The clocks have changed, the frosts have arrived and Strictly is well under way. It can only mean one thing – winter is creeping ever closer! And whilst we can snuggle indoors with our central heating and cosy PJs, life’s not quite as comfortable for some of our garden friends. So we have created a blog with 3 ways to help wildlife this winter in your own back garden…
If you’re anything like us you will be singing Mary Poppins as you read this! But feeding the birds is an incredibly simple way to help our feathered friends. Pop up a range of bird feeders and you can quickly be feeding them fat balls and various seeds and nuts. You will be rewarded with a display of lots of lovely birds in your garden who will also help keep garden pests at bay. Remember to leave some water out for drinking and bathing too.
Hedgehogs are brilliant for the garden, munching away on your slugs and snails. Encourage them to stay in your garden by creating a home in a quiet, untouched corner of the garden. You can buy a hedgehog house in your local garden centre or if you are feeling creative you couild build your own with some pieces of wood. Remember to clear out your hedgehog house each year to keep it free from pests (make sure there are no hedgehogs resident at the time of cleaning!) Keeping a corner of your garden a little bit untidy with piles of leaves will encourage hedgehogs into your garden too. ALWAYS check bonfires before lighting them at this time of year too to make sure no hedgehogs have made a home there.
Another wonderful wildlife creature you should encourage are bats. They eat squillions of midges every night so they have got to be a firm friend! We love watching our local bats swooping around at dusk giving us an amazing display! Buy or make a bat box but make sure you locate it in a suitable place. It should be a minimum of 10 foot off the ground, higher if possible. It should be in a sunny location, getting at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Try and shelter the boxes from the wind and ideally locate them close to where they will be feeding, close to hedges and trees.
If you can do at least one, if not all of these three simple jobs this winter your wildlife garden will thrive and these wee creatures will be very thankful.
It’s been a busy start to 2018 for me as I turned 6 and started going to Beavers. On my very first week there we made a cool bird feeder from an old bottle which made me think I should show you how to make your own bird feeder using some things from around the house. It’s still really cold outside so our feathered friends need as much help as possible and it’s a great craft activity for half term!
1. Carefully add 2 pairs of holes in the bottle where the pencils will be pushed through. Make sure that each pair of holes are the same height. You may need a grown up to help with making the holes as it can be tricky.
2. Push your pencils/sticks through to make perches for the birds.
3. Add some small holes above each perch so that the birds can access the bird food (not too big though or the seeds will fall out)
4. Tie string round the top which you will use to hang it up
5. Fill with bird seed and put your lid back on (to keep your seed dry)
6. Now it’s ready to hang outside!
We have ours hanging in our apple tree and can see it easily from the house and watch birds coming for their tea!
Enjoy making yours.
Bio-diversity. Sustainability. Eco-friendly. They are all buzz-words in the world of gardening as more and more people realise that it can be cool to care. The United Nations have even declared 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity. No longer does having a wildlife garden mean that you just leave an area of your garden to go “wild” and inevitably become an eye-sore.
Even the Chelsea Flower Show this year featured heavily on wildlife gardens with one garden planted entirely with a wildlife meadow. Wildlife gardens can fit whatever style of garden you choose, from contemporary to traditional cottage garden. And even the smallest and most urban of spaces can attract the most surprising of visitors.
So, how can you create a wildlife garden and what, more interestingly, can you attract?
Planting should include native species and have some of the key features important to wildlife. Look at what grows naturally in the wild and what grows really well in your neighbours’ gardens. Native hedgerows such as beech, hazel or hawthorn will provide a haven for hundreds of species of wildlife.
Birds love winter berries so plants such as cotoneaster, viburnum, holly and skimmia are perfect.
Include plants that are efficient for bees to collect pollen from such allium, echinops and foxgloves as well as broad-leaved perennials which allow easy access for bees such as asters, sunflowers and echinacea. Avoid double flowers which make it difficult for bees to access pollen.
The world’s bee population is still in decline and it’s crucial we all take steps to reverse this trend. Einstein once said “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
Plants such as buddleja, lavender, scabious, forget-me-nots and lonicera (honeysuckle) are perfect for attracting butterflies into your garden.
Don’t deadhead plants as soon as the flowers go over. Instead leave seed heads which not only look beautiful throughout the winter but are also perfect for birds looking for seeds. Ideal for plants such as echinops, sedum and angelica.
Different species of trees and shrubs provide nectar and other food sources throughout the year so make sure you have a good mix of plants.
Grow climbers against walls to provide shelter for birds.
If you want to take it a stage further and if you have space, why not incorporate a wildflower meadow. The gold winning HESCO garden at the Chelsea Flower Show this year proved wildflower meadows can be beautiful as well as a haven for wildlife. Packets of wildflowers seeds or trays of plug plants are readily available from garden centres or online these days but make sure they originate from the UK.
Wildlife such as spiders, caterpillars, butterflies and moths, bees, birds and small mammals will all be tempted into your wildflower meadow. Nowadays wild flower meadows are extremely rare – we have lost 95% in the last 50 years. Planting one in your garden will really help local wildlife.
Incorporating some form of water feature into your garden is a great way of attracting wildlife. Water can be incorporated no matter what size or style your garden is and can be made child-friendly too.
If your garden is small then even a half barrel can be made into an effective water feature and will attract frogs and other wildlife which will feed happily on slugs and snails.
If your garden is a bit bigger, look at a larger pond. Incorporate “floating” stepping stones to make your pond very on-trend. Make sure there are sloping edges to your pond though so birds can bathe, frogs can spawn and hedgehogs can escape if they fall in. A mesh can be incorporated to make ponds child-friendly too.
Avoid using slug pellets and pesticides. Many are harmful to the “good” wildlife you are trying to attract. Instead look for alternatives. For weeds, hand-weeding, mulches, ground cover plants and weed suppressant fabrics will all help keep weeds at bay. And once you have started attracting wildlife in, they will do a lot of the work for you such as eating slugs.
Create the sort of habitats that are perfect for the wildlife you are trying to attract:
Put a nesting box in your garden. These can range from the traditional wooden boxes to boxes in trendy shapes and colours to suit all styles. Boxes will attract birds and possibly even bats. Many gardens have plenty to offer birds to eat but nowhere to nest.
Create a log pile somewhere quiet in your garden, perhaps hidden behind your shed. If you are lucky hedgehogs and toads may set up home there and help keep garden pests at bay.
Introduce a wildlife tower into your garden. It can be built out of old pieces of wood and the different sections incorporate different recycled materials such as bamboo canes, egg cartons and broken pots. The tower will provide a focal (and talking) point in your garden and be home to a myriad of wildlife.
Include bird baths and bird tables in your garden to encourage our feathered friends to visit. Be careful where you site them though for curious cats…
Other easy additions are rock piles, a garden shed, a window box or even a simple hanging basket. All will entice wildlife into your garden.
Take simple steps to help our planet as well as saving yourself money:
So from lady-birds to lace-wings, hedgehogs to hoverflies, bees to butterflies or dragonflies to damselflies, gardens are a place both humans and wildlife can enjoy side by side.
We’d love to see pictures and hear stories of some of the wildlife you have tempted into your garden. Please get in touch with some of your tales.
All at Vialii
We share our top tips on how to create your own wildlife friendly garden…