It’s National Gardening Week and since we’re all spending a lot more time in our gardens than we usually do, we’re digging out some tips from the Nature’s Home archive to make your gardens as wildlife friendly as possible...
The RSPB’s Adrian Thomas writes the garden feature each issue and he knows a thing or two about gardens (have a look at his own blog), but he also gathers fantastic tips from the owners of the gardens he visits and our members who write in. Here are some secrets to success from over the years that will go along way to giving your gardens some extra buzz this summer and beyond.
Plant your flowers in blocks: Bees prefer nectar and pollen-rich flowers that are growing en masse as, once they’ve found them, they can stick to them and come back again and again. So in small gardens, try restricting yourself to just a few choice plant types and grow lots of them!
Take cuttings: it's easy to make lots of new plants for free from many of your herbaceous perennials, by taking cuttings. Using a sharp knife or secateurs, cut off about 10cm (4 inches) of fresh leafy growth just below a leaf node, remove all but the top couple of leaves, and plunge in gritty compost. Water well and cover with a clear propagator lid or clear plastic bag so it doesn’t wilt. It should soon root and create a healthy young plant.
Reduce chemicals: to keep slugs and snails at bay, use mineralised wheat straw. It comes in large bags, and you lay it as a mulch around your plants, being careful it doesn't touch the leaves. Of all the organic methods recommended for countering those pesky molluscs, from coffee grinds to broken eggshells, this straw mulch may be their nemesis. It means at last you can grow things like hostas and delphiniums while minimising the use of chemicals throughout the garden.
Unlikely homes: here’s something you might not have thought of from gardener, Sue Makin - she tucks all the family’s old walking boots out of sight into the hedges, and every one becomes a cosy nest for something!
Babies and bathwater: always be aware that what looks messy to you might sometimes have great value for wildlife – tangles of brambles and nettles all have some worth. So go in with eyes open, check what is there first, and aim for “net gain” for wildlife.
Leave it be if you can: let part of your garden stay undisturbed during the nesting season, such as a quiet corner where shrubs and ground-cover plants grow densely. It will be a sanctuary for wildlife such as slow-worms, hedgehogs and nesting birds.
Keep birdbaths clean: fresh water will be increasingly important for birds as summer progresses, so swish out birdbaths and reﬁll on a regular basis. Tap water is ﬁne.
Apply your mind: whenever you're in the garden, try to get into the habit of thinking, “If I did this thing or that thing, what wildlife would it attract?” It is a great way to ensure your garden is the best it can be.
Hedgehog highways: reader, Cheryl Miller moved onto a new-build estate in 2014 and was disappointed in the way her garden seemed to be shutting wildlife out. So she decided to make a hedgehog highway through the bottom of a fence. She was amazed that the very next night, a hedgehog appeared on the lawn!
Imagine the difference for the nation’s hedgehogs and wildlife if we all did a few of these things in our gardens? For more info on nature-friendly gardening, visit 'Gardening for wildlife' on the RSPB website, and don't forget to check out Nature's Home Editor, Mark Ward's blog series - 'Building a wildlife garden from scratch'.
Images: urban wildlife garden and bee Andy Hay_RSPB Images/ Bird bath, Ray Kennedy_RSPB Images
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