April is always a positive month. Temperatures begin to rise and we have more sunny days when it is finally warm enough to sit out in the garden without shivering. Looking out of my kitchen window today, I can see four different types of blossom. The flowers make a beautifully clashing show that only lasts a few weeks at most, but I love it. It lifts my spirits every year and gets me excited about the coming year. 

April is a busy time in the garden, suddenly the rush to plant seeds begins in earnest. This month I’m planning on planting peas, chard, pak choi, carrots, broad beans, climbing beans, sweetcorn and lettuce. I’m going to focus on recycling and experiment with planting in unusual containers such as toilet rolls (See gardening activities for details)

I hope that you will enjoy my suggested activities for April. We will be spotting blossom on our daily walk, foraging for wild garlic, finding and reading about stickman, and planting seeds in unusual containers. We will also be starting to learn a little about permaculture and thinking about the principle ‘observe and interact’

I hope you have lots of fun and do try some of the ideas. I’d love to see and hear what you get up to. Do let me know on FB or Insta.

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Go on a nature walk – Blossom

Do you have a local park, botanical garden or country lane that you can take a walk to? While we are dealing with the Corona virus shut down, a walk everyday is vital in keeping us all healthy, calm and sane!

As I write this, we are all being encouraged to take one type of exercise each day and I hope we will continue to be able to do this. Stay safe while you are outside, observe the safe distance rules and enjoy the healing powers of nature and the positivity that spring brings.

On your walks this month, I suggest you look at the trees that are beginning to blossom. Once you start spotting blossom, you will see it everywhere, from the showy to the subtle. All blossoms are beautiful and such a welcome flash of colour as we begin to transition from the grey days of winter into the sunny days of spring.

Extension activities

  1. Can you identify the tree from the blossom?
  2. Blossom is beautiful to draw, can you make a drawing or painting of the blossom you see on your walk?
  3. If you are lucky enough to have a tree, bush or hedge in your garden that blossoms, try cutting a few branches and bringing it inside. Cut some while the buds are still tightly shut and put it in a vase with water in a warm place. You will soon be rewarded with beautiful blossoms opening days before it opens in your garden. This is a great way to closely observe the flowers and feel the spring energy rising!
Blackthorn blossom, one of the first types of blossom that opens and one of my favourites

Try a forest school activity – Foraging for wild garlic

One activity that is always popular at my forest school groups is foraging. There is something really exciting about finding food from the wild and making it into tasty dishes. This month I’ll be heading out with my children and foraging for wild garlic.

Harvesting wild garlic

Make sure you are foraging safely and ethically. Ensure you are 100% sure you have identified your plant correctly. Check it against a book or good online source or ideally join a foraging walk with an expert. Do not forage from path edges, along roadsides or from edges of farmers fields. These plants could be contaminated with chemicals, traffic pollution or dog wee. Aim to forage only from safe, isolated places and always pick from the middle of a patch to be on the safe side.

Only take your fair share, consider other people and animals too. Only take what you know you will use. wild plants quickly die and lose nutrients once picked, so plan to pick and use on the same day.

Be mindful that wild garlic has a lookalike plant that often grows alongside it. Lords and ladies or arum maculatum is another common plant that you can easily mistake for wild garlic. This is a poisonous plant that causes a burning sensation in the mouth. Always check carefully all foraged leaves and reject any you are unsure about.

At the time of writing, there is no specific foraging guidance regarding safety considerations during covid 19. But do your own research before eating anything you’ve picked from the wild and make sure you are following up to date guidance.

Wild garlic. Note the long thin pointed leaves and always check for the distinctive smell

One of my favourite spring time foraging treats is wild garlic. Wild garlic is can be found in damp shady spots. Along watercources and in ancient woodland it can often be found in abundance. I’ve seen it growing for literally miles along streams. It spreads like wildfire and can become a weed if not welcomed. But I think wild garlic is amazing and I’m so lucky to know a few spots where it grows wild. I’ve also introduced some to my allotment and my garden and it is doing really well there.

Wild garlic has a distinctive strong garlic smell and long green pointed leaves. Later in the month it will grown small white star like flowers. Try to pick it before it flowers and use the green leaves raw or lightly cooked or use a few flowers sprinkled over salad for a beautiful and tasty garnish.

If you can’t find any in the wild, your local greengrocer or veg box schemes will often sell you some. Riverford currently have it in their weekly veg boxes. But it is far more satisfying to go hunting for your own!

