When Garden Boy moves into a bigger bag Garden Lass will be able to use the Nitestar Baby for a couple of years. The bag costs £20, which I think is a reasonble price to pay for peace of mind.
Garden Girl, who now moves about much less in her sleep, slept in the Nitestar Midi, which has a maximum height of 155cm. Garden Girl at almost age 4 is probably about a metre tall, so has plenty of growing room left in this sleeping bag. She likes to tuck her arms inside so only her head peeks out of the top but the sleeping bag has an elasticated top so we were not worried she would slide inside during the night. At just £25.00 this sleeping bag is real value for money as it will fit for a number of years.

Both sleeping bags are made to a high quality and were clearly very comfortable. They get a raving review from the whole family.

Plaiting Garlic

We are back from a week camping in Norfolk and I have spent the day unpacking and washing while Garden Dad spent the day tidying up the garage so we could put our camping equipment away and still access all the garden bits and pieces we need. While tidying up he came across the garlic we harvested before we went away so Garden Girl helped me plait them. The garlic, by now is almost dry so was easy to plait. We also plaited a piece of string into each bunch to hold them together when we start cutting some out to eat. They will now hang in the garage to dry out some more. They are apparently ready to eat when the skins are fine and dry and flaky.

While we were plaiting the garlic we came across this small bulb halfway up the stem of a large bulb. Having never grown garlic before I do not know if this normal or not but it seemed a little unusual to me.

We have also harvested some large cucumbers and courgettes that Daddacool and Zooarchaeologist must have missed while they were looking after our garden, so that is dinner sorted tonight; sausage and courgette casserole.

I always return from a holiday with renewed motivation for getting organised so tonight we are making lists of things we want to get done over the coming months and making sure our diaries are up to date, so we can start next week with purpose and make real headway in the garden and house, but I will update you about our holiday and garden over the coming week, as well as our snail related activities from the week before we left.

Sunday 15 August 2010

A Poem by Garden Girl

Mole in the hole
Hello Mole!

Bird fly from the tree,
To see what you can see.

Hello Frog, I need to swim
I have to go
Bye, Frog.

Friday 13 August 2010

A Kiddizoom Video Camera Documentary of Our Garden by Garden Girl

VTech very kindly sent Garden Girl a Kiddizoom Video Camera all of her own, so this week she has been using it out in the garden and has produced a documentary of her favourite things in the garden for you all to see.Check it out here.

Garden Girl absolutely loves the video camera and really got into the role of documentary presenter. It was lovely to see the garden through her eyes, which parts are important to her and what she knows and it will be a fantastic thing to show her when she is older, with a garden of her own.

To find out more about the camera check out the review here. We think its a great first video camera. Thanks VTech!

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Learning About Ladybirds

Last week our garden bug of choice was the ladybird. Garden Boy loves ladybirds. He gets very excited every time he spots one and loves to let them crawl onto his hand. Even when one of them nipped his arm he was happy to go back for more. So it wasn't hard to get him interested in learning all about these friendly garden creatures. Garden Girl on the other hand was trying her hardest to persuade us to stick with butterflies and caterpillars so the first thing we did was to look at the similarities between the two and eventually she was persuaded.

Things to Tell your Toddler

  • The lifecycle of a Ladybird is the same as a butterflies 
  • A ladybird lays a tiny egg, out of which emerges a ladybird larvae. 
  • The ladybird larvae spends all its time eating blackfly, much like a caterpillar spends all its time eating leaves. 
  • Like the caterpillar, the ladybird larvae sheds it skin a number of times
  • The last time the ladybird larvae sheds its skin it turns into a pupa, just like a caterpillar goes into its chrysalis
  • A few weeks later an adult ladybird emerges from the pupa
  • There are around 46 different species of ladybird in the UK.
  • Not all ladybirds have the same number of spots. In fact, many have no spots at all.
  • Ladybirds crawl on 6 legs but also have wings for flying.
  • Ladybirds have two antennae which they use to feel, smell and taste
  • Ladybirds eyes are shaped like hexagons so they can see a lot of different directions all at the same time.
  • Ladybirds eat aphids which are tiny insects such as the black fly and green fly which suck all the juice out of leaves, ruining our lovely veggies
  • Ladybirds are bright colours as a warning to predators that they do not taste very nice. 
Activities We Have Done

  • We made 'The Ladybird Game' and played it lots. I remember playing this when I was a little girl so it was really nice to play it with our Little Garden Helpers. The rules are simple; If you throw a one you get a body, throw a two and you get a head, throw a three and you get an antenna, throw a four and you get a spot, throw a five and you get an eye, throw a six and you get a leg. The winner is the first person to make a complete ladybird. It is a really simple board game for toddlers to play and the best thing is, you can make all the pieces yourself.
  • We visited a local museum and made a ladybird mask. Garden Girl insisted that the spots should look tidy!  

