During the colder months of the year, it is very easy to get into the hibernation habit; you know the one where you get up as late as possible, do the school run, work, cook a hearty meal and then wrap up in bed? Well, the weather may be cold, but Autumn and Winter is a great time to get outdoors and have some fun!
Whether you have children or not, you can enjoy the spirit and ambience created by the colourful falling leaves, the splish-splash of the rain and the sound of nature preparing for the winter; some of which can be enjoyed from the warmth of your home. So how can we make the most of the great outdoors in these months?
Get out in the thick of it all! Whether it is snowing, raining or blowing a gale, go out and go crazy! If you have children I am sure they will love getting their coats and wellies on to go dancing and splashing outside, especially if you join in with this fun. Have towels at the ready and a warm cup of cocoa, but go out and enjoy the weather you normally cringe at.
If it has been snowing then go out with a carrot, some coal and a scarf a build a snowman; you could have a snowball fight (as safely as possible) or even make snow angels. These are all activities that are great fun to do with the kids, but are just as enjoyable no matter your age (I still have snowball fights with my brothers and sisters)! When there is a nice layer of snow it is always nice to take a stroll through the crisp, crunchy snow with your partner, your dog or your children. Nature is always there for entertainment with squirrels gathering nuts and birds swooping for insects, all played out on the beautiful backdrop of your local woodland. I have fond memories of walking our Yorkshire Terrior, Alfie in the snow; he is quite small and quite often disappears in the deep snow and comes out looking like a snow-covered Chewbacca!
Get in touch with nature. There are many ways you and your children can get closer to nature and truly appreciate it; you might even learn a thing or too as well. Having a book on British birds of the garden, like the one by the RSPB, which not only helps you identify the birds in your garden, but also gives you advice on how to attract them to your garden, providing you and your children hours of endless joy watching them through your window. Having fat balls, nuts and seeds either hanging off trees in your garden or on a table or bench will invite a range of birds into your garden. You could create a checklist of birds for the children and a reward for spotting all of those on the list.
Another good idea for the autumn/winter period is to build a little log pile; over time insects and wildlife will ‘move in’ and live there. The children can then go out and see the insects and maybe even hedgehogs living their normal day-to-day lives!
If you are feeling more adventurous or the children are itching to explore the local woodland, why not take them out on a local nature trail? Your local council will have a list of local nature trails or if you prefer go to an area nearby that is rich with native wildlife, old ruins that have wildflowers sprouting from within and somewhere that is fun to lose yourself in (not in a literal sense). Whilst you are out in this magical wonderland, if you are with children, get them to collect leaves and objects they like the look of; this can include conkers, colourful leaves, sticks, pieces of bark and flowers. These can then be used to create leaf collages, Christmas decorations or greeting cards; a nice personalised touch to any Christmas cards the children send out.
Wrap up. One final thing you must remember to do is to wrap not only yourself, but also any plants that have to stay outside during the winter e.g. palms, tree ferns etc. Buying a plant fleece will prevent your plants from freezing and dying over the cold snap; tree ferns need some stuffing on the crown of the plant to prevent frost. By bending the leaves in on itself and then putting straw or scrunched up newspaper into the top should stop the crown getting frosty. This is not just a necessity for the survival of your plants, but it can be a fun activity.
Preparing your garden for the tough cold months is a necessity, so we have summoned some advice from some experts. Thompson and Morgan, have a great list of things to do during each month of the year, but one that you could do quite easily with the children is sorting out the lawn. Get the kids to rake any debris, grass clippings and moss from the lawn and let them get their hands dirty putting it into the bin. Whilst they’re doing that, you can go round with a garden fork aerating and improve drainage for the lawn, piercing deep holes into the grass. The next thing you could do is make leaf mould compost. Gather oak, alder, beech and hornbeam leaves to make this compost in a relatively short period of time; this is a fun task for the children to do when out walking, teaching them different types of trees and leaves as well as how to make compost.
James Dearsley aka the Surrey Beekeeper, has sent us this great advice about gardening and beekeeping during winter. “In winter you are generally clearing up the garden so pruning certain plants, clearing debris from the beds and mulching with good rotten manure. Some people like to leave some plants which have died into the Winter to give the borders structure during the cold winter months. On frosty mornings, old plants that have thick sturdy stems look majestic with a layer of frost on them and really lend well to the winter garden.
The mulching is important as it gets the soil ready for the Spring time. It gives the worms and other insects time to breakdown the mulch even further and get into the soil to improve the structure for the next planting season. It also can provide a layer of protection from weed seedlings that may be in the soil and likely to germinate if we have a warm winter.
As for the bees we are generally feeding them and shutting them down. We try to feed them a thick sugar solution (usually two parts sugar to one part water) to supplement their honey stores should a beekeeper have extracted some honey. It is also just a good idea regardless to give them some additional help to get them through the cold months. They need at least 20kg of honey stores in the hive to see them through.
Other than that and some disease control it is about shutting them down and getting them ready for the cold hard winter.”
On Twitter, Charlotte Weychan (@gardengalloper) a photographer who has a keen eye for gardens said she will have to “Sweep up a lot of leaves and then hope for serious frosts to take good pictures!”
What will you be up to this autumn/winter? Are you a hibernator or a person who loves to enjoy a winter wonderland? Hopefully with these activities you will be enjoy winter a bit more.