...bring the seaside to you!

During this lockdown, I've been itching to get out and walk along a shore, smell the sea, and hear the calls of shorebirds.

While that's not possible, I can at least visit my own little bit of coast, because last year I made a 'Seaside Garden'.

It is only small, about four metres by three. I dug out an area to about a foot depth, filled it with rubble left over from when I dug up and sledgehammered a concrete path, and then topped with some builder's sand left over from renovation work.

Here it is as of spring 2019, not exactly looking very promising. But then gardening is so much about having faith that, with just a little TLC, plants want to grow. You will, however, notice its piece de resistance - a boat that I dug up in the garden. Yes, you heard me right!

What I really wanted to do was then plant it up with the native flowers that you find around our coasts and which can be excellent for wildlife. So over the last couple of years I have been collecting seed during the summer and autumn whenever I went for a coastal walk. I sowed them last spring - some worked, some didn't, but that's always the case and never stops me trying.

So, up came Thrift:

Sea Campion:

and Sea Radish, a great hit with solitary bees and hoverflies:

If you watched my Countryfile piece on Sunday on birdsong (about 40 mins in) which I filmed in my garden, you'll have seen a Wren scurrying around my Sea Radish.

So, my Seaside Garden now looks like this, with Sea Kale just coming out in its great white heads (front right), and Yellow-horned Poppy (front left) just coming into bud.:

Listen hard and you can almost hear the lapping of the waves and the singing of sea shanties!

I share this not so much for the garden but for the principle of collecting seeds from the countryside of your favourite wildlife-friendly flowers to give yourself a garden for free. In terms of the plants you see above, the total cost was zero, zilch, nada.

Maybe there are places you get to visit on your 1-hour exercise each day where you could collect seeds as the summer progresses; maybe as lockdown eases you will get to visit even richer wildflower habitats. Just a little paper envelope of two in your pocket is all you need, and some spring flowers are beginning to set seed already. The seed-collecting season is a long one!

In terms of the law, please remember don't go uprooting anything - that it is illegal without permission from the landowner or occupier. There are also bylaws in place on many of the nation's protected and designated sites prohibiting the taking of plant material, including seed, so always check.

Plus, the Wildflower Society has an excellent Code of Conduct here, which includes the excellent recommendation that "Collecting wild flower seed for private gardening must also be done sparingly and only common species should be gathered". For example, for the Sea Kale I collected five seeds; the Sea Campion came from just three seeds.

You also need to be sure that the seed you are collecting is not of any invasive non-native species.

But follow those simple rules and what a fine way it is to bring some of the countryside to you. It doesn't have to be a seaside garden - it can be seeds from a favourite woodland walk or the verge of a country land. Whichever, they are very likely to enrich your garden - for you and for wildlife - for years to come.