mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children


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Diary of a Guerrilla Gardener

guerrilla gardening in street tree pits

Inspired by all the reports of community gardening around London, we have the urge to “green up” some neglected land. After a quick street survey, we decide to start with the tree pit outside our house.

A bit of research on guerrilla gardening reveals that a key element to planting tree pits is to choose low value, tough plants as there is a reasonable probability they will get trampled, damaged or stolen. And even without all that, tree pits are not the most hospitable environments for little plants with poor, compacted soil and the competition of a mature tree for water and nutrients. We just happen to have a surplus of geraniums that have been sat around in trays for weeks so they seem like the ideal candidates.

The biggest surprise in our guerrilla gardening experiment is just how bad the soil in the tree pit is. It might have been easier to break through concrete but we persevere despite some strange looks from passers-by. It’s fortunate that we chose plants with small rootballs because I don’t think we would have been able to chisel out holes any bigger.

We add a bit of compost in a vain attempt to try and improve the soil, plant the geraniums and water copiously. We top with a bit of bark as a mulch and a sprinkle of wildflower seed balls.

It all looks quite smart and we feel pleased with ourselves.

guerrilla gardening in street tree pits

We pop out every few days to water our new plants and several neighbours comment on how lovely it looks. It’s all going really well and we decide we might expand our guerrilla gardening horizons to something altogether more ambitious.

A week later we notice a large, sloppy circle of dog poo in the middle of the geraniums (sorry to be so graphic, hope you’re not eating). Cue lots of muttering about irresponsible dog owners. My husband suggests that it might provide a source of manure for the plants, “looking on the bright side”.

guerrilla gardening in street tree pits

Then a day later, on the other side of the tree pit, the bark has been removed. Completely removed, there isn’t a trace of bark left.  And half of the plants are gone too.  Seriously, what kind of person would do something like that? Someone worse than an irresponsible dog owner, that’s for sure.  Now considering installing CCTV outside our house to catch the culprits should they decide to strike again.

guerrilla gardening in street tree pits

The seed balls have all disappeared with the bark too, so if you spot anyone around London with a small amount of bark that suddenly starts sprouting wildflowers, do let us know.


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Easter Holidays

easter holidays

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, involving the consumption of huge amounts of chocolate. Here’s a quick round-up of the horticultural highlights.

Flower arranging. Not one of my strengths.

flower arranging tulips

But I think the tulips are colourful enough to make up for the lack of artistic arrangement.

A seed sowing extravaganza.

sowing seeds

We’re working on the spelling.

sowing spinach seeds

New plant purchases. This one is a sedum with gorgeous blue-green leaves.

sedum

Currently in a pot on the patio table so I can see it every time I walk past the window.

Preparation for our potato/tomato grafting experiment. The potato rootstock is coming along nicely:

potato plant in a pot for grafting

Although I’ve just realised I should have removed all but one shoot from the potato – a job for tomorrow.

And last but certainly not least: a gift from my daughters.

sempervivums

A collection of sempervivums from the highly recommended http://www.sempsbypost.co.uk.


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A Garden to Banish the January Blues

I’ll be the first to admit that our garden doesn’t look its best in winter.

There’s a bit of structural form (a few trees and some raised beds) and a tiny bit of colour from the plants that still have leaves. But it’s predominantly a mass of soggy lawn and bare stems.

So yesterday we took ourselves off to a garden that has been designed to shine at this time of year; the Winter Garden in Battersea Park.

And we were rewarded with an abundance of flowers on a cold, bright January day:

Hamamelis (witch hazel) flowers in winter

Chaenomeles (japanese quince) flowers in winter

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

mistletoe

I love Christmas but there’s no denying it’s a busy time of year. And sometimes the endless list of “things to do” can detract from the enjoyment.

So earlier this year, I resolved to be organised this Christmas. The big plan was to get most of the Christmas preparations completed early, leaving more time to sit back and enjoy the festive season.  No  racing around like a headless chicken (or turkey) this year.

