Things to do in the garden...

Monday, March 21, 2011

So each month I try to bring you ten things to do with your children and since we’ve had a lovely influx of good weather I thought I’d share ten things you can do with your kids in the garden this month.

1,  Make a rain gauge

Living in the UK we are always interested to know how much rain has fallen when it does come. You can make a rain gauge of your own and keep a record of the rainfall for your area.

You will need:
An empty plastic fruit juice bottle with a flat bottom, a pair of scissors, a ruler and fine permanent marker.
What to do:
 Use a pair of sharp scissors and cut the top off just before it starts to slope.
Turn the cut section upside down to form a funnel and push it back into the bottle.
 Place the bottle on a firm surface and use the ruler to mark off the measurements. It will be easiest if you measure off in 5mm lots.
 Dig a narrow hole in the garden free of overhanging plants about three inches down. Push the bottle into the hole.
Check the bottle each time it rains and record the amount of water collected.
 Once you have recorded the amount empty the bottle and replace it in the hole.

2, Tidy the garden

Grab a rake or a trowel and go dig for worms or tidy!

3, Plant a garden!
Section off a part of the garden, dig it over and start planting together! lettuce and radishes are quick to grow and can be eaten raw, and growing strawberries is easy enough, they are resilient and loved by most children. Cherry tomatoes can be grown by a child of 3 to 4 years and while it will need a little more care than strawberries or lettuce, the joy of being rewarded with a bunch of sweet-tasting cherry tomatoes is enough to win them over to the growing their own fruit and veg for life.

4, Slugs trap

Snails and slugs can do a lot of damage in the garden. They hide in all sorts of places during the day and come out at night when it’s damp to feast on the lawn grass and plants in the garden. Squishing them is a good quick way to get rid of them, but that can be a bit yucky. Snails really like beer. This trap provides beer for them to drink and then they get drunk and fall in and drown. As least they die happy!
You will need: an empty margarine container (or similar); some stale beer, a trowel
What to do:
1. Use the trowel to dig a hole the same size as the margarine container in a place where snails are a problem eg the vegetable garden. (Other types of wide food containers work fine too.)
2. Push the container into the hole so that the rim is level with the soil.
3. In the evening, pour some stale or left-over beer into the container so that it is about three-quarters full.
4. Empty out the beer and the dead snails every couple of days and replace with more beer.
5. If you don’t have any beer to use, crushed up eggshells sprinkled in a band around seedlings and plants can stop snails crossing to get to the plants. They don’t like the sharp shells because they stick to their slimy "feet".

5, Paint clay pots

One of the benefits of painting clay pots is that the whole process doesn't take very long at all, making it a suitable childrens activity for a birthday party - taking a painted flower pot home instead of the usual party bag with throwaway nick-nacks could start a new trend!
Instructions for painting clay pots
You will need: a clay pot, suitable paints in various colours (we usually just use poster paints), small paintbrush, a container with clean water, and lots of newspaper to save your table from being painted!
Wash the clay pot in warm soapy water to remove any traces of dirt or grease.
Cover the table or painting area with newspaper, find paints, paint brushes and a mug of clean water (to clean the paint brushes when swapping colours).
When the pot has dried, start painting whatever design you like!
Ensure each layer of paint dries thoroughly before adding another colour on top.
Allow the painted flower pots to dry out.

6, Make some newspaper pots

You will need: sheets of newspaper; a straight-sided glass; scissors
What to do:
Choose a straight-sided glass that's about 7cm in diameter.
Cut strips of newspaper which are about 7cm wider than the height of the jar. Each one must be long enough to go round the glass about three or four times.
Take a strip of paper and wrap it fairly loosely around the glass. The paper should be level with the top and extend beyond the base of the glass. (See photo 1.)
The bit that extends over the bottom should be just long enough to fold over to reach the opposite side of the glass. Fold it over then keep folding the extension in (in overlapping folds) to cover the bottom of the glass. (See photo 2 & 3.)
Slide the newspaper down the glass for about 2cm. (You can't wrap it too tightly at the start.) Pinch all around the bottom of the newspaper pot to make a base for it to sit on it . This will also stop it coming undone. (See photo 4.)
Carefully slip the completed pot off the glass. (See photo 5.) You can then make the next one.

7, Plants you can eat

Flowers that you can safely eat are nasturtiums, borage, violets and scented geranium flowers. Flowers of cooking herbs are also safe to eat.
2. Coloured flowers are very nice in salads. Try some nasturtium and borage flowers. It's also fun to sip the nectar from nasturtium flowers. To do this you need to nip off the very end of the long spur on the flower and then suck the nectar out. (Make sure there aren't any bugs inside first! Yicky!!) 
3. Crystallising flowers is easy to do. You will need a new fine paintbrush, an egg white, some caster sugar, some non-stick baking paper and a rack or cake cooler to dry the flowers on.
4. Violets and geranium flowers (especially lemon, rose or cinnamon scented ones) crystallise particularly well. Pick them early in the day, wash them, then stand the stems in a small jar of water until the flower parts are quite dry.
5. Beat the egg white very lightly, then, using the paint-brush, carefully paint every surface of the flower with the egg white. Make sure every bit is covered.
6. Sprinkle the caster sugar lightly over the flowers until all surfaces are well-coated, then put them on the rack to dry. Drying may take a couple of days. (Don't do it in wet weather or they 'll go sticky.)
7. Store the candied flowers in an airtight container. They can be eaten as sweets and make great decorations on ice creams, on sundaes and on cakes.

