On Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th July Didsbury village is being judged by the RHS North West in Bloom judges. Last year Didsbury won both the Urban Community category and a Gold; so there are high expectations for Didsbury in Bloom 2018.
The road I live on, Ford Lane is one of the areas which is judged. We have a green at the top of the road and flower filled planters all the way down the lane. It looks lovely, but it doesn’t happen by magic; a team of hard-working residents lovingly maintain the planters and keep the lane looking good all year round.
In the weeks running up to judging day, more residents do their bit by helping to tidy the green or water the planters outside their homes. I’m slowly trying to make our front garden more attractive, but it’s a slow process, not helped by the lack of rain.
Didsbury in Bloom 2018 had the twin themes of Remembrance and they also celebrated the centenary of women winning the right to vote. There has been a team of wonderful volunteers who have been working with schools to plant and maintain a poppy path running from Didsbury Park to School lane. The verges have been cleared and planted with poppy seeds which were harvested from the fields in France, then scattered by school children. In bloom they are a lovely, arresting sight. It’s well worth taking a detour to wander down the lane to see the poppies and remember them.
2018 has been a challenging year for gardeners, especially over the last few weeks. Manchester has had an unseasonal amount of not rain, or sunshine as it’s sometimes known. We’ve been enjoying/enduring a heatwave and our usually lush green at the top of the road is now a brown.
We’ve been draining our water butts and recycling our bath water to keep the planters looking healthy, but the grass has had to take one for the team. I hope the judges will take the current weather conditions into consideration and not hold our brown lawns against us.
I think despite the challenges, Ford Lane is looking fantastic. It’s a shame the heatwave has taken its toll on the main flower bed on the green; but all of the other planters are beautifully blousy with blooms. I love the Votes for Women bike most of all I think.
All of the Didsbury in Bloom volunteers have worked so hard this year, I take my hat off to them. Thank you for making Didsbury extra beautiful all your round!
The Didsbury in Bloom 2018 team won’t know the results of the judging for a little while yet; but we have high hopes of repeating the success of previous years.
Tasked with coming up with some interesting crafts and things to do with three children during the half term, I thought we’d start our week by making some egg and cress heads. I thought it would be interesting to watch them grow over the week. They’re easy to put together and all three had great fun making them and watching them grow over the week.
This activity is perfect for my 7 year old who is in Year 2. Cress grows incredibly quickly, and almost before your eyes. This fast growing crop was really exciting for the children to watch growing. Each day they found a new thing to be excited about. The best day was when they got to try eating the peppery cress, it’s a rare sight watching three children delightedly eating their greens!
Growing egg and cress heads is a great opportunity for children to talk about their observations about how the seed grows into a plant and guessing what will happen next. It can also help to promote scientific thinking and helps with linking science to real life experiences.
Growing Egg and Cress Heads
You will need:
A hard boiled egg each
Felt tips to decorate your egg
How to make your egg and cress heads:
Hard boil your eggs and get a grown up to carefully take the top off and scoop out the egg inside.
Gently decorate your egg however you want. We drew pictures of cats and dogs on ours, but you could do almost anything.
Fluff up some cotton wool and put it inside the egg. Then pour some water over the cotton wool. Sprinkle some cress seeds on the top of the cotton wool and put on a windowsill in an egg cup.
Check the progress of your seeds every day, sprinkle more water on the seeds every so often. Within a week all of your seeds should have sprouted and your egg head should have a thick crop of cress hair!
We know that kids who are physically active have better physical and mental health, they are happier and lighter. Kids who spend more time outdoors in the garden have better vision, have reduced ADHD symptoms, are less stressed, develop better social skills and don’t have vitamin D deficiencies.
Outdoor activities and exposure to plants and animals is also an opportunity for our children to discover things they are passionate about and good at. You might be raising the next David Attenborough but if you don’t give your child the opportunity to see and interact with the natural world all that potential will be wasted.
Some Alarming Stats;
British children are among the least active in the world, and fitness levels are plummeting.
