I imagine everyone’s feeling a bit chilly this week and some of you might even be enjoying some snow! Somehow it has completely bypassed us, but there’s still time to have a white Christmas even though it’s approaching so rapidly! Here is part 9 of our 33 Things To Do Before You’re 10:

Children’s Activity 25: Bury A Friend In The Sand

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This is almost certainly something to try in warmer months, but I’m sure most of us have buried a friend, parent or sibling in the sand, or if we’re less lucky, been buried! Although, when you are the one being buried it’s fun to start emerging from under the sand and chase whoever buried you in the first place.

This is perfect to try on a family trip to the beach along with a game of frisbee, picnic, paddling in the water, building sandcastles and walking along the shore.

Get your children to take it in turns or volunteer yourself if you have an only child or bring along one of their friends. They’ll need to begin by digging a hole for the person being buried to lie in, then fill it in with the sand dug out of the hole and pile it up on top of them once they’re comfortable! Be sure to leave their head out though!

Children’s Activity 26: Grow Vegetables

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Growing vegetables is a great way to teach your children about where food comes from and how to grow it, but also may encourage them to try different vegetables if they aren’t so keen and give them a great sense of achievement when they see the fruits (ha! our first pun) of their labour. It’s also messy digging around in the mud, which I’m sure they’ll love.

Some easy things to grow are carrots, radishes and potatoes. Below is a simple way to grow some carrots and now is the time to start planning your crop!

Here is a simple step by step guide:

1. Find a patch in the garden where you plan to plant them. Prepare the soil in late eWinter or early Spring by digging up and turning over the soil. This will make it nice and loose. Take out any stones or lumps of wood. The soil needs to be nice and crumbly. You can do this with a spade or a small trowel. You and your children may want to wear gardening gloves but always get them to wash their hands afterwards. Get them to look out for worms and try to avoid damaging them!

2. One week before you sow the carrot seeds, rake in some fertiliser. No special kind is needed. This way the soil will be full of nutrients to help the carrots grow.

3. Get a packet of carrot seeds from your local garden centre. You can sometimes find them in the supermarket too. Dig a small hole for each seed that is around 2-3 cm deep. Drop it in and fill in the hole without patting it down too hard. Leave about a 3-4 inch diameter around each seed planted. Sow the seeds on a dry, sunny day in late April or early May when frost and very low temperatures should no longer be a problem. If your soil is particularly clay-like or dense, mix a small amount of sand into the soil you use to fill the holes in. This will help water to drain away.

4. When the seeds have germinated you will notice leaves starting to appear out of the ground. Keep checking that the soil hasn’t completely dried out and water them with a watering can.

5. By late June and through July you should be able to harvest your carrots! Once there are plenty of leaves you can pick one to see how big it’s grown and see if they’re ready. Otherwise, they can be left for longer and harvested later in Summer. Pick carrots in the evening to avoid attracting carrot fly!

6. Cut the leaves off the carrots you have picked, leaving a small green shoot sticking out the top. Wash them thoroughly in the sink but without scrubbing the skin off too much. Pick only as many as you will need for that day. To try them roasted, chop them into batons, place on a baking tray and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle some fresh rosemary, salt and pepper over them and cook in the oven on a moderate heat for 25-30 minutes. Yum! Homegrown carrots!

Children’s Activity 27: Plant A Tree

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Many of us who grew up in the countryside might have had the opportunity to plant a tree as part of a local regeneration project and sometimes undertaken with local council workers. It’s a nice feeling to know you’ve planted something that is now likely to last for years to come and might even outlast us! There’s something nice about the permanence and size of trees that’s reassuring and many children get great pleasure from woodlands and climbing trees.

They’re a great way to mark a special event on a national level like the Queen’s Jubilee or, if you have a large enough garden at home, they can be a great way to mark a special event like a wedding or perhaps the passing of an elderly relative.

We would advise buying a young tree from a garden centre if you’re going to plant one at home and to make sure you don’t buy one that has long roots when it matures as these can disrupt the foundations of the house. Obviously if you have a lot of land and can plant it far enough away from the house, then fine! Think carefully where you would like to place the tree and think about how big it will get and how much room it will need.

Follow these steps when planting:

1. Dig a hole that’s slightly wider and deeper than the roots the tree already has. Dig a square hole instead of a round one so the roots don’t end up spiralling round if they can’t break out of the hole.

2. Check that when you place the tree into the hole it will sit at exactly the same height as it did at the nursery. Fill in a little of the hole if it needs to sit higher. This will avoid the stem rotting if planted too deep or the roots drying up if planted too high.

3. Put the tree into the hole and fill in the hole. Make sure the earth is patted down and that the tree feels secure as the roots need to be immobile. As you fill the hole, every few inches firm the soil down with your heel without making it completed compact like cement as this can prevent water from draining easily.

4. Once it’s planted, water it and put a good pile of mulch around the base. Mulch is 6 month old woodchip.

5. You might like to take a measurement or a photograph of the tree on the day it is planted and re-measure or photograph it each year to watch its progress!

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December 7 2012

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