Extension activities

  1. Once you have foraged, check and washed your wild garlic leaves, try adding it to your dinner!
  2. Soup. Chopped wild garlic leaves added to any soup at the end of cooking adds a beautiful garlic flavour.
  3. Wild garlic added to bread dough is just lovely. Chop finely and add before final rise and baking.
  4. Try wild garlic pesto. Add alongside or in the place of basil for an amazing pesto. This also freezes really well, so make a batch this month and stash in your freezer for a taste of spring later in the year.

Get creative -Find or make Stickman

On one of my recent walks, I spotted this little dude. I think it may well be the real stickman! Check out his lovely lichen t-shirt and shorts combo!

If you are really lucky and look very hard, you may well find a Stickman of your very own too. Lots of sticks grow in this branching pattern, with pairs of sticks coming off a central branch. Another option can be to tie on arms or legs if can’t find one with all four limbs!

I think I found the real stickman!

Extension activities

1. Maybe you could try making stickman some clothes out of moss, grasses, leaves or flowers. I’d love to see your amazing creations.

2. Where does your stickman live? can you make hime a tiny home in your garden or in a plant pot or maybe he’d like a home under your bed?

3. How could you give your stickman a face? Can you add googly eyes or features cut out of a magazine or drawn on? Tipex, paint or sharpie markers could work well.

4. Would your stickman like to go on an adventure with you? Can you photography you and stickman up a tree, in a den, at the park or watching TV together?

Ideas for books to read

Following on from the Stickman activity, it seems perfect to read Stickman by Julia Donaldson. I assume most households have a copy of that book too as its a modern classic.

I usually read Stickman to my forest school children during the winter months as it ends with christmas! But you can also read this in the spring, just concentrate your linked activities on the relevant season. You can maybe try making a house for stickman, or even try making a bow and arrow! I’ll cover how to do this another month.

Gardening activity – Planting peas

Kids tend to love peas. Even my veggie adverse son likes peas. So every spring I like to grow my own. There is nothing like the taste of a fresh pea straight from the plant into your mouth! I also love love love pea shoots. Added raw to a salad they are so pretty and tasty.

So this month I’ll be planting lots of batches of peas. Peas that you are growing for pea shoots can be packed in tightly together into trays. They don’t need much space as you will be harvesting them before they get too big.

I tend to plant peas that I want to grow into pea plants for pea pods or mange-tout in toilet roll tubes. This is for a few reasons. Firstly its great to use something that would otherwise be thrown away. Secondly, peas like a long root run, so by planting in loo rolls, the peas get the root depth they need while requiring only a little compost.

Once the pea plants are big enough, you can plant them directly into the garden still in their loo roll tubes and the cardboard will biodegrade into the soil. Peas grow well in double lines or a block, if you add some twiggy sticks from your garden prunings, then the peas will have plenty of support to twine around.

Planting peas for plants and shoots. I’ll sow a few every few weeks during April.

A Permaculture principle to reflect on for April. Observe and interact.

I am going to introduce you to one permaculture principle per month and give some examples of how you could apply it in your life. If you have been reading my recent Facebook posts, you will be aware of what permaculture is and why it’s been important in my life.

This months principle is ‘Observe and interact’

Permaculture teaches us to observe our garden for one whole year before making any changes. By spending a year in the observation phase, we get to see all the amazing cycles, spot the possibilities and notice the problems before we jump straight into action.

So the big lesson in this principle is to teach us to slow down your decision making process. Take time to watch and learn from nature and make changes in your life where they will be most effective.

This month I will be observing and interacting by,

1. Observing my garden, just spending some passive, quiet and nurturing time outdoors. I’ll be looking closely at the spring changes happening, the birds that visit our garden and how my children are using the space. I’ll interact by making some new play spaces for the kids to use and some comfy spaces for me to escape to.

2. Observing what we are eating. We are a family of 5 and having everyone at home full time, we are getting through so much food! So I will interact by attempting some batch cooking and meal planning. This feels especially relevant at the minute, as we can’t visit the shops.

3. Observing my house and looking where I’d like to interact. When I can find some energy for this I’ll be creating an action plan with tasks that need to be done to make the space work better for us while we are in lock-down.

4. Observing other people’s gardens from books, magazine or the Internet. I hope this will inspire me to get ready to begin spring planting in my own garden and help lift my spirits and get through difficult days stuck at home.

Spending some time just observing the earth under your feet.

Have a wonderful April everyone. Don’t forget to keep in touch and let me know what you have been up to with your wild learning and creative play.

Much love Emily xx