UP THE GARDEN PATH

Louise Tomlin takes a look at garden related topics. This time she’s encouraging us to make our garden more wildlife friendly…

Someone said to me recently when I was sitting with him in my garden, that it was teeming with life. It was an interesting comment, it made me stop and look at my little patch of paradise with new eyes. I realised that even though we were in a city, all around us bees and other insects were buzzing amongst the flowers, in the trees the birds were chattering and singing, whilst visiting the bird table and feeders. It was indeed ‘teeming’.

The fact is that as a gardener I have a nurturing disposition. I plant, sow, tend and encourage growth, it’s just natural for me to do this and, in some ways, it can be seen as self-serving, because I love being surrounded by beauty – I get something out of it, as the seasons pass it keeps me in touch with nature. However there’s a beneficial by-product to this activity that is having an impact on the creatures in my neighbourhood. I have inadvertently created a haven for many birds and insects, which is a  very satisfying spin off.

Gardens should not only be a sanctuary for us, a place where we can retreat from the stresses and the hubbub of our busy lives, but they are also an important resource for wildlife. In built up areas of cities and towns, even a small garden can help support biodiversity and conservation.

I’m not a fanatic, but there are a few things that I do to help, that you may want to try:

Don’t be tempted to tidy up too quickly because you want to have everything neat. If you leave seed heads and grasses until spring, these can be important food sources for birds and places for insects to live. Good examples are ivy flowers, these feed a host of insects, and later when they go to seed, are feasted on by birds.

Please don’t use slug pellets.

Once a pellet has poisoned a slug the story doesn’t end there. A bird could eat the slug or a hedgehog and will then poison them – I witnessed a hedgehog that had been poisoned in this way and it wasn’t pretty! I know slugs are a pain, but there are lots of other ways to discourage them away from eating your plants. You can find suggestions for beer traps, copper tape and all manner of methods online. I can’t bear killing anything, so I gather them up in a container and take them for a walk down a country lane so they can find a new home!

Plant flowers and shrubs that attract pollinators, like bees and butterflies, good examples are lavender, agapanthus, hollyhocks and buddleia.

Weed killers are another poison; I would rather dig weeds out. Once removed use mulch, this helps stop weeds growing back and also helps retain moisture. Leave less space for weeds by planting your flowers closer together.

Insecticides – these kill bees and other beneficial insects and can get into water sources and contaminate soil. I rarely find I need to spray anything these days, and will opt for a detergent solution in a re-useable bottle if needs must.

Create piles of logs and stones in quiet shady areas of your garden, this will provide habitats for numerous insects and possibly even newts. I have a toad that lives in an old water feature, just the small amount of water that is there is enough to make a home for him and possibly other water loving creatures.

Feed the birds – I have a bird table and some feeders for nuts and fat balls. It doesn’t take a lot of effort and is very rewarding helping out our feathered friends.
Water sources – I also make sure there are a few containers with fresh water around for any birds or other creatures to drink from.

A pile leaves in a quiet corner can be a welcome place for hedgehogs to hibernate in and remember the odd holes in the bottom of fence will encourage free movement of hedgehogs between gardens.

I know I’m not the only person who has a garden in a town or city that is a haven for both humans and wildlife, thankfully there are many people that do this too. If you imagine the combined conservation effect all of them together is having on our wildlife, that’s a really heartening thought. And finally, if reading this has encouraged any of you to join in and make your own garden more wildlife friendly, then that’s a bonus.

Catch up with me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email: louise@louisetomlin.co.uk