And it’s taken a lot of self-discipline to prepare for Christmas at some very unChristmassy times of the year (see below) but the hard work has paid off. I started December with all presents bought and wrapped, tree up and decorated, Christmas menus planned and internet food shops booked. I’ve had time to spend with the children doing all sorts of lovely gardening-related craft activities and have drafted and scheduled a series of blog posts around the theme “the Twelve Days of Christmas”, the first of which will be published tomorrow.

The Christmas countdown started about a year ago:

Jan – Bought Christmas cards and wrapping paper in the sales, put away in a safe place.

Aug – Christmas gift list drafted, Christmas card list updated.

Sep – All gifts bought and wrapped.  Christmas cards written, with stamps and addresses on envelopes ready for posting.

Oct – Christmas menus drafted, shopping lists drawn up, internet food shopping booked.

late Nov – Posted cards, put up Christmas decorations. All done!

AND THEN I WOKE UP from my dream to the reality that is 14th December 2013.  Turkey not yet ordered, no Christmas cards posted, Christmas shopping started but nowhere near finished, Christmas tree lights STILL not working and a general feeling of being ever so slightly frazzled. Maybe next year…..


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The Little Red Hen Rebels

little red hen

“Who will help me plant these seeds?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I” came the reply. So the little red hen planted the seeds by herself.

“Who will help me water and weed the seedlings?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I” came the reply. So the little red hen weeded and watered by herself.

But today the little red hen despaired of doing everything herself. Not least because she was soon to take possession of an extra half allotment (more of which at a later date) and the current allotment wasn’t in the best shape.

So it was a three-line whip, all hands on deck, family effort for the Great Autumn Allotment Tidy Up.

And it’s AMAZING what progress you can make when you have four pairs of hands instead of one. We were busy weeding, trimming grass paths, clearing old crops and topping up bark paths, not to mention a healthy dose of moaning, arguing with siblings, taking time out for sulking, and complaining of being too hot, too cold, and hungry.

Despite all that, in no time at all the allotment was transformed from this:

allotment before autumn tidy up

Into this:

allotment after autumn tidy up

The next stage is to cover all the bare soil because bare soil over winter is a Bad Thing. All the gardening books warn of soil erosion and nutrient leaching but, just as important in my view, the local cats and foxes will view it as a custom-built toilet and it’ll be covered in weeds before you can say “spring is nearly here”.

So I’ll use a combination of mulching with homemade leafmould and compost, covering with weed control membrane and sowing green manure. I already have some Phacelia tanacetifolia growing which may overwinter if the weather isn’t too harsh.

Phacelia tanacetifolia (green manure)

I’ll dig this in at some point to improve the soil but as the flowers are attractive to bees and hoverflies, I’ve saved some seed and will be sowing a little patch next spring too.

And I’ll also be sowing some grazing rye in the next week as this is one the few green manures that can be sown up to the end of November, plus it copes well with the heavy clay soil on my allotment. This will be dug into the soil next spring. It’s a bit of an effort to dig it in, as is commonly reported, but it fits into my timescales well as I’m never ready to sow green manure any earlier than September/October.

I was so pleased with my allotment helpers that, as a reward for all their hard work, I’ll be including them in the next allotment task; the Horse Manure Project. I could tell they were thrilled, they were literally speechless.


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Plant Graffiti

prickly pear growing wild in spain

You reach the ripe old age of 47 and think there aren’t too many things that can surprise you any more.  And then something catches you out unexpectedly.

We chanced upon these prickly pear plants growing wild in Spain and were chuckling over how they resembled chubby toes on feet (strange feet with so many toes but you get the picture).  Then we turned the corner and spotted this.

graffiti on prickly pear

Plant graffiti.  Whatever you do, don’t show your children this photo or your garden will never be the same again.

Time for a haircut

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topiary rabbittopiary rabbit

You know how it is……. things get busy , you don’t have your hair cut for a while. Then you can’t do a thing with it and every day becomes a Bad Hair Day.

After a quick trim this afternoon our topiary rabbit can now hold his head up high and Bad Hair Days are a thing of the past.

We also gave him a long overdue feed. He’s about 3 years old and the plant inside the frame – box (Buxus sempervirens) – is filling out nicely.

A lot less trouble than a real rabbit 🙂

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