Even when we are enjoying warm sunny days through September as we are now, we all feel that chill in the air first thing in the morning and as evening falls.
Red Admiral butterfly on Pear. Kevin Sawford (rspb-images.com)
In the garden, our thoughts can quickly turn to cutting back and tidying up in preparation for winter but try to hold back a little. There are so many insects still buzzing about in September searching for nectar and if we keep on top of dead-heading, many plants will keep on producing new flowers until the first frost. The garden centres still offer lots of late flowering perennials if your borders could do with an instant boost of colour to keep the insects coming.
The garden can become a blaze of rich autumnal colour with some carefully chosen shrubs and be shimmering with animation from autumnal grasses through the mellow sunlight of September. Shrubs can offer habitats to a wide variety of insects and birds, berries and grasses create excellent ground cover for lots of garden wildlife including amphibians and mammals.
The Beth Chatto gardens have a list of their top ten plants for Autumn Interest to keep things looking bright and lively through the season.
When plants have finished flowering, try to leave seed heads on plants where possible as food for birds and to keep some upright structure in the garden. Allow plants to die back naturally rather than chopping it all away to provide cover for garden wildlife still foraging about for food. Alternatively as I do, cut back the scruffy, brown decaying plants that are making the front of the borders look unsightly and pile up the debris at the back of the border where it can decompose naturally or remain as cover until it can be composted in the winter.
Windfall fruits can be left on the ground to feed garden birds, insects and small mammals but if you want to tidy them up, fruit chopped up and mixed with oats and seeds makes a welcome treat on the bird table. Any surplus or damaged fruit will also add valuable nutrients to the compost heap.
When thinking about netting fruits and veg for protection or over ponds, consider using a jute netting or sacking material rather than plastic which is kinder to both plants and wildlife. There are lot of options online. Ensure that netting is fitted tightly to the ground so that wildlife can't climb under it and get trapped inside and choose one with small holes that your finger can't poke through to minimise the rest to birds getting caught up.
September’s also a good month to think about building or buying a hedgehog home and siting it in a suitable position. Hedgehogs will be particularly active through September stocking up their fat reserves for winter and looking for a suitable place to hibernate so if the home is in place for a month or two, it gives them time to discover and inspect it!
Autumn can be one of the busiest times in garden through this seasonal change so allow yourself a little slack and embrace the "wildlife friendly" method by letting the garden do it's thing naturally for a while!
The Flatford Wildlife Garden currently remains closed but re-opening details will be posted in advance on this blog and the main Flatford webpage. The Flatford team continue to encourage wildlife through their own gardening projects and very much look forward to sharing wildlife gardening experiences with you when we re-open.
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