8, Wind chimes

You will need: a length of wood, no more than one inch wide and between 6 and 10 inches long (a length of bamboo is best), some string or yarn (not too thick and preferably synthetic as it will last longer), a very small drill, and lots of little knick-knacks.
Suitable objects would include large buttons, tiny plant pots, sea shells, wooden balls, little bells (the type you find on cat collars!), or wooden and ceramic shapes. Most of these are available from craft shops with holes in the middle predrilled, which makes life easier!
Drill holes in objects which are not predrilled (ADULTS ONLY!). For ceramics and sea shells, it is a good idea to put some masking tape over the spot to be drilled as this helps prevent the object from cracking, then use a very small drill piece and slowly drill through.
Find all your materials and lay them out on a table. The aim is to have one length of string dangling from the top piece of wood every inch, so measure your length of wood, and cut pieces of string varying lengths accordingly.
Attach an object to the end of each piece of string. A couple of inches further up the string, tie a knot in the string. Feed the second item down the string until it rests on the knot. Depending on the length of the string, repeat the process every few inches until you are left with approximately 6 inches of clear string at the top.
Repeat the process of adding objects to your wind chime for all lengths of string. While doing this it is fun to 'test' the sounds the different objects make when gently banged together and then try to position those which makes the 'nicest' sound (according to your child!) next to each other on the string.
To fix the string to the wood, either tie the end piece around the top piece of wood and fix tightly with a knot, or drill holes through the wood at 1" intervals and feed the string through them, tieing tightly.
To avoid the string from slipping along the wood or pole, use either a stanley knife or small saw (ADULTS ONLY!) to cut a small grove in the wood for the string to rest in.
Finally the wood needs to be have string attached to either end and tied in a triangle above to hang more or less straight. For normal pieces of wood. The easiest way to do this is to hammer in either a couple of nails to the end of the wood, or srew in little hooks or circles. Attach two pieces of string of equal length to the end of the wood and tie these onto either each other, or better still, a ring. The important bit is that the string has to be of equal length and the hoop, ring or knot has to be directly above the center of the wood.
You can then either hang the ring from a hook, or tie more string to it and dangle it from a branch or similar outside.
And hey presto, your garden wind chime is complete and you can sit back and listen to its wonderful tones :)

9, Grow Cress Men

You will need: an egg, some cotton wool or kitchen towel, felt tip pens and cress seeds.
Boil the egg and eat for breakfast! Take care to slice off only the very top of the egg shell - fairly evenly if possible.
Carefully place a wad of cotton wool or shredded kitchen towel in the base of the egg shell (now empty!). It should fill about half of the space available.
Place the egg shell in an egg cup and using felt tip pens, draw a face on one side of the egg - excluding any hair.
Saturate the cotton wool or kitchen towel with water.
Sprinkle some seeds on to the cotton wool.
Keep the cotton wool moist by watering every day, and within a matter of a couple of days, the cress will germinate and start to grow

10, Make a weather vane

In winter and early spring if there is no wind on a cold, clear night we know to expect frost overnight. You can make your own weather vane to show which direction the wind is coming from.
You will need:
A piece of card (a business card is perfect); a drinking straw; some masking tape; a long pin with a bead on the end; a pencil with an eraser on the end; a large blob of BluTack; an empty 2 litre plastic milk container; some pebbles and wet sand; a compass.
What to do:Rule a line lengthways down the centre of the card dividing it exactly into two. Measure 3 cm from one end of the line and make a mark across the line. Using a ruler, draw straight lines from each corner to this 3cm mark to make a triangular arrow shape. Cut along the straight lines to cut the arrow out. You now have the arrow tip of your weather vane and the other piece makes the tail.
Take the drinking straw and carefully make a lengthwise cut 2cm long on each end. Try to cut the straw neatly so it is divided in half to make a slot. Slip the arrow into the slot on one end and the tail into the slot on the other end. Stick some masking tape over the slots on both sides to make them secure.
Cut the milk container below the handle so that it is quite a bit shorter than the pencil. Stick a big blob of Blu Tack right in the middle of the bottom of the container. Push the pencil into the Blu Tack leaving the eraser-end sticking out at the top. Put some pebbles in the bottom of the container. Use a trowel to spoon in wet sand or earth around the pencil. This will keep it upright and will make the weather vane heavy so it doesn’t blow over.
Now measure the length of straw between the arrow head and the tail and find the half way mark. Hold the straw so the arrow and tail are straight up and down (not flat like the floor) and push the pin right through the straw at the half way mark. There should a bit of pin sticking out both sides of the straw.
Push the pin carefully into the centre of the eraser end of the pencil. The weather vane will spin around easily in the breeze.
Use the compass to find which direction north is at your place. If you face north, then the east is on your right hand side, west is on your left hand side and south is behind you.
Your weather vane will always point in the direction that the wind is coming FROM. If it is half way between, for example, north and east, then we say it is a north-easterly.

With thanks to global-garden for great ideas!

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  1. What a brilliant selection of activities. With the Easter holiday fast approaching we will definitely use a few of these ideas.

    And thanks for the egg shell tip, I don't think I could cope with having to sort out a tub of drowned slugs . . . even id they had smiles on their faces!

  2. Lol I make my husband do it personally! we get some huuugggeee ones here! and my boys being boys love worms and slugs! urgh!

  3. Love these ideas. Our pit at the rear of the house has been a state for years. With a think layer of topsoil and then masses of clay underneath it's too heavy for me to dig so I have little choice but leave for OH to do.

    We do at least now have a shed, a large patio and a big raised bed (hopefully the first of many) so will have to give some of these a go.