How to get children interested in gardening

Posted on July 9, 2020 at 12:30 pm by

There’s no age limit on gardening. Many of us enjoy maintaining our outdoor spaces into old age – but there’s also no limit on how young you can be, either.

Involving the kids in gardening is a great way to get them outside in all weather, as well as give them skills that will stand them in good stead in future life.

Gardening teaches care, patience, chemistry and biology, and if you grow herbs, fruits or vegetables, it can teach home economics and cooking too.

For a relatively small cost, you get to spend time together, time outdoors, and help build an area for the whole family to enjoy.

A quick start guide to gardening with kids

If you want to get your children engaged with gardening, it’s a good idea to start fast. Some seeds will sprout within a couple of days, while some will grow in a glass of water so you can see progress without having to wait for them to reach the surface of soil.

Grow something brightly coloured, sweetly scented or edible, as this will give an extra element to the experience for your kids.

Cress is an incredibly easy option – you can grow it indoors as a precursor to trying more ambitious outdoor crops, and it’s a tasty addition to sandwiches too.

Plotting together

Let your children help you design a layout for your garden. You can of course steer them in the right direction, but it can be worth having them choose where to position planters, grow frames and flower beds.

This can bring together different arts and crafts, from sketching out a scale drawing of your garden, to colouring in or collaging the various planting areas where your child would like them to go.

Help them to understand that gardens are organic – they change with the seasons, and you can always move things around in the future if you want.

That way, if they want to try something different or more ambitious, you can reassure them that if it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world.

Keep it fun

Try to keep things fun throughout the experience of gardening with your kids. Don’t let those regular garden tasks seem like chores – try to combine them with some optional activities too.

We believe that a healthy lawn is the heart of every garden. Our Gold Standard Turf bounces back well after being played on by children and pets, and provides the perfect centrepiece for you to surround with raised beds or rockeries.

Gardens are the best of both worlds – private space that you can design and look after yourself, but with access to the great outdoors for some fresh air and exercise.

Start your kids young, and by the time they grow up, they’ll have the skills they need to be self-sufficient by growing fruit and veg in the garden, or just enjoying the outdoors by planting flowers and tending shrubberies.


Games to play with children in the garden

Posted on May 19, 2020 at 9:37 am by

Whether you’re home schooling or just hanging out, the garden has become the go-to place for exercise, relaxation and entertaining the kids this summer.

Most children love spending time outdoors, especially in nice weather, so with the limitations imposed by COVID-19, that means you’re likely relying even more on your garden.

Almost any game or sport you can think of can be reimagined to play in the garden, although some are easier to control than others – it’s not an ideal time to go looking for stray footballs or cricket balls in neighbours’ yards.

Here are some less obvious games to play with children in the garden, which will hopefully go without mishaps in most cases.

Mini Golf

Set up a crazy golf course using any bits and bobs to create obstacles. For the holes, don’t worry – you don’t have to pull up plugs of your beautifully landscaped lawn.

Instead, just lay a plant pot or bucket on its side and aim to get your ball into that. In smaller gardens, just play one hole at a time, then move your obstacles around to create a brand new layout for ‘hole 2’ and so on.

You’ll soon unleash your creativity and start making more ambitious hazards like ramps, tunnels and bunkers. Just try to stay sensible so you’re not tempted to pitch your golf ball right over the fence!

Croquet

Croquet is similar to golf except instead of aiming for holes, you have to knock your ball through a series of hoops. You usually end by knocking it at a vertical stick.

You can make ‘hoops’ out of anything from bent garden wire or old wire coathangers, to hitting the ball between two markers spaced a few inches apart with no actual hoop between them.

Not many of us have a set of croquet mallets lying around, but you could play this as a variation on crazy golf if you have metal or plastic putters, or just side-foot kick the ball instead.

Statues

To play Statues, you don’t need any equipment at all. The players stand in a row at one side of the garden, while one person is ‘it’ (sometimes called the Curator) and stands opposite.

When the Curator turns their back, the Statues can move slowly towards them. When the Curator looks, the Statues must freeze in place.

If the Curator sees a Statue moving, that person is out. But if a Statue reaches close enough to tag the Curator (or reaches the garden wall, if that works better) that person is ‘it’ for the next round.

This is an especially good game to play if your kids are Doctor Who fans, as instead of being Statues, they can pretend to be Weeping Angels.

Be creative…

These are just a few ideas you can play in even small gardens. But children often don’t need traditional games and rules – they can make it up as they go along.

