Growing Tomatoes Indoors

Indoor gardeningI’ve been trying for years to get a garden going, but either the universe is against me or I suck at it. I’m guessing it’s the latter. The first year in our home with a garden, the summer pretty much burned my garden up (due to that pregnancy, I didn’t get out to water much!) The next year, we did okay, and the third year, the slugs pretty much carried the garden away following heavy flooding. This year? Well, this year we don’t even have a garden, so we’re reduced to indoor gardening.

One of the things we did manage to actually eat from the garden last year was lots and lots of cherry tomatoes, so when Heinz invited us to join them in a growing project again this year, we thought it would be a good opportunity to try some indoor gardening, so we’ll be having a go at growing tomatoes indoors.

Indoor GrowingThe thought of not growing anything this year is a bit much for me, so here are some indoor growing options if you want to give it a try too.

For those starting small, you could try a specific Indoor Garden Kit for growing tomatoes. There are also these Peat Free Mini Grow Bags which are cute and a great size when you don’t want a huge sandbag indoors!

If you’re really serious about your indoor gardening, however, there’s a brilliant looking battery operated “Smartpot” that’s said to deliver fantastic results too!

I haven’t decided which way we’ll go yet, but I’d best hop to it and get our tomatoes growing!

If you’re in the UK,  shoppers who purchase a bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup can pick up a free pack of Heinz tomato seeds (available in selected stores from 5th – 25th March).

 * This post contains affiliate links. Using them won’t cost you anything, but I’ll be paid a referral fee. Heinz have also provided a non-cash incentive for participating in their project.

 

Simple Resources For The Solar Eclipse

I am so excited to hear that we’re expecting a solar eclipse in the UK. We’ve missed things like meteor showers and lunar eclipses over the years usually due to cloud cover, but with the sun – well, dark is dark, so we’ll experience something no matter the weather. In my corner of the world we’re only expecting a 40% darkness, but as you head further up into the UK, there’ll be more to about 94% darkness in Scotland. The last time the UK saw an eclipse like this was in 1999, so this is pretty epic.

You can learn more about what to expect in your zone here:

Solar Eclipse Zones

I intend to take  full advantage of this eclipse and make it as engaging a learning experience as possible. I remember seeing a full solar eclipse with my mother as a child, and I intend to make the same memory for my girls. 

Here are a few of the Solar Eclipse resources I’ve pulled together so far:

I’ll add some more here if I find more resources to use – and if you have any you’re planning on using pop the link in the comments and we’ll add it here!

Bring Up A Butterfly …

As far as summer’s go, ours fizzled out a bit towards the end as our plans for the future began to unfold,  work took up a lot of my time, and life in general just had a bit of meh going on, especially once our friends packed up their lives and moved to Australia. One aspect of our summer that did lift me out of my funk a little, was the 50things campaign, which gave me a bit of time and focus on the children. If you find yourself struggling with getting outdoors, do have a look at the campaign. It helps focus otherwise busy mother’s mind on their children. It did for me, at least.

One of the things on the 50things list is Bring Up A Butterfly. It’s one we embraced with gusto, because my girls (4 & 2) really want a pet, but we can’t have one where we live. Of course, a butterfly isn’t a pet, so much, but it was quite the learning experience for them.

We bought a butterfly kit from Amazonwhich came with a net and a pot with caterpillars in it. The pot contains the worms, and the food they need till they transform.

 

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It was really quite amazing for all of us, watching the teeny tiny caterpillars turn very quickly into large caterpillars and almost overnight go into their cocoons. They stay in Chrysalis form for almost two weeks, then, before you know it, there’s a cocoon shaking and rattling as the butterfly writhes its way out. Soon a beautiful Painted Lady joins the world, and like a deer finds it’s feet unsteadily at first. Bring Up A Butterfly

Before you know it, the butterfly has a sip of nectar, and so the cycle is complete.

We kept them in their basket until they were all steady and ready, and on a sunny afternoon went into the garden to let them go. Butterflies are incredibly low maintenance. You really just have to look at them, and once they are hatched, give them some nectar on a saucer. It’s even easier than a gold fish.

To turn this into a true learning experience, we also used Twinkl’s Butterfly Life Cycle resource.

*If you buy the kit any time other than the Spring, they will send you everything you need, except for the caterpillars. Those will be sent to you in the Spring. It makes a lovely gift though, which is what Ameli’s was, and consequent years you can just buy caterpillar refill packs. It’s also worth noting that you can also buy a Ladybird Kit.

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 38: Bring up a butterfly  on their list. You can see the full list here.

Check Out The Creatures In A Rock Pool

When I told the kids we’d be going rock pooling, this is the kind of thing I had in mind:

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As it turns out, however, either rock pools are the UK’s best kept secret, or this display at Climping Beach is the best the South of England has to offer.

