In this video we answer our most common questions that we get asked at this time of year, like a jazzier FAQ. This episode Jamie Wyver is joined by Adrian Thomas, the RSPB’s inhouse gardening expert to discuss what you can do to give nature a home, at home! 

Jamie and Adrian talk you through some top gardening tips from what to plant in June to getting the most from your compost. June and July is the perfect time of year to get out in the garden, patio, balcony or even windowsill. Our latest Nature on Your Doorstep campaign launched in Spring has a huge range of information, videos, blogs and activities to get busy, get outside and get helping nature – win win! You can watch the full video at the end of this blog, but here are a couple highlights to get you started. 

Female blackbird sat on her nest in the shelter of ivy – Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
Female blackbird sat on her nest in the shelter of ivy – Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com) 

 

Not all birds use nest boxes. Some, like blue tits, great tits and house sparrows, love them, but what about wrens, blackbirds or goldfinches? Is there something we can do to provide a wider range of nesting opportunities? 

Great question, and a really important one. There are lots of ways we can provide a variety of places for many species to use. Depending on the species, they have a particular place that they look for when setting up camp for the breeding season. For example, goldfinches look for the outer most branches of trees where predators can’t reach them, whereas chaffinches are happier in the fork of a tree in the centre (but still preferring a tree, not a shrub or bush). Greenfinches mix things up throughout the season, choosing an evergreen for the first brood and then moving to a deciduous tree, like an oak, for their second brood. So, what can we do without having to create specific areas for hundreds of species? Well, once you’ve set up some nest boxes, you can create a mosaic of habitats without taking up too much space, the key is going upwards. If you’ve got thick dense bushes near ground level and trees reaching the higher nesting species, that should cover all bases.  

Another great option if you have a smaller garden, or perhaps a walled garden, are climbers! Plants like ivy or wisteria are amazing for providing a safe and sheltered spot for our beloved garden birds, without compromising on garden space. 

 

Homemade bee hotel – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Homemade bee hotel – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com) 

 

Many of us have loved putting up and sometimes even building bee hotels and bug hotels, but how do we know they’re in the right place and are they being used? 

There is a golden rule with this one. It’s important to remember that bug hotels and bee hotels are two very different things. Bug hotels are best in a damp shady corner where woodlice, beetles and centipedes can use them. But bee hotels need to be in a prime sunny spot, somewhere south facing is perfect. The heat from the sun allows the young solitary bees growing in the tunnels to develop and transform into adult bees. The second golden rule is bee hotels need to be stationary, we sometimes see them hanging from trees or structures swivelling in the wind. This is going to be really tricky for a queen bee to navigate and try and land on one of the holes, imagine trying to get in your front door if it’s on a cup and saucer ride! 

In terms of them being used, it can take time but if the location is good then you will start to see activity. Leafcutter bees are a great one to look out for and their activity is really noticeable. They’ll fill the holes with rolled up leaves for their young and once full they make a little leaf plug on the outside. One day you’ll look at your bee hotel and suddenly notice leaf plugged holes, job done!