¾ of our children spend less time in the great outdoors than prisoners.
70% of mothers recall spending time outdoors every day as children, while only 31% of their children do.
As parents we all know there are lots of good reasons why our kids should be outside but we can’t seem to find the time to make sure it happens. Part of the reason is our own hectic lifestyles which leave little time to go outside. It is much easier for us to plonk our kids in front of the TV or a tablet while we use our tablets to get the shopping done, book a holiday and finish that report. We are also terrified for our kids and most of us won’t consider letting them out of our sight in public which reduces their opportunity for outdoor play and prevents them becoming more independent.
Garden Wildlife Sanctuary Project
A great idea to encourage your kids to get outside is to have a family garden project. A vegetable garden is a wonderful idea but it does take a lot of know-how from the parents and a regular time commitment. For most of us this is too big of an ask. A much easier project is to establish a wild garden. The set-up is easy and low cost and very little regular maintenance is needed. If the project captures your families’ imagination you can develop it as much as you like by adding hedgehog homes, bird boxes & feeders, butterfly gardens and ponds. All you really need to get started is a patch of garden, it only needs to be a few meters wide.
Start With Plants
The starting point for your wild garden project is to put in the right plants. If you are going to be encouraging local wildlife you need to make sure you plant species that are native to the UK and provide food in the form of seeds and nectar bearing flowers as well as thick plants for cover. Sound hard? Not at all just buy a seed mix or two from a specialist supplier online! Look for ‘environmental seeds’ or ‘stewardship seed mixes’. You will also find ‘bee friendly’ mixes which are high in nectar producing flowers. ‘Bird mixes’ or ‘cover crop’ seeds are likely to provide taller and thicker plants to provide somewhere for birds to hide. You can start your kids off on the project by asking them to look online for suitable mixes.
It’s probably a good idea to buy a couple of different mixes for good variety. You can share the seeds between several families because one tin of 250g for £20 can cover as much as 50m of garden. When you plant depends on the seed mix so just read the instructions carefully before you buy. It’s no good buying a seed mix that has to be planted in the spring if you want to get your project started in the Autumn. All you need to do is dig the patch of soil, pull out the weeds and then sprinkle on your seeds. Make sure you water them every three days if there is a dry spell. A better idea is to give the job to the kids who can take it in turns to do the watering.
At the back of your wild patch put in 1 or 2 shrubs/trees. They provide shelter and nesting sites. Choose something that produces berries, they look great and provide Winter food for birds – Rowan, Elderberry, Holly and Crab Apple are all good choices.
Other things to include
Litter – I don’t mean crisp packets – we are talking twigs and dead leaves. Decomposing vegetation is vital for lots of insects who provide food for larger animals like hedgehogs. Just collect up this garden rubbish from the rest of your plot and sprinkle it on your wild garden. Don’t do this if you have just planted seeds as the litter will block the sunlight from reaching the seeds and they will not germinate.
Water – fresh clean water is important. You can simply sink a plant pot or plastic bottle (with the top cut off) into the ground. The kids can take it in turns to top up or replace the water.
Very little! If your plants are a bit thin sprinkle some more seeds down in the spring or Autumn. Usually these wild mixes self-seed so you could find this is not necessary every year. In early spring you might need to trim away the dead dry grass from the previous year to allow the sunlight to reach the soil.
Once your seed mixes are working well you can think about adding a couple of specific plants. Snowdrops and daffodils don’t do much for wildlife but they are some of the first plants and flowers to appear in the Spring so they can be important for keeping the kids interest high. They also grow from bulbs which fascinate kids.
Sunflowers are fantastic for birds, butterflies and bees and you can have a who can grow the tallest competition. Pumpkins or other squash are also easy to grow and great fun. For both sunflowers and squash start the seeds off indoors in a windowsill and then plant them out when they are a about 20 cm tall. You can label them so every family member knows who’s is who’s!
