• Pitfalls of the Pop-up Meadow: How to avoid and overcome them

    It has been really encouraging to see how many people have heeded the call to let parts of their lawns grow long for nature, at least for a few weeks each year.

    In the last couple of years, many have been doing it for Plantlife’s No Mow May, while some of you may be going the whole hog and treating your lawn as a mini haymeadow, adding seed such as Yellow Rattle, and mowing in March and then not doing so again until late…

    • 1 Jul 2022
  • 'Just grass'? It's so much more!

    To her enduring credit, my mum has again this year allowed her back lawn to become a pop-up meadow. Even her gardener, George, who used to be a greenkeeper at a golf club, accepted the idea with relatively good grace.

    With her meadows, mum has gone for the ‘picture framing’ technique in which the ‘meadows’ are in two square blocks in the middle of the lawn and George mows strips around the all margins plus a route through…

    • 24 Jun 2022
  • Oasis in the veggies: part II

    Last week I told the story of how on a morning this January, my friend Jenny (with just a little help from me) dug a pond on her allotment.

    We went from this...

    ...to this, in 4 hours.

    And I promised this week I'd share the reveal, four months on.

    Well, here it is, and I think it has really settled wonderfully into its position snuggled next to the little dead hedge of prunings that helps keep it sheltered and part…

    • 17 Jun 2022
  • Oasis among the veggies

    I’d long promised to help my friend Jenny put in a little pond at her allotment.

    I had been delighted that she felt this was the right thing to do there – yes, an allotment is a place to grow your veggies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate wildlife-friendly features.

    Indeed, any food production doesn’t need to occur in a sterile desert, and there is every chance that encouraging wildlife…

    • 10 Jun 2022
  • Permission to steal: nicking some garden ideas

    Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Barnsdale Gardens in Rutland, once the home of BBC Gardeners World tv programme when the late Geoff Hamilton was at the presenting helm.

    It is fantastic if you want to see gardens on a typical residential scale, rather than those public gardens which are all about scale and drama but don't really relate to your garden. There are a total of (I think) 36 little gardens laid out…

    • 3 Jun 2022
  • Sowing the seeds of love: Part II

    A month ago, I sowed some of the RSPB's new garden seedmixes, designed both with wildlife in mind and to look good. This blog showed how it was done.

    Hopefully, many of you will have done likewise, so it's time to share how the mixes are likely to be doing.

    I sowed two of the mixes, both of annual flowers. First up, Best for Bees.

    Here's what mine looks like four weeks after sowing.

    This is a mix that will…

    • 20 May 2022
  • Algae attack? Try a quick pond twiddle

    A pond is one of the very best things you could ever do for wildlife in your garden, not only because they fulfil the needs of so many different creatures, but because they put back something that has been lost given that hundreds of thousands have been destroyed in the wider landscape.
    But a pond does take time to mature. In effect, a new pond is really just a hole in the ground full of water to start with. It is an…
    • 15 May 2022
  • All Change in Mothland

    Back in March, I blogged about the contents of my moth trap that month (and extolled the virtues of these wonderful little creatures that are so prevalent in gardens yet so little observed, and are such an important part of foodchains, too). 

    Well, two months on, what has changed?

    I put my moth trap out last weekend, and not a single species that was present in March was still present. The cast of characters in this after…

    • 13 May 2022
  • Devilishly wonderful for the butterflies

    Sometimes I talk about how filling your garden with plants is the best thing you can do to improve it for wildlife.

    But if you can choose those plants with care, you really boost things to another level.

    And one plant I wouldn't do without in my garden is this:

    It is Garlic Mustard, a native member of the cabbage family, found across almost all of the UK on hedgebanks and in open woodland.

    It is this habitat preference…

    • 6 May 2022
  • Look out for nature's Master Recyclers

    If you want some recycling inspiration at this time of year, look no further than out of your window. Birds are at it all over the place.

    In gardens everywhere, twigs and sticks, dry grass and feathers, leaves and rootlets are being turned into Grand Designs for free.

    This was one of my female Blackbirds this morning with her latest bundle to be turned into shag-pile carpet for her nursery.

    While right in front of my…

    • 29 Apr 2022
  • Jewels in the Grass

    I sometimes leave my garden. Not often, mind, but there's something wonderful about wandering through a wood or bimbling along a beach.

    And there is so much that 'wild' habitats can teach you about your own little bit of habitat back home.

    So, last Sunday, I decided a yomp was in order. Or at least, it was part yomp, part jewel hunt, because on a downland nature reserve near me there are some very special…

    • 22 Apr 2022
  • More ways to grow your garden wildlife

    Here at the RSPB, we’ve always been big on growing. Since acquiring our first nature reserve in the 1930s, we’ve been growing reedbeds for Bitterns, Caledonian woodlands for Capercaillie, wet grassland for breeding wading birds, chalk grassland for rare butterflies and more.

    In recent years, it has been increasingly acknowledged that gardens are also a valuable wildlife habitat, and everyone with an outside…

    • 15 Apr 2022
  • Sowing the seeds of love

    I'm showing my age with an overused blog title nicked from Tears For Fears, but whenever I sow seeds it does feel an action imbued with love, so I'm sticking with it.