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I can’t say we saw a whole lot in the rock pools. A few darting life forms, some algae, and an anemone, but the girls had a blast in the water, digging in the sand, and spending an afternoon in wild abandon doing something they don’t normally get to do.

Wild Abandon

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 37: Check Out The Creatures In A Rock Pool  on their list. You can see the full list here.

Discover What’s In A Pond

It’s a little hard to find some frogspawn without discovering the other things in a pond.

All things slimey and erm… fun.

Our local canal centre offers a fabulous guide to help children identify what they’ve found in the pond, and over the spring and summer months, pond dipping is a favourite activity among the children – and one that ages me. I’m not fond of water I can’t see the bottom of and the thought of a child landing in it… well, not great! But so far so good. My girls have stayed safely on the side. 35And they do love pond dipping!

Apart form the canal centre’s guide we also have the RSPB guide to pond life*, a brilliant little book that lets them tick off what they’ve identified.  Money well spent in my mind!

What benefit does a child derive from a few hours of pond dipping, I hear you ask?

Well, aside from learning about what lies beneath the water, increasing awareness of their environment and learning about other ecosystems, pond dipping also works on balance – so you don’t fall in the water – and teaches risk management – just how far can I lean before I start falling? 

Discover what's in a pond

The excitement on their faces as they realise that there’s life in the bottom of those nets is priceless, and finding the critters in their pond life book is so good for instilling that sense of excitement and discovery. It’s like a treasure hunt, following clues, finding answers, handing eager young minds a love of learning and inquiring without them even realising that it’s happening.

And so little scientists and discoverers and adventurers are born, just there by the local pond, with a net and a guide book in hand.

 

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 35: Discover what’s in a pond on their list. You can see the full list here.

Catch A Falling Leaf

The end of the summer is coming, and pretending it’s not so doesn’t do anything to stop the impending doom winter. I think we may have some exciting plans up our sleeves for this winter, but I’ll have to see how it all pans out before I start sharing. In the meantime, we’re carrying on with our #50things and well on target to get through a lot, if not all of it, this year.

Earlier this year we went to the Whipsnade Zoo for a family day out. It was an early spring day, and the air was thick with cherry blossom scent. Yes, cherry blossoms aren’t leaves, I know, but hey ho, the skills are the same. Catch A Falling Leaf

There’s something about standing waiting in anticipation, spotting a leaf – blossom – jumping into action, grabbing, missing, catching that can’t but make you feel 5 years old. There’s nothing you can do but laugh, and giggle, and shout as you wait and act. The feeling of success as you finally clutch that foliage in your hand.

It’s a great way to burn energy, and to laugh together, play together.

It also costs nothing!

And while catching spring blossoms is imbued with the hope of warmer days, catching autumn leaves are indicative of chestnut roasting, mushroom foraging, and berry picking – there’s nothing not to love.

And while you’re having fun, the kids are learning hand-eye coordination, action and reaction and that mama can run and laugh and play too.

Get out there this autumn, and chase the leaves.

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We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 33: Catch a Falling Leaf on their list. You can see the full list here.

How To Make A Fairy Garden (For Busy Mamas!)

Make A Fairy Garden

The Magic Onion blog is filled with Fairy Gardens I’ve wanted to make with my girls for years, but they’re so lovely and so beautiful that to be honest, I found it overwhelming, and ‘making a fairy garden’ got resigned to the list of things I wish I could do well. I was offered the Fairy Garden Craft Box for review and I couldn’t wait to try it with my girls.

When we sat down to it, they were super excited. We opened the box and emptied out the contents.

Inside the box you’ll find a fairy garden bowl, and fairy figurine, oyster shell which is the water feature in the garden – and the kids need to keep the water fresh and the shell clean –  a sparkly fairy cottage, a clothes line with posts & pegs, die-cut cloth for the clothes line, and a die-cut carpet for the cottage. There’s grass seed and coloured gravel as well as mushrooms, flowers and various bits of glitter, or fairy dust.

There’s loads in it and my girls have loved the kit! We spent about half an hour putting it all up together, and then the girls decided to play with the fairy while the grass grew. They weren’t best pleased when I told them it may take a week or two! I’m looking forward to the grass growing so it’ll give them something to do.

They started playing with the ceramic fairy, and very quickly broke the wing off, so I had to glue it back together with an explanation that it’s not actually a toy.

So, they decided that Ameli would be the fairy, and that the fairy was a statue of her and of her house.

I wasn’t really expecting the imaginative play that came with doing this kit, if I’m honest, but it’s been lovely.

Now it’s up to the girls to keep the ‘water feature’ clean, and to sprinkle water on the grass every day so that it will grow.

We also decided that we could make sure our fairy felt close to nature by putting some fresh flowers in her garden from time to time, some acorns and pinecones in autumn and rosehips in winter. I love how we’ve been able to talk about the seasons as part of this fun activity.

Amazon sell these make a fairy garden kits for £12.99, and I think it’s money well spent.

Skills - Imagination

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