Let your little ones use their imagination and see what they come up with. That might be a ball game, a treasure hunt, a make-believe game or something completely new.

The garden is really just a blank canvas on which you can play out new ideas and invent a game that suits everyone in your household – you might end up playing it for years to come!


Birdwatching during self-isolation – a beginner’s guide

Posted on May 14, 2020 at 9:29 am by

Birdwatching is a popular hobby at the best of times, but during social distancing and self-isolation, even more of us are paying attention to the feathered friends outside our window.

If you have a garden, then you have more options to attract new species of birds to within a good viewing distance, but you don’t need to have any outside space of your own.

You can spot birds from any window, even in urban areas, and once you start to learn about the different types, you might be surprised by how much variety is in your area.

If you have a garden…

To bring more birds to your yard, put up some bird feeders. You can hang them from trees, fences, or put up a freestanding bird table.

Try different foods – if your local shops have them during your essential grocery run, you could get some fat balls, suet pellets or bird seed.

Different species like certain foods the best. Berries and berry-flavoured suet sticks are more likely to attract robins. Niger seeds are favoured by goldfinches.

If you have a window…

If you’re limited to what you can see from a certain window, just do what you can. You can get bird feeders that attach directly to the glass using suction cups, for example.

Set up a comfortable chair in a position that gives you a good view out of the window, ideally without overlooking any neighbours too much.

Keep a note of the birds you see, and you’ll soon learn which directions give you the most action, the species that are common in your area, and the less frequent visitors.

In urban areas…

Your variety of species might be smaller in urban areas but you might start to notice the same individual birds coming back day after day – and potentially spot where they fly away to, too.

If you see the same birds flying off in the same direction every day, their nest might be nearby. Try to identify species that are known for nesting in roof spaces, and see if you can make a good guess of where they might live.

Urban birds can be extremely entertaining. They’re less fussy about their food and less nervous too, so if you have a small yard, you might still be able to sit outside and see them close up as they fly down to feed.

Learning about birds

The internet is an amazing tool when learning about birds. Look for any distinctive colour markings – for example on goldfinches, the red head and splashes of yellow on the wings.

Even a quick search can identify many species of birds from their markings. If possible, take a photo and use a tool like Google’s Reverse Image Search to find photos of similar birds, which is another handy shortcut to identify which species you are looking at.

Again, as you learn the common visitors to your garden or street, you’ll naturally start to notice the less frequent visitors too, so you can start to make a note of any rare or unusual species, or those that might have travelled further than you’d think to reach your feeder.


How to set up a gym in your garden

Posted on May 4, 2020 at 10:00 am by

A garden gym is a great way to keep fit and healthy, especially if you’re spending a lot of your time at home due to self-isolation, social distancing or because you’re in the high-risk ‘shielding’ category during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But even once the virus has passed, building an outdoor gym will give you a new way to enjoy your outdoor space, while staying in shape and potentially saving a small fortune on commercial gym membership fees.

It’s not hard to set up a gym in the garden – and there are several different ways to do it, from the very simple to the more complicated and committed.

Start Simple

Many of the exercises you do at the gym can be recreated in the garden without any specialist equipment.

For example:

  • Walk lengths or laps of the garden to get your 10,000 steps per day.
  • Lift varying sizes of logs or rocks, or even filled flowerpots, for free weight training.
  • Squat to a seated position on a garden bench, stand and repeat.

In fact a garden bench can play a part in a wide range of different stretches, squats and other exercises, so if you have seating outside, be sure to incorporate this into your routine.

Other Activities

You can get exercise in lots of different ways in the garden. Even just maintaining the garden, mowing the lawn and tending the flowerbeds will stretch all different muscle groups.

If you want to add even more activity to your time outdoors, garden games are a good option.

The options are endless but some easy additions include:

  • A basketball hoop (free-standing or on the end of the house or garage).
  • A football goal for solo training or a kickabout with the kids.
  • A swingball set you can again play alone or with a household member.

None of these needs to take up a large amount of space, and even if you don’t yet have any grass, you can lay a lawn using turf to create a sports area that’s hardy enough to withstand good amounts of footfall.

Go All-In

Finally, if you’re really committed to working out at home, you might want to think about building an indoor or outdoor gym in your garden.

Indoor garden gyms usually don’t need any planning permission if they are housed in a ‘temporary’ structure like a shed or other wooden building.

For an outdoor workout, you can add various pieces of equipment, ranging from monkey bars and climbing ropes, to specially designed outdoor fitness machines that give you exactly what you need to build specific muscles.

