Gardening with Children

Family Zone

Things to do in the Summer Holidays - Our Activity Ideas

Date Posted: 20 July 2011

Have Fun Growing Your Own Herbs

As a child I have such fond memories of growing my own herb garden.  My mum provided me with a few packets of seeds and a suitable container and off I went.  The results were remarkably good for the novice that I was.  Having said that, I do recall tending them every day and taking such care.

So if you are looking for something fun to do with the family this week, why not get a suitable container, such as the handy Herb Pot or a FSC wooded Salubrious Salad Bed, a selection of our Herb Seeds and give your own little project a go.  During these warm summer days the seeds should germinate in no time and you can begin harvesting the tasty leaves in a matter of a few weeks. 
I noticed during my last trip to the supermarket that many of the packets of fresh herbs come from all over the globe these days so by growing your own you will be doing your bit for the environment to!
Make Delicious Bread With Children
A lovely activity for children of all age groups, our bread making recipe is tried, tested and so easy to follow. Click here for all the details.
Explore your Local Wildlife
There is nothing more fun than discovering the wildlife round and about where you live. Birds are leaving the nest at this time of year and are very easy to spot, often being a lot less secretive than the adult birds. I enjoyed amazing views of 3 young greater spotted woodpeckers last week. They had recently fledged and were causing quite a stir. The beautifully illustrated laminated Guide to the Top 50 Garden Birds helps bird watchers identify what they see.
Owls are magical birds for children and adults alike and only last night I spotted a young tawny owl perched just outside my house. …And if you are camping somewhere rural this summer be prepared for things that go hoot in the night! The Guide to British Owls & Owl Pellets is an easy way to identify one owl from another.
Children like nothing more than playing detective. Whilst many British mammals are very secretive and nocturnal, they leave plenty of their tracks and signs which are handily illustrated in the Guide to British Mammal Tracks and Signs.
If you looked at the shell of a hazelnut how would you be able to tell whether a squirrel or a wood mouse had eaten it?...this guide tells you and is packed full of similar wildlife spotting tips. 
Useful for identifying all sorts of burrows and nests, it will also help you to work out the footprints of anything from a red deer to a wood mouse…
Press Some Flowers & Make a Picture
Pressing flowers and leaves is easy and fun to do.  Follow some simple steps to get the best results, and then enjoy making pictures, cards and bookmarks. Have a look at our easy to follow Guide for everything you need know.
Go Seed Collecting
Many garden flowers and vegetables will be producing seeds at this time of year, and children so enjoy collecting them. The seed pods should be allowed to ripen and can then be collected on a dry day. Remove the seeds from the pods and pop them into a paper envelop or bag. Label them and then stored somewhere cool, dark and dry ready to be used next year. For a beautiful selection of steel seed storage boxes click here.
Sow Your Name In Seeds
If there is any space left in the garden, or if a space appears where crops have been harvested, why not let your children sow some seeds in the shape of their initials or first name (depending on length of name and space available?!)
Prepare an area of soil, dig it over and rake it ready for sowing seeds. Then take a peice of chalk and write the childs name / initials onto the soil. Older children will be able to do this themselves.
Next sprinkle seeds such as cress on top of the chalk letters. Sow quite thickly to get a good end result. Gently cover with soil without disturbing the seeds and then water well. Watch carefully of over the next few days and watch as the letters begin to grow!
Have New Potatoes for Christmas
My daughters usually start talking about Christmas in August, which I have to say I generally discourage. But this year I intend to channel all that expectant energy into sowing potatoes for Christmas Day!, There are lots of bargains to be had on buying several Potato Bags or you can purchase them individually. …And if you bought potato sacs in spring these can of course be reused. For our Christmas Potato Selection click here.
Plant seed potatoes before the end of August and have freshly picked new potatoes on Christmas Day. If you plant too many the ‘surplus’ will make wonderful last minute presents. Big smiles all round!
Mushrooms – Grow Your Own & Spot them in the Wild
We are fast approaching the time of year when magically overnight in certain, particular fields wonderful, ghostly white mushrooms appear. Why not arm yourself or the kids with a copy of the Fungi Name Trail?
This guide has 16 laminated pages of illustrations, facts and information arranged in print as an identification trail.
Starting with the question, Does it have a cap? Then, Is your Fungus a cup or a bowl sitting on the ground with no stem? And going on to help you identify what you see. 
Be a real nature detective and see how you get on....  But do remember, some types of mushroom are very poisonous and if in any doubt look but don't touch.
…And for an exciting indoor project why not grow your own edible mushrooms with one of these Mushroom Growing Kits. The kit includes full, easy to follow instructions along with everything you need to get a good crop of mushrooms!
Find Some Wild Food
There is nothing my children like more than picking food in the countryside. During July and August it's a great time to go Bilberry picking. Here in Lancashire there are many upland places where tucked amongst the heather you will find bilberries aplenty. And later on in September come the blackberries, for all those crumbles and jams.  When picking hedgerow food with children, do be extra careful to make sure they pick only edible plants and berries, and if in doubt don't pick!
And don't forget our handy berry picker for super fast picking!  We have lots of recipe ideas, which will be arriving on the blog over the next few weeks.
Enter Our Competition
We will be running a competition over the summer for families and school holiday clubs to enter. We are planning some fabulous prizes, so click here for all the details and why not spend a spare few minutes over the holidays having a go… you could be a winner!
Make Your Garden Wildlife Friendly
1          Provide Plants for Shelter & Food
Consider introducing some wildlife friendly plants to the garden such as Sorbus, Berberis and Pyracantha. They all have berries which are a good source of food for birds.
The native climber Old Mans Beard (clematis vitalba) can be planted at the base of a hedge or fence, and is good for bees, butterflies and moths.
Other container plants to consider for their wildlife benefits include Sedum Spectabile (Ice Plant), Skimmia Japonica and Mexican Orange Blossom.
If you have the space, every garden benefits from having a few trees or large bushes.  Consider Field Maple which will attract bees, moth caterpillars and hoverflies, and Laurel for shelter for birds, bees and hoverflies.
2          Feed the Birds
To encourage birds to your garden, provide a supply of food. Seeds, peanuts, bread crumbs, chunks of cheese and windfall apples are all good sources of food.  The bird bistro feeders are an excellent source of seeds for blue tits and finches and attach easily to a fence. The Peanut Cake Bell is a lovely hanging feeder filled with peanut cake and seeds - a perfect high energy bird food.
When providing food, think about attracting a variety of bird species.  Putting food on the floor will encourage ground feeders such as blackbirds, thrushes, dunnocks and wrens.  Hanging feeders of nuts and seeds will encourage finches and tits.  The apple bird feeder is handy for those windfall or half eaten apples that the children have left, and fruit is an excellent bird food.
Food on a bird table will be popular with robins, sparrows, doves and pigeons.
Also don’t forget that birds also need a clean supply of water all year round and a bird bath is ideal.
3          Create Places to Shelter
Nesting pouches are useful for birds all year round.  Not only will birds use them for breeding in the spring and summer months, these are also excellent places for providing winter shelter.  At the end of the summer clean out bird boxes and nesting pouches ready for winter use. 
And to encourage bats to roost in your garden these Wooden Bat Boxes are designed to meet their needs perfectly.
Wildlife will thrive better in gardens where there are areas left to go a little wild.  Leaf, twig and log piles are great refuges for insects and mammals, and also provide habitats for hibernation.  So it’s a good idea to put piles in corners and quiet parts of the garden.
Crevices in rotting wood are great places for ladybirds and creepy crawlies to hide, and the Ladybird and Insect Tower is specially designed for this.  Rotten tree stumps are also a favourite with woodpeckers, who delve into the wood with their beaks to find tasty grubs.
The hogitat is specially designed as a natural home and safe retreat for hedgehogs. 
The Solitary Bee Hive and Butterfly Feeding Station are perfect for increasing the diversity of insects visiting the garden, and Insect Study Centre and Solar Insect Theatre make studying insects at close quarters easy and fascinating in equal measure!
The MiniBug Bug Box is a natural habitat for a whole host of beneficial insects and offers a great way to observe many bugs at close quarters.

