• Your quick and easy guide to planting a garden hedge

    There are certain things you can do in the garden that transform a space from 'ok for wildlife' to 'fantastic', and one of those is the amazing 'cropped tree corridor', or CTC.

    "So what does this miracle CTC look like?" I hear you cry.

    Well, here's one example:

    It does have a rather mundane alternative name that you might have heard of, for this is the common or garden 'hedge'.…

    • 18 Jan 2019
  • In the Garden Olympics, bring on the long jumpers

    There are some groups of wildlife species that are relatively common in the wider countryside but are quite a rarity in gardens.

    Of these, one group in particular stands out for their absence. Yes, despite our gardens containing so much grass, we have hardly any grasshoppers.

    It is a shame, because they are rather cute, quite harmless creatures, endlessly fascinating for children, and an important part of the foodchain…

    • 11 Jan 2019
  • In the wildlife-friendly garden: Turning silver into gold

    Right now is prime time for planting bare-rooted trees in the garden, which I witter on about endlessly because it is so cheap, quick and easy. No garden know-how required - just a spade and the right space.

    As someone said to me recently, don't imagine that you are planting it for your grandchildren. Young trees grow so much quicker than people tend to realise, so you are growing them for YOU.

    The joy they then bring…

    • 3 Jan 2019
  • Starting the year in technicolour in the garden

    Here we go, another year begins, and I hope you feel all fired up and raring to go in the garden.

    For me, this is year 5 as I try to transform my garden for wildlife. I spent 15 years in my previous garden, but these last five years in my 'new' garden have whizzed by.

    Last year was amazing, with Common Blue, Brown Argus and Wall butterflies all colonising, dragonfly numbers doubling again (my totals are now 20…

    • 1 Jan 2019
  • Get wildlife rich at the Bee Bank

    Much attention is given to the Bee Hotels you can attach to your garden wall or fence that are typically wooden boxes filled with hollow tubes and plant stems. And very good they are, too, with a very high chance of success if the holes are the right size (about 2–10mm diameter) and the box is put in a sunny sheltered location at about chest height.

    What isn't so widely known is that they only provide nesting chambers…

    • 21 Dec 2018
  • Getting ready for Big Garden Birdwatch: breaking the spell of procrastination

    There's no point dishing out advice if you're not going to follow it yourself. So, given that almost a month ago I said that the time to start preparing for Big Garden Birdwatch is 'now', I duly got myself out there, cleaned the feeders, and fished out a peanut feeder that had been languishing in the garage and filled it with fatty nibbles which are the Great Spotted Woodpeckers' favourite in my garden…

    • 12 Dec 2018
  • Listening for worms

    This autumn, I was delighted to have some close encounters with Song Thrushes. I was on the Isles of Scilly, where much of the birdlife is much tamer than on the mainland, and where Song Thrushes remain wonderfully common, again in contrast to much of the rest of the country.

    Indeed, in last year's Big Garden Birdwatch on the islands, the Song Thrush came in at Number 12, with an average of 0.7 per garden, five times…

    • 7 Dec 2018
  • Tales from the garden: Star performers

    Imagine you had never seen one of these in your life before. Isn't it just the most beautiful thing?

    Look at the iridescence, the greens and purples. And those white feather tips, like perfect little spear heads.

    It is of course the Starling, meaning the 'little thing covered in stars'.

    What you have also no doubt noticed is the strangely flared throat feathers, which is a tell-tale sign that this bird is…

    • 30 Nov 2018
  • Tales from the wildlife-friendly garden: A tallish, dark stranger drops in

    I love it when the unexpected happens in the garden. And here was the surprise visitor to my pond this Wednesday.

    Yes, it's one of my photos where you have to hunt for what got me excited, hiding amongst the leaved of Branched Bur-reed plants as they die back for the winter.

    Here's another photo as it revealed itself, picking gently around the pond margin:

    An all dark waterbird with a red and yellow beak and…

    • 23 Nov 2018
  • Why 'now' is the best time to start preparing for the Big Garden Birdwatch

    When I moved into my house (and garden) in December 2014, it had been empty for almost a year and no bird feeding had taken place in that time, and probably for much longer than that.

    I immediately put out seed and peanut feeders and started recording the daily comings and goings, and it became an excellent chance to find out how long it would take birds to find the new food supply.

    Well, it took just under a week for…

    • 19 Nov 2018
  • Birds and windows

    One of the sounds I dread when in the house or garden is the thud as a bird strikes a window. Even if they bounce off, the lasting damage of being stunned cannot be good for their chances of survival, and every year, I expect to find maybe two or three birds killed outright by the impact. Who knows how many more struggled off under a bush to die or are picked up by a Fox before I notice it.

    There are about  25 million…

    • 9 Nov 2018
  • A home for the winter

    I'm delighted to hand over this week's blog to the RSPB's Media Officer for South and West Scotland, Jenny Tweedie, with an autumn tale (and photos) from her own garden.

    I recently came across an old aerial photo of my garden that really surprised me. The sun was shining, and there was no sign of any snow on the ground, but I knew it was winter because my garden, and all the gardens round about, looked incredibly…

    • 26 Oct 2018
  • Getting the wildlife-friendly garden ready for winter

    The good thing for all of us who love the wildlife in our gardens is that our interest in the world outside the window doesn't fade with the flowers. Instead, we can look forward to winter in the garden, for it will be enlivened by all the birds that will visit.

