October, 2009

Homes for Wildlife

Homes for Wildlife
If you love the creatures in your garden, you'll love our Homes for Wildlife project. This is the place to ask and answer questions about making your backyard wildlife-friendly.

Gardening for wildlife

Follow the adventures of Adrian Thomas, our wildlife gardening expert, and be inspired to create your own wildlife haven on your doorstep. Adrian posts here every Monday and Friday without fail, so make it a date and drop by!
  • Leaving it for wildlife

    I don't know about you, but it's all about leaves in my garden at the moment. Every day there's another load to scrape out off paths, rake of lawns and fish out of the pond (I choose not to net the pond as I don't mind being forced to peer into it each day). (Look, a photo of me in action!)

    Most of my leaf burden comes from a line of Tree Preservation Ordered Sycamores. I find this is one of the worst trees for creating leaf mould in a compost bin - use whole leaves and you come back a year later and find them unchanged, all stuck together in airtight, slimy pads. My answer is to get out there with the mower. It's great fun, the mower basket removed, great spumes of leaf fragments shooting out the back, much to the mystification of neighbours.

    However, I do just leave whole leaves in situ in my 'Woodland Garden' (it's not quite as grand as it sounds!) where the actions of winter and worms on loose leaves work wonders, and there's always a moth caterpillar or two among it should I go rummaging through them.

    What's your experience with creating leaf mould? Got any tips or favourite leaves for creating leaf mould, or little wild discoveries you've made amongst them.

  • Star gazing

    Having been involved in putting together the Homes for Wildlife project, I thought I’d update you with what I’ve been doing to turn my own home into a Home for Wildlife. Now if you've already read my Forum post from yesterday and are wanting to know just how many Actions and Gold stars I have then here's the moment you've all been waiting for!

    Those of you that have signed up, you may remember downloading a whole load of PDF’s with lots of advice and various actions. You may even have noticed that for some actions you get a gold star! Wow!! 

    I never got many of them at school, they were usually black marks, and so I thought it’d be a good idea to see if I’ve improved with age.

    When I signed myself up to HfW - I had to get the acronym in somewhere! I found I had set myself a total of 112 actions. Included in that are a possible 50 gold stars – I like round figures. It’s been two years since I signed up and earlier this year I decided to have a bit of a garden binge and create my long awaited pond.

    I realised just recently I’d not updated my Actions on ‘My garden’ page. What a revelation that was, given I had also done a few other things that I forgot to tick off, I suddenly found I’d completed 79 of my 112 possible actions and earned myself 38 of my 50 gold stars. Now then, how would that look in my school report? ‘Promising but could do better’?

     Looking to the future, I reckon when I get my hedge planted this winter I’ll be able to add a few more ticks. I think its probably impossible for anyone to complete all their actions – I know I certainly can’t, mainly because I live in rented accommodation and there’s only so much you can do in that situation.

     Here’s a challenge for all of you signed up to HfW – can you beat that? If you’ve not downloaded any of the advice then log into HfW and return to your home pages to get the advice sheets and get ticking! If you’ve not signed up, then use the link above and see where it takes you.

  • Never seen before...and it was in MY garden!

    Saturday was grim and grizzly, all misty drizzle and grey, but as the rain eased I couldn’t resist getting out to do some gardening. I’m so glad I did because I saw something I had NEVER seen before.

    I was doing a spot of weeding, after having raked up some of the trillion fallen leaves, when I was joined by a small stripy cranefly. At first I thought it must be injured because it was flailing all over the damp soil I had just turned, but then I realised it was doing something quite deliberate. Yes, it looked as uncoordinated as I do on a dancefloor, but I sensed a purpose there, a motive, as it bounced along on the end of its long abdomen as if it was pogo-ing. It – she – was determinedly egg laying. I was transfixed.

    Now normally I post photos I’ve taken that day, but unfortunately it was way too dark and the cranefly way too quick for my photography ‘skills’, so instead you get one of my photos from last year of one of the larger cranefly species.

    But I hope you can still share my amazement. Effectively my weeding had unintentionally opened up a Home for Wildlife, Mrs Cranefly had found it within minutes, and in my tiny back garden I had ‘discovered’ (yet again) something wholly new to me.