Once the plants are in place you can think about adding some specific homes for birds and animals. You can buy bird nesting boxes and feeders, homes for bees and hedgehogs online. If you are all loving your garden you can consider a bigger addition like a pond.
The wild garden offers a fantastic opportunity for you to educate your kids about plants and animals. You can also give them some fun projects and treasure hunts which will keep them occupied while you do other things. There are loads of treasure hunt style lists online and wildlife spotter lists. These work well in your wild garden but you can also use them to make walks and day trips more interesting. The Woodland Trust has a nice set too.
Of course, you can just come up with a DIY activity for kids if you need to get them out from under your feet. Just ask them the following. They can take pictures of what they find on their phones and then use the computer to identify them.
Once you get into growing your own food in your own garden, it can become something of an addiction. It saves you a lot of money on ingredients in meals or on simple treats like blueberries. When you grow your own food, something about it just tastes better, too. Knowing that you put the work in producing the food on your own plate is honestly more fulfilling than many expect to be, initially. But there are risks to growing your food at home that can result in all your efforts being for naught. Before you deal with the frustration of your hard work going down the drain, here are three risks, in particular, to watch out for.
Get rid of the nibblers
Inviting some nature into the garden, whether it’s bringing in butterflies or making room with a hedgehog hut, can make the garden not only a much more relaxing and pleasant place to be. It can make it environmentally friendly, too. But if you let nature run wild, you can be certain your homegrown foodstuffs won’t last very long thanks to the pests. However, pesticides can often have a negative effect on the food you’re growing, too. Get to know which pests are likely to eat the foods you plant and find the companion plants that get rid of them. For instance, aphids are a very common concern when growing tomatoes. Aphids are repelled by catnip. Learn the pests that prove a risk to whatever you’re growing and the companion plants or predators you can introduce in the garden to keep them at bay.
Prepare for a cold snap
Planting foodstuffs is a seasonal job, and you’re best off planting when things are in-season. There’s plenty you can plant in the autumn and winter but, even then, a particularly cold snap can utterly ruin your chances of ending up with healthy vegetables. Controlling your climate with tools like Swallow greenhouses gives you some security that all your hard work won’t go down the drain because of one week’s bad weather. A little climate control allows you to have a greater variety of fresh vegetables the whole year round, too.
Keep the food healthy
Your vegetables might grow to a ripe old state no problem, but another issue is whether they’re really safe to eat or not. In urban gardening, in particular, there are risks that might make it less than trustworthy on the plate. As Treehugger suggests, there are real risks to contamination, whether it’s from the soil or the products you use on it. To minimize that risk, it’s a good idea to test the soil you want to use or even buy fresh, tested soil to create new plots. If you live by a road and you’re concerned about contaminated dust being blown in from the traffic, you can build a wall around the vegetable gardens to serve as a barrier against them, too.
Get over the three hurdles above and making your own berries and vegetables in the garden is going to be no issue at all. Now get out there and start growing.
Didsbury village always puts on a fine display for Didsbury in Bloom judging day. We have a small army of volunteers who plant up tubs and flowerbeds throughout the village all over the year, but as judging day for Didsbury in Bloom 2017 approached, more volunteers and residents rolled up their sleeves to make sure Didsbury showed off how blooming beautiful she is.
On 4th July this year the judges arrived to inspect the village for Didsbury in Bloom 2017. I live on one of the roads which is judged so we’d spent some time making sure our front garden looked the best it could. Over the weekend everyone down our lane pulled out their green bins and set to work making sure everything was tidy, swept and neatly trimmed. It looked a treat.
This year Didsbury in Bloom celebrated our connection to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The RSPB was founded by Emily Williamson in her home in Didsbury in 1889. Today you can visit where the first meetings were held at what is now the Alpine Tea Room in Fletcher Moss Gardens.
On Ford Lane the volunteers had spent a lot of time building and making a Bug Hotel. The Bug Hotel is a fine addition to the green on Ford Lane, creating a little wildlife haven for birds and bugs was a great idea. Some of the local children lent a hand to help build it and we hope it will become a permanent fixture on the lane.