Stay Safe and Healthy

Whatever you choose, make sure to stay safe and healthy – don’t overdo it when you first start, but build gently into your new routine.

Gardens are a naturally sheltered space for all kinds of activities, especially the daily exercise we all need during social distancing.

Make good use of your outdoor area and you’ll emerge from the current situation in even better health than you started, and perhaps also with a newfound affection for your garden.


How, why and when to top dress your lawn

Posted on March 25, 2020 at 4:25 pm by

Top dressing your lawn doesn’t mean adding grass seed, but instead is about sprinkling on a layer of mixed materials high in nutrients, that help it to stay healthy and retain the right levels of moisture.

Some of the substances you might use to top dress your lawn include:

· Soil (for well-balanced lawns).

· Sand (for lawns that are often waterlogged).

· Peat (for lawns that need to retain more moisture).

It’s not only about drainage and moisture though, as the materials used in your top dressing can also physically stabilise the lawn after aeration, encouraging stronger, healthier roots and better blade growth.

Using the correct topdressing materials can also help to neutralise the soil ph if you have a high alkalinity or acidity soil which will help your other plants grow as well as keeping your lawn healthy .

How to test your soil type

All lawns get wet after rain and dry on hot days, so how do you test your soil type to know for sure if you have a moisture problem?

There are several methods you can try:

Ribbon Test

Take a small handful of soil and roll it into a ribbon or sausage shape between your hands. Then hold it vertically and see if it breaks.

If the soil sample holds together well, it’s more likely a clay soil; if it won’t hold together even in your palm, it’s more likely high in sand content.

Squeeze Test

Probably the easiest method – just rub some of the soil between your fingertips. A gritty texture indicates sandy soil, while a slick or slimy texture is a sign of clay.

Jar Test

Finally, the most complex method. Take several samples of soil from around your garden and remove any grass and other debris.

Dissolve the soil in a jar of water, give it a good shake, then leave it to settle. Sand settles fastest, with the silt layer following a few hours later and any clay settling out over the course of up to a few days. Otherwise specific soil particle test kits are available to be purchased online.

When to top dress a lawn

Once you’ve tested your soil type and bought or made a suitable lawn care top dressing, it’s a matter of timing.

If you aerate your lawn annually, it’s sensible to top-dress immediately afterwards, when the aerated soil is in the best condition to take in the new nutrients.

Clear your lawn, scarify and aerate it, then mow the grass. Sprinkle an even layer of lawn top dressing, but not so deep that the blades of grass don’t show through.

Water and rake it into the lawn gently, and finally add any grass seed if you wish, and your lawn should look great for a long time to come.


Does aerating your lawn really help?

Posted on at 3:19 pm by

Aerating your lawn pulls small plugs of soil to the surface through making small holes below the turf. This creates air pockets that allow essential nutrients to reach the roots of the grass.

This includes things like air, water and the nutrients and minerals the grass needs to grow strong and healthy from the roots to the tip.

Without aerating your lawn, the soil can become compacted over time due to footfall, natural settling and the effects of repeated rainfall and other weather.

Just a shallow compacted layer can have a big impact on the health and visual appeal of your lawn, but just occasional aerating prevents this from happening.

In the worst cases, compacted soil prevents the grass from getting enough nutrients to even survive, leading to thinning patches and ultimately bare earth.

As well as soil compaction, excess heavy clay in the soil and thatch layers at the grass roots made up of compacted organic matter are common problems that can be repaired using a plug aerator and spike aerator or scarifier.

The combination of hollow tines and solid tines allow for the soil cores and smaller lawn thatch above the soil to be removed

When to aerate your lawn

There are a few useful rules of thumb to follow when deciding when to aerate your lawn:

· Do aerate when the grass is reaching its peak growing season.

· Don’t aerate a dormant lawn.

· Don’t aerate a lawn still soaked from heavy recent rain.

Scarification prevents the lawn from being swamped by thatch, while aeration achieves a similar effect in the topsoil, so combining both can be a big help to the long-term health of your lawn.

Aerating a lawn is not something you have to do often as part of lawn care – so don’t feel like you should be doing it every time you mow the grass, for instance.

Instead, it’s usually fine to aerate once a year when the grass is approaching its best growing season. For lawns in the northern hemisphere this is usually spring-summer.

Lawns with heavily compacted soil can be aerated if required, but try to avoid doing so outside of the main growing season as you want the grass to have every chance to recover well from the stress of the process.

Finally, you might want to consider adding some extra grass seed after scarifying and aerating your lawn, especially in the peak growing season when this should help to fill it in for a thick and healthy appearance.