February, 2017

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!
  • Your Giving Nature a Home activity for March: Why not create a riot?!

    I love those wildlife gardening activities that take almost no effort at all - and here's one that after an initial oomph is followed by an absolute riot - of colour!

    It all comes from scattering some annual flower seed, which will turn into a bed of colour for you and for pollinating insects.

    The result can be this...

    or this...

    ...or this (only without me in it!).

    It is incredibly cheap, too. Whereas one potted plant might easily cost you £7.99 these days, for about a tenner you can cover a whole bed in colour.

    The critical thing is preparing the soil, and now is the ideal time. It needs to be free of weeds, and raked so the surface is like fine crumbs. I like to dig a bed over now, leave if for weed seeds to germinate, and then hoe those weeds off just before sowing.

    Then it is just a matter of scattering the seeds (the recommended rate is about 5 grams to 1 metre square, but you don't need to be precise), then firm them onto the surface, give them a water, and nature will do the rest. 

    March and April are ideal times to sow - when your weeds are growing, you know it's time to sow your flower seed.

    It may then need a quick extra watering can if conditions are very dry in summer, but that's pretty much all you'll need to do.

    So what flowers should you sow?

    Well, there are all sorts of 'mixed annual seed' packets you can find these days. The traditional mix is the cornfield mix, like this one below in my garden, with Common Poppy, Corn Chamomile and Corncockle (and I like to include blue Cornflower,too).

    Here's one I made in a pot, with Corn Marigold in yellow...

    If you like the look of the flower mixes in this blog, the top one is mainly Coreopsis tinctoria (yellow with dark centres) and Shirley Poppies, the second one is Phacelia campanularia (blue), Tidy Tips (yellow) and Californian Poppy (orange), and the third one is mainly Cornflower and Echium 'Blue Bedder', a total winner for bees.

    For lots more simple tips for how to go about it, see our Giving Nature a Home page here. And remember to log-in from that page and let us know if you've given it a try - I'm so pleased that 635 of you have already!

  • Simple pleasures

    Yesterday, a series of little things happened.

    To start with, I noticed for the first time this year that the sky was no longer pitch black when it was time to get up.

    At lunchtime I was lured out from my desk by sunshine, and felt its warmth through my clothes.

    The crocuses were open; indeed, some of them were wide open, which they only do when they're really relaxed.

    Honeybees, bumblebees and even a couple of small hoverflies were eagerly visiting the flowers...

    ...and their faces were dotted with golden pollen.

    And then a Red Admiral butterfly flew strongly around and settled in front of me.

    It was a simple equation that seemed to add up to something bigger than its parts. I then realised what it was: happiness!

  • The joys of a cold shower

    With my pond totally ice-bound earlier this week, my visiting Sparrowhawks no longer had their gravelly shallows in which to bathe.

    However, clearly desperate for a bathe, this female spotted that the solar fountain in the middle of the frozen pond had spring into life.

    Well, this was far too tempting!

    I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

    Rather her than me!