Thursday, 23 July 2020

Flower pressing

I've been back in school, working with children of key workers at Heald Place doing a variety of gardening and outdoor learning.

One thing that went well was to dry and press flowers and then to use them to make a card to take home. We picked the flowers and put them between a folded piece of kitchen roll. Then we left them under a heavy book for a week in the classroom.

When we got them out they had dried really well. The flatter, thinner flowers worked best. We then used PVA to glue them to a card and children wrote messages to someone at home.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

The most popular plant in the garden


It is by far the most popular plant I've helped people to grow. All children love it. OK I'm exaggerating, but only slightly. If you've never tasted sorrel it has a sharp, citrus tang to the leaves and children love eating it straight off the plant. 

It's also really tough, grows back every year and you can easily take cuttings from it by slicing off a part of the root using a sharp spade. This is best done in spring. Simply replant the part you cut off and in a few weeks you'll have new leaves growing. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Cleaning up and garden treasure

The garden is often a mess after the summer and needs a good clear out. This is generally a popular job. The greenhouse at St John's gets completely overgrown with plants that have finished growing for the year, including a very prolific grape vine. I've no idea what the hat was all about.

And there's often hidden treasure lurking underground. No matter how hard you try to pick things in July, you always miss something. Which then is a bit of treasure for the autumn garden clean up crew.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Returning to giant sunflowers

There are often surprises in the garden waiting when you get back to school in September. You never know what's going to greet you in the garden. These huge sunflowers had grown well over the summer at Heald Place. 

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Safe cooking with children

I've been helping children learn how to cook simple, healthy foods in after school cooking clubs. One thing that crops up is helping children develop skills in using kitchen implements safely and effectively. 

One thing I've learnt is that using proper equipment is much safer than equipment that is "for children".  A good, sharp kitchen knife is better than a blunt "safer" one as children can cut without straining and pressing hard which is much more likely to lead to slips and cuts. I've found that children seem happier using a knife with a serrated edge as this gives a better grip when cutting. 

Having effective ways of explaining something is at the heart of helping people to learn new things. I found "the claw" and "the bridge" good ways to explain how to cut safely. The picture is a great example of "the claw" with the fingers holding the tomato well away from the blade. 

"The bridge" involves holding something between thumb and forefinger to make a bridge and the knife cutting down between them. 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Huge parsnips

Now I like a good roasted parsnip at Christmas but you can leave them in the ground a bit longer. 

We pulled these beauties out in March, after a titanic struggle. 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Leaf mould

At Lark Hill in Salford they have a lot of large mature trees in the grounds.  A great job in the autumn is to collect leaves to make leaf mould.  This doesn't sound pleasant but the leaves will, after a year or so, rot down to produce a lovely fine compost that is great for adding to your growing areas. It doesn't have a lot of nutrients but it will improve the soil.

We used a lot of large sticks that had fallen from trees or were left over from a woodworking project to construct two leaf bins. We simply pushed larger sticks into the ground and wove willow branches between them.

Children love collecting leaves and it is a nice lesson in reusing what is naturally around us.

If you have large trees, don't install planters or a growing area near them. The tree roots take over, the beds get shaded and covered in leaves and sticks during the autumn and winter.