Sprinkling a little magic dust

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I’ve thought about building a fairy garden for my daughter (and me, if I’m being entirely honest!) for a few years now.

But I’ve been put off by the elaborate, fancy, expensive ones that adorn Pinterest, Instagram and the like.

 

However, I soon realised it doesn’t have to cost the earth or involve lots of new stuff. The most expensive addition to our fairy garden was three alpine plants, compost and some pea gravel.

It’s amazing how many fairy-garden-ready items you can find kicking around your shed/house/garden, neglected for ages and needing a new purpose in life. Charity/thrift shops are also treasure troves for little bits and pieces.

For the container, I recycled an old Belfast sink which had seen better days and added a log that didn’t quite fit in our fireplace last winter.

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Tiny sawn pieces of branches made an ideal table and chairs and I used old glass beads for the pond/paths.

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Even fairies have to do washing occasionally so I took two twigs and a piece of twine and cut up some odd scraps of material with pinking shears for the washing. It’s held on with mini pegs, the kind you get in most craft shops.

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I did concede to a small person’s requests for a few new items, namely this cute ceramic cat, which fits perfectly into his shell bed we dug up. The fairy door was also bought for this project.

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Knots and holes in the log were chiselled out to insert windows.

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Not sure the whale is a native to the garden pond, but he moved in all the same.

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This is the garden’s first Spring as it was built last autumn. Other than having to replace the washing line and take out a few random weeds, it hasn’t needed any maintenance. Unlike a made-to-measure shop bought one, this approach takes a little while longer to ‘bed in’, but I think it’s all the better for it.

You can make the basic garden in a few hours and just add to it as and when you like. Just make sure if you’re using a heavy container like an old sink that it’s in situ before you start! The mix was about a third grit to two-thirds compost as I didn’t want it too rich for the alpines.

It’s also important to make sure you have adequate drainage so the plants don’t rot. As well as a gritty mix of soil, I added small stones along the bottom of the sink and made sure the plug hole was clear.

When choosing plants, alpines are ideal as they don’t take much looking after and are fairly small and compact so work to scale in a garden this size.

The whole garden, including compost, grit, plants and the fairy door and cat, came to just over £10. All the other items were recycled.

It really is very simple and cheap to make and will reward you with hours of play: the only limit is your imagination! Hope you’ve been inspired to sprinkle a little magic fairy dust in your garden soon.

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Mud, glorious mud

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Those of a nervous disposition, look away now: I’m about to admit that my three-year-old is pretty grubby a lot of the time.

Granted, it has a lot to do with having a mum who is a part-time community gardener, but more than that, she, like most children given half a chance, loves getting her hands dirty.

Many parents obsess about sanitising everything and trying to control exposure to germs, but by being super-clean and worrying about children playing outside, we’re actually in danger of making them ill.

Studies have shown that children who grow up on farms have far fewer allergies than those living in an urban environment, and farmer’s children are exposed to plenty of germs!

I’m no scientist but what I do know is that there’s an awful lot of good microbes in a handful of dirt and that early exposure as a child to a healthy microbiome – the community of bacteria living in your body – is key to building a strong immune system in later life.

So if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably with me on the whole dirt thing, so you might want a few ideas of how to get more dirt into your little one’s system!

The good news is, that you won’t have to do much as most children don’t take that much encouraging to get dirty (it’s us adults that make them feel they shouldn’t!) However, you can provide a few props to help with creative play, alongside letting them sow seeds, prick out plants etc.

We’ve just built a gorgeous mud kitchen (pictured) out of old pallets and recycled wood for The Hop Garden which has already provided hours of entertainment to our younger visitors, but you don’t have to be that handy with a hammer to incorporate truly messy play into your garden.
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“Cocktails anyone?!”

Simply provide access to a spot of dirt you don’t mind being dug up (best avoid any prized flower beds), an old baby bath or washing up bowl, a container of water, spoons, cups etc. and leave them to it.

In no time at all they’ll be whipping up some culinary delight that you simply ‘must try’ made with a generous dollop of mud and some leaves and flowers and getting all those healthy bacteria into their system in the process.

I was reliably informed that the concoction my daughter had created for me to drink was in fact ‘chocolate beer’ – I need to watch out or she’ll be having all my hops to brew next!