Ford Lane is fringed on one side by a strip of woodland and has tidy grass verges with planters which are planted with bulbs and bedding plants. In spring the lane comes alive with blousy blossom. It’s a real wildlife corridor and we have all kinds of birds visiting our gardens throughout the year. We also have a family of foxes, plus owls, bats and we’ve seen more butterflies about this year than I can remember.
I really love this hanging ball of pine cones, made with two hanging baskets joined together. It’s huge but it looks great hanging from one of the ancient trees which are on the lane. Clever isn’t it?
After the judges had moved on to other parts of the village, some of the volunteers and helpers gathered for a much needed cup of tea and homemade cake. It was a good opportunity for neighbours to mingle and chat for a while. Even the cat found time in her busy schedule to join us.
Didsbury in Bloom is a lovely community thing to be part of. We are very lucky to live somewhere where many of the residents have such pride in their area. We can’t always help out as much as we’d like, but we try to keep our front garden looking neat and tidy, and we help out on community days when the green bins, hedge trimmers and sweeping brushes come out.
The Didsbury in Bloom 2017 team won’t know the results of the judging for a little while yet, but we have high hopes of repeating the success of previous years.
I don’t know what this plant is. We rescued it from the disaster that was our garden when we moved into our house five years ago. I suspect it’s something like a hydrangea (answers on a postcard please).
When we moved in the garden was a jungle of ivy. You literally had to hack your way through it to get anywhere. It was a “designer” garden which had been left to run wild. Occasionally I’d find an especially lovely plant drowning in the ivy. I’d carefully dig it up, plant it in a pot and put it to one side until the garden had been cleared and we could plant it up properly.
This is by far my favourite find and I always look forward to it flowering. Even when the flowers fade we’re left with fragile looking papery flower heads. Yjeu mostly last through winter providing some interest until we cut them off in spring.
I’m still struggling to get my head around everything that’s been going on for me at the moment. I’ve been making a point of going outside each day and looking at some of the nice things in the garden. A bit of fresh air and nature will always do me some good and I’m just trying to be kind to myself.
So what is it? Does anyone have a better idea than me?
I love gardening, it can be a nice restful way to spend an afternoon, elbow deep in compost and making your outside space a nice place to be. I’m a busy mum and I don’t have a lot of time to spend gardening, so like any borderline lazy person I have developed a few of my own garden hacks to make my life easier.
Save your teabags and once they’re cool put them on top of the soil in your pots, this helps keep weeds down and eventually they will break down and add nutrients to the soil. I saved a particularly sickly rosemary plant that way.
Get the kids to help while they’re still willing. My 5 year old loves to help out, so he gets to dig holes for plants, sweep up and pick up leaves and weeds from the lawn. He’s not the most focussed gardener but it’s nice to get him involved.
Keeping on top of weeds is a constant battle, we use cheap bark chips on top of our soil, the water can still pass through unlike with plastic sheets, but the bark chips keep the weeds from sprouting up. They just need topping up every year or so. My garden would be a wilderness without them.
If you try and make your garden attractive to birds, hedgehogs and frogs etc, then they will come and gobble up some of the insects and other nasties you don’t want in your garden. Hedgehogs love eating slugs which are horrible destructive disgusting things.
If you’ve got a strong stomach going on a twilight snail hunt can help to reduce the numbers, this is especially effective after a rain shower. Go out with a torch, wearing gloves and with a sturdy and hole free bag pick up any slugs and snails you see, tie the bag up and put it in the bin. it’s a bit mean to the slugs and snails, but they wouldn’t think twice about eating your seedlings. If you do this regularly you will start to see a difference.
I think this infographic from Ecoscape is great, it’s got some great ideas for garden hacks for your patch, I’ll be using a few of these in future!
Do you have any garden hacks or top tips for lazy gardeners like me?