  • We took inspiration from 'Mister Maker's, Minute Make Time' and made ladybirds with air drying clay. They had a lot of fun making these and I had a lot of fun watching them play with them. They made them dance and talk to each other until in true boy fashion, Garden Boy decided to pull the legs off his, announcing afterwards, with a leg held high and a slightly forlorn look that 'my ladybird can't dance anymore.' At least it wasn't a real one!
  • We read one of our all time favourite books, 'What the Ladybird Heard' by Julia Donaldson, over and over again, and enjoyed reading 'The Bad Tempered Ladybird' by Eric Carle.
  • We went into our garden in the drizzling rain and counted and identified the different types of ladybird and ladybird larvae, then logged our results on the UK Ladybird Survey website.
  • We searched the internet and our own photos for pictures of ladybirds and discussed what we would look like if we were ladybirds. Garden Girl decided she would be red, with seven black spots just like the 7-spot ladybirds we found in our garden. Garden Boy wanted to be orange with wobbling green spots. A number was never decided upon.
For Garden Boy the highlight was definitely spotting all the Ladybirds in the garden. He brought his wheelbarrow with him as he thought we were going to collect them all and had loads of fun trying to encourage them onto his finger and then into the wheelbarrow. For Garden Girl and myself the best bit was playing 'The Ladybird Game', Garden Girl thrilled with the knowledge that she was doing something I used to enjoy and me, thrilled to be able to share a simple childhood memory of my own with her.

Monday 9 August 2010

Hide and Seek

Our Courgettes have been playing hide and seek with us. For the past few days we have been searching for some to harvest but have found nothing. Then today we discovered three large marrow sized courgettes hiding between the pots. Courgette Soup for us tomorrow then!

And incase, like me, you are wondering why there is a plug included in this picture, Garden Dad, who I asked to take the photo, claims it is there to give you all an indication of size.

Friday 6 August 2010

Tips from Gardener's World

One of the things we have been trying to do this year is to keep up with Gardener's World. Last year we were so busy outside we recorded the shows and eventually watched them all about five or six weeks later than they aired. We nodded our heads at all the useful tips, noting that things they mentioned would have been a good idea had we known about them in time, but always having missed the boat by a good few weeks. It has been easier to keep up this year however, perhaps because by the evening I am exhausted and ready to sit down with a cuppa.

Watching Gardener's World reminds us of some things we need to do that we might otherwise have forgotton about and also spurs us on to get things done. It is just like talking to other gardeners; once we have heard what they have been busy with, we start to feel that we should get moving with that particular task as well, before we get left behind. Last year, all we could do was write down all the good tips and ideas to try out this year and these are the six things we thought were particularly good ideas and wished we had known about earlier;
  • For tomatoes, line terracotta pots with plastic bags to help keep the moisture in
  • Plant climbers at an angle towards the pole or wall it is climbing to help it find the support
  • Plant trailing nasturtians and calendulas with brassicas. They attract cabbage whites whose eggs can be picked off the leaves
  • Bury a tin can in the soil next to a plant and water into the tin can, keeping soil out of the tin can. This s apparantly paricularly effective for keeping runner beans, peas and courgettes moist
  • Put olive oil on top of the water in the water butt to prevent the mosquitoes laying their eggs in there and totally empty the water butt every now and then to breakup the lifecycle of the mosquitoes
  • Soak nettles in water and use as a general purpose feed on your vegetable patch
Sadly with all the delays we have had this year, we haven't had the opportunity to try all these out but we did remember to plant our climbers at an angle and we did put olive oil on top of the water in our water butt and both seem to have worked well. We are again this year gathering a wealth of useful tips from Gardeners World and, looking at my watch, its time to head to the sofa for a cuppa right now. And this week they are visiting the Ribble Valley, where I grew up, so I have an added interest.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Great Garlic and a Hint of Jealousy

At the weekend Garden Dad and Garden Girl harvested 32 garlics. It was very satisfying to see them resting on top of the soil, although we had to move them indoors at the end of the day for fear of it raining. Last year we didn't grow any at all because the catalogue we ordered them from had run out and we never got around to going out and buying some. But if this year's crop taste as good as they have grown we'll definitely be growing garlic again.

We also cleared away all the dead broad beans. It was starting to become quite disheartening seeing them there, all black and shrivelled. We were very pleased to hear however that the little orange bugs that had appeared all over them are ladybird larvae. This is great news as it means the black fly will soon be gobbled up and we will hopefully not lose any other crops to these little terrors. It is also good for this weeks theme which happens to be ladybirds. It should make for an interesting ladybird and larvae count tomorrow.

We also visited Grandad and Grandma South at the weekend to reclaim our camera and take a nosey look at their vegetable patch. With a hint of jealousy I must admit that their crops are looking particularly healthy and flourishing. Made all the more galling by the fact that some of these crops were started off by ourselves. I am consoling myself with the knowledge that our efforts earlier in the year have bourne fruit, if not in our garden.