The MiniBug Solitary Bee House is specially designed for solitary bees, which are lovely non-aggressive garden pollinators.

The MiniBug Ladybird Tower is the perfect habitat for ladybirds which are natural aphid predators so great for pest control!

Constructed from solid FSC wood for durability, they can be hung from trees, pergolas, hanging brackets, or near ponds or scented plants.

As well as allowing brilliant bug observation throughout the year, these kits also provide important over-wintering habitats.

4          Sit Back & Enjoy!
After all the hard work of setting up your wildlife garden, it is so enjoyable to sit back and watch as things begin to happen.  You will be amazed at how quickly birds, mammals and insects begin to investigate the new surroundings and set up home, and it is fascinating for both adults and children alike to watch as this magical process unfolds.
This fabulous selection of Wildlife Guides makes identifying your garden wildlife so much easier.  And if you want to observe and record all the action at close quarters this Wildlife Surveillance Camera will provide great footage for classroom sessions.
Plant a Grobox Garden
Grobox Gardens are a time saving, convenient way of gardening whilst working in harmony with the environment. Available in vegetable and flower versions they produce great results every year in just a few simple steps. 
The bulbs and seeds come in a biodegradable box which you plant directly into the ground, tub or window box. The box contains carefully selected plants that have been hand spaced according to their specific requirements. Simply plant the box, give the area a good watering and nature will do the rest.
The GroBox is made from recycled cardboard and acts as an insulator for the plants, protecting them from prolonged cold, ground frosts and pests. It contains a conditioner so when it degrades it releases nutrients increasing the fertility of the soil around the plants. This means that it can be planted almost anywhere in the garden regardless of soil quality, drainage or fertility.
…And being organic the GroBox is an environmentally friendly EcoBox which improves the fertility of life-soil.

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