Now that spring has sprung and the weather is a bit nicer, I’m a bit more inclined to get out in the garden and give it a tidy. Last weekend we spend a happy few hours tidying our garden after the winter, sweeping up leaves and debris, pulling up dead plants, cutting back overgrown climbers, pruning dead branches from shrubs and cutting the grass. We’re planning another tidying up session over the Easter weekend and I’ve bought some new plants to go in the beds to fill some gaps.
Spring is a busy time for me in the garden, I always feel if you put some effort in early then you can sit back later and enjoy your garden. Our flower beds and veg patch are quite easy to look after, bar some weeding and watering. I’m pretty happy with how it’s taking shape after nearly 5 years of creating a family garden from bare earth.
The real problem in our garden is the grass. It’s boggy in parts, with clay underneath, and it’s a haven for moss and weeds. We seem to spend hours tending to it. One of the biggest problems with the lawn is the edging. We’ve built raised beds for some parts of the lawn, but for others the grass just butts up against the flowerbed and it’s a constant battle keeping the edge neat and the grass away from my plants.
Edging seems like the answer to our problems, keeping the lawn and border separate and making it easier to keep the lawn neat and tidy. Fitting it shouldn’t take too long and it should give the garden an instant lift. We just have to figure out how to deal with the moss now, any suggestions for that are very welcome! Moss is the bane of our gardening lives!
Now that the first of the spring bulbs have started to peep through, my thoughts have turned to planning what to do with the garden this year. We’ve worked hard over the last five years on our derelict garden and we’ve built raised beds, laid a lawn, tended neglected trees and planted it up almost from scratch. We’ve had a “let it grow” policy the last few years, waiting for some of the small shrubs we’ve planted to fill out so we could get a better feel for what we wanted, and what we want is more colour and to do more to attract bees and butterflies.
I know from our visits to a lavender farm in Devon that bees and butterflies can’t get enough of the purple stuff, I love it too especially when planted in lavender hedges it looks so effective. It does need a gentle pruning every year though. When it comes to garden design I’m no expert, but I think blocks of colour look great and I don’t like to see bare soil, it seems such a waste.
I’m not very good with planting seeds, so I prefer to buy small plug plants and pot them on into my little greenhouse and then plant them out. Not wanting to let the grass grow under my feet (excuse the pun) I’ve already ordered my plug plants for this year, focussing on what I think will look good and what should attract the bees and butterflies to my little patch. I have plans to order…
We already have some of these in the garden, I love sedums for autumn colour and the birds seem to like them too. We’ve always been cautious foxgloves given their poisonous reputation, but the boy is beyond the plant eating stage, we have no pets to worry about and they are very beautiful.
Given the struggles that bees are facing these days, I’m very happy to do what I can to help them survive and thrive and it’s always a pleasure to see butterflies fluttering into the garden and appreciating my planting scheme. What will you be planting this year to make your garden bee friendly?
Didsbury is a fine old part of the world. It’s often referred to in somewhat sneering tones as “leafy Didsbury” because, well, it’s a particularly leafy suburb of Manchester. Today the RHS Britain in Bloom judges came and inspected the little village where I’ve spent my entire life.
Last year the judges were very pleased with the efforts of our local team of dedicated green-fingered volunteers, so much so Didsbury won gold. As far as I’m aware the judges look around the village at the planters and displays, taking in the Jubilee Gardens on the corner near Cafe Nero and then make their way down the road where we live, because (and I say this without a hint of smugness, honest) it’s a very pretty road, it has a small green at the top, it overlooks fields and leads down to the river. It’s very nearly countryside, nearly.
Today the sun shone. The road had been swept. Plants watered and deadheaded, it looked beautiful, so out came my camera to capture the moment. So for your floral pleasure may I present Didsbury in Bloom 2014: Ford lane.
This year celebrates 50 years of the RHS Britain in Bloom competition, hence the rather stunning display on the green.
As a resident, I’d like to thank all the volunteers who work so hard to make Didsbury beautiful year round, but especially for occasions like this. Fingers crossed we do well again this year!