    And right now is the perfect time to sow seeds - not only is it spring and the soil is warming, but it is also the current focus of our flagship Nature on your Doorstep project, seeking to inspire as many people as possible to grow something this…

    • 8 Apr 2022
  • A taste of spring

    Spring?! What am I talking about, as a high pressure system stalls out to the west of the UK and northerly winds bring overnight frosts and snow showers? It hardly feels spring-like at all in the air.

    But the garden knows where the season is heading. So I thought today - as we flip over into April - I'd just get the camera out and indulge in the visual feast as the spring flowers take their cues from the increasing daylength…

    • 1 Apr 2022
  • Mega nestboxes and their unusual occupants

    A few weeks ago in the wake of Storm Eunice, I needed to call in the tree surgeons to do some patch-up work.

    However, when I have a team of athletic men and their ropes in the garden, I also never miss the opportunity to get them shinning up into the branches to put up some more birdboxes and check out those that they installed previously.

    In particular, I wanted two new boxes for my Stock Doves. This pretty woodland…

    • 25 Mar 2022
  • So cute it doesn't matter about the name

    I was just about to go to bed one night last week when, in the darkness, I saw something apparently fall from the ceiling in the conservatory. Odd, I thought, but then put it from my mind.

    However, roll on a few days and I stepped into the conservatory and saw something small, dark, furry and very fast disappear along the skirting board. Ah, a mouse!

    And then yesterday it presented itself to me on a plate, hunkered down…

    • 18 Mar 2022
  • Enjoying the Understated

    The March sunshine in my garden today stirred three butterflies into action: a male Brimstone, a Small White and a Comma. You get no photo of any of them, for they were all so energised by the early spring warmth and so intent on using that energy to search for a mate that none of them paused for posterity.

    However, while these day-flying show-offs steal the limelight, a suite of their dingier cousins - the moths - are…

    • 11 Mar 2022
  • Tuning up near you: The best concert ever

    The sun came out today after a most unpromising start, which itself came after a run of very grey and drizzly days that - if I lived about 500 miles north of here - would most definitely have deserved the word 'dreich'.

    That lifting of the gloom was enough to turn the garden into an instant jam of birdsong. It wasn't wall-to-wall, not yet, but the crescendo is underway.

    The Robins were doing their watery short…

    • 4 Mar 2022
  • Can you identify this little Ragamuffin?

    I know how you like a mystery photo, so what was this clinging to the first-floor window in front of my desk this week?

    If I tell you it was most definitely alive, scrabbling away as it clung there, does that help? Or the fact that it then flew away?

    Ok, photo number two:

    Have you worked it out yet?

    Here it was a litle while later, perched in the magnolia tree outside the window.

    Yes, a Long-tailed Tit. Aren't they…

    • 25 Feb 2022
  • Boxing clever

    I hope you all had a very happy St Valentine's Day and felt the love in abundance.

    And it means that it is also time to spread that affection to garden birds because this is also National Nestbox Week

    I had a really interesting discussion with a friend recently about how many boxes you should put up in a garden. The answer is there isn't an absolute answer, but it is definitely more than one!

    The first reason…

    • 18 Feb 2022
  • Pond wrigglers ahoy!

    Here is yet another wildlife subject I know I've never dealt with before in over 500 blogs, yet there are squillions of the things in my garden at the moment.

    Here they are. They are in a new pond that I dug and filled with water in November, and are hanging out on the underside of the water surface.

    They are mosquito larvae! Hmm, probably not what you think of first when planning to attract wildlife to your garden…

    • 11 Feb 2022
  • Bloomin' flowers!

    Did you see the news story this week that British flowers are blooming almost a month earlier than they used to?

    Using 420,000 observations of 406 flower species gathered as part of the Nature's Calendar project run by The Woodland Trust, scientists at the University of Cambridge were able to bash the stats and come up with that figure.

    They compared first flowering dates (FFD) from 1950 to 1986 with those from 1986…

    • 4 Feb 2022
  • Limber up for Big Garden Birdwatch!

    Here it comes, that annual gargantuan fixture on the calendar when we all can help chart the rise (hopefully) and fall (hopefully not) of garden birds across the country. It's Big Garden Birdwatch time!

    You'll know this, but for one hour this Saturday, Sunday and Monday, we ask the nation to choose a comfy vantage point overlooking their garden, balcony, yard, or failing that a local park, and record the maximum count…

    • 28 Jan 2022
  • Logging into the garden

    Given that it is winter, it is no surprise to find me digging in the garden.

    You'd be forgiven for thinking that digging is quite an artificial activity, out of tune with natural processes. However, if you've ever seen how Wild Boar turn over large areas of soil with the efficiency of a rotavator, you'll know that it is inherently natural.

    In fact, digging is one of the many reasons that I think make gardens…

    • 21 Jan 2022
  • Snap happy!

    Back when I was a kid, if you wanted to take a photo, you had to buy a physical roll of film, pop it in your chunky camera, get through the full roll of 24 or 36 negatives or slides, and then pay to send it off and wait ages for the results to drop through your letter box. One precious film could sit in a camera for months, hanging on for the right moment to take those precious memories.

    These days? Well, what a change…

    • 14 Jan 2022