Wildlife in your garden
In this blog I am offering some cottage garden wildlife tips that I’ve learned from experience.
I’m discovering the reality of making wildlife a priority.
There’s a website dedicated to all things for a wildlife garden called arkwildlife.co.uk and there Sean McMemeny has written five tips for helping wildlife. When I read them they all made sense and seemed easy enough so I am writing today about what has and what hasn’t worked in practice here in my cottage garden.
Firstly, wildlife gives your cat something to look at while relaxing indoors.
In my previous blog entitled Wildlife gardening – Ha! I have a good grizzle about squirrels eating my tulip bulbs so it’s not all plain sailing but overall it is worth making a few tweaks to bring life into your garden.
For those of us who love it, the enormous joy of seeing your garden space full of life becomes obvious once you give it a try. It is outside after all so it would be odd if it wasn’t teeming with living creatures from earwigs to pesky parakeets.
Feed the birds
I couldn’t be without hanging bird feeders – birds flying around all day turn an empty space into a garden. Sean talks about tiered bird feeding and that sounds a lovely idea – food at ground level, at table height and then hanging feeders. You can then offer not only seeds and suet but also mealworms and peanuts.
WITH TWO CATS around ground and table feeders would be a no no. Even a ground feeder with a cage around it would be risky. Not sure robins want to come face to face with a tortie cat.
Feeding birds is a costly commitment as it’s vital to offer food all year around. Sometimes the feeders are emptied in a day or two, especially now in breeding season. I’m afraid squirrels, parakeets, pigeons and the odd magpie help themselves too. Feeders deter them but don’t stop them completely. No point getting cross about it. Squirrel-proof feeders still need careful siting to stop them eating the lot.
A snag with bird feeding – I’m finding it nearly impossible to find a pole that fits into a base and doesn’t lean or wobble and will go on paving rather than in the border. The search continues.
Feed the bees
Bees need simple open flowers that carry nectar and pollen.
I like Sean’s idea of a row of pots of bee friendly flowers having a little of something blooming from March to September making a lovely nectar filling station. Bees also need to drink from a shallow bowl. Here is mine. Must admit I’m not always sure if insects are drinking or drowning.
As well as a very shallow dish of water, Sean suggests leaving out a sponge soaked in sugary water for bees.
Sean explains very well how hedgehogs live and what we can do to help them. Sadly I haven’t seen one now for a few years. They can easily come in the garden there are so many gaps but I don’t know if there are any around here anymore. I fear not.
Butterflies need scented open flowers for food and nettles to breed on. In a messy cottage garden like mine it’s easy for me to leave a patch of nettles but I do have to stop them spreading too much by yanking the stems out. I’d never get rid of nettles whatever I did so I might as well make my peace with them. No, I do not make nettle tea. Or nettle wine.
Go on – you know you want to. All those TV programmes that tell you to make a pond in a dustbin lid or a washing up bowl. Give it a go. Mine is only a foot deep but it makes such a difference.
Unfortunately I put it under a magnolia tree so every autumn it’s full of leaves that I have to scoop out but I hadn’t thought it through. Not the end of the world as full sun wouldn’t be great either so it’s compromise. I’ve seen newts but no frogs. Cats like to chase frogs so just as well.
Sean doesn’t mention foxes but I’ve been feeding foxes who live in the nearby woods for 18 months now. My neighbours think I’m a mad old bat. The same ones will come for a few months only to disappear and new ones appear. (foxes, not neighbours).
They are waiting for food in the morning and come again in the evening. I love seeing them and watching them roam around. Can you see how they have made a safe sunny patch to snooze in? So lovely to know they feel safe in my garden.
One snag is that they romp through the borders and squash things and curl up to doze on some choice plants but overall I don’t mind. My regal fern is being jumped on. Not sure yet what to do about that.
We all have to decide what we can live with. I don’t mind the odd rat either which is lucky seeing as in London we’re surrounded by them even though we never see them.
So there are my cottage garden wildlife tips.
I believe that a joyous garden will be teeming with bugs, insects, worms, birds and bees feeding, mice, squirrels (unfortunately) and maybe a beautiful visiting fox if you encourage them. So we all can work out how much mess and muddle we are willing to have and just go with that. And lastly, if you have nothing else, please think about having
A pile in a corner
Just chuck bits of garden stuff into a corner and leave it. It’ll be the most fantastic home for LIFE.
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