    So what can you do to prepare the garden for a wildlife-filled winter? Here are my five top tips:

    1) Leave flower stems standing. It is so rewarding to…

    • 19 Oct 2018
  • Something a little seedy in paradise

    Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting the Isles of Scilly, 30 miles off the tip of mainland UK and yet a world away. An archipelago of white sandy beaches, rare birds and wild winds, and where shorts are order of the day in October. Paradise.

    In terms of gardening, the islands are astonishing in terms of the range of subtropical plants that can be grown, thanks to how rare frosts and snow are on the islands…

    • 12 Oct 2018
  • Making a Pop-up Meadow

    This spring, I allowed a square area of lawn in my back garden to grow...and grow...and grow.

    It is what the wonderful wildlife gardening writer Jenny Steel calls a 'pop-up meadow'. You just let the lawn do its thing for a few weeks or even for much of the summer.

    It became a froth of grass seedheads, and the result was rather delightful visually. This all from just a bog standard area of turf that I laid two…

    • 5 Oct 2018
  • Strictly come dragonflying

    It is great to see wildlife in the garden, but to see them actually doing things is even better, and dragonflies over a garden pond allow you to observe all sorts of fascinating behaviour at close range.

    Of late, it is the Common Darters that have been providing much of the entertainment over my pond as they dance in pairs, and so I set myself the challenge of recording some of their moves.

    Up to six or seven males…

    • 28 Sep 2018
  • Grow a fruity harvest for winter thrushes

    I'm often asked if I have a favourite bird, to which I normally say "The last one I saw". While that is often true, I do admit to having a lingering soft spot for Redwings and Fieldfares.

    For someone like me, born and brought up in the countryside of the English Midland shires, these were birds that had a tangible mystique about them. Completely absent all summer, there is then that point in October when…

    • 21 Sep 2018
  • Just bugging...

    When it comes to insects, the glamour-pusses such as the butterflies, bees and dragonflies tend to command our attention, but in the last couple of weeks, it has been some more unsung creatures that have caught my eye in my garden.

    They belong to the group of insects called 'the bugs' - not the way we tend to use the word these days to mean anything small and creepy-crawly, but 'true bugs' or the hemipterans. There are…

    • 14 Sep 2018
  • Nature's tonic

    In over eight years of writing this blog, I think I’ve only previously missed one Friday morning’s posting, and yet I’ve just been silent for two weeks on the trot.

    I have a very good excuse. The doctors called it viral labyrinthitis. which inflames the canals of the inner ear. For those who have had it, I can now fully empathise with the horrors of what feels like being trapped in the washing machine…

    • 7 Sep 2018
  • Passing trade: night-time garden arrivals on nature's great flyway

    The days are shortening, the elderberries are blackening, and there's a definite whiff of autumn on the horizon.

    For those birds which are only summer visitors to Britain, their hormones now respond to the seasonal changes underway, telling their bodies to pack on the fat and get ready for long, intercontinental flights ahead. Thousands of warblers and flycatchers, Swallows and martins are destined for unimaginable…

    • 17 Aug 2018
  • Polishing my batting technique

    Ah, the blessed rains!

    Here is my pond this morning, the surface stippled with the pounding drops.

    The first rains came 10 days ago, and it amazing how quickly it has aroused the lawn from its desiccated slumber. Compare it with how yellow it all was just before the rains began:

    The pond is my biggest magnet for wildlife in the garden, with a Heron there this morning and a Kingfisher on the island earlier this…

    • 10 Aug 2018
  • The magic of ponds: instant dragons

    If there is one group of wildlife that responds quickly to your efforts, it has got to be the dragonflies and damselflies. All you need is to put in a pond of moderate size in a fairly sunny position and you would be very unlucky for it not to soon heave with these stunning insects in summer.

    My pond is now two and a half years old, and so into its third summer, and I've just been visited for the first time by what is…

    • 3 Aug 2018
  • Flying Ant Days: A date with fate in the sky

    When I arrived home from work on Wednesday, there was a mass of gulls very high over my garden, each one gliding in its own little circles, creating overlapping, rotating patterns in the sky. You can just make out some of the flock here.

    There are actually 94 gulls in this photo. Yup, I counted them (and they are a mix of Herring, Black-headed and Mediterranean for those who like to know these things). I reckon in…

    • 27 Jul 2018
  • Helping wildlife in the garden's summer heatwave

    There is one job I haven't had to do in the garden for 48 days now - read the rain gauge. As I enviously watch the blobs of blue move across the weather charts in the far north and west, tongue lolling, I'm sure almost all of you and your gardens will be feeling the effects of this desiccating summer.

    Just look at my lawn, if you can now call it that.

    I know it takes considerable nerve to hold off from trying…

    • 18 Jul 2018
  • Butterfly birthdays

    Right now in the first couple of weeks of July, garden butterfly numbers tend to rocket. The summer emergence of Peacocks, Commas, Brimstones, together with Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods, plus a surge in the number of 'cabbage white' butterflies, mean that there is a flitting and fluttering going on in a way not seen until this point in the year. The only problem is that it can all be very distracting when you're meant…

    • 13 Jul 2018