How to make your garden a winner for wildlife

7 February 2018

Paul, our Online Community Manager, is a man of nature. He actually looks a little bit like a tree – tall, imposing, leafy on top. You can frequently spot him with his camera taking photos in the wildflower garden outside our head office in Stroud – and he’s snapped some rare and pretty wonderful insects there. This week, Paul had a chat with our Principal Ecologist, Simon Pickering, to find out how best to make your garden the ideal environment for some wildlife action!

By Paul Sergeant.

As the days get steadily longer and the chilly winter weather becomes less frequent, the time has come to start thinking about the garden. I sat down with Simon Pickering, our Principal Ecologist, and we came up with a list of things to consider as spring approaches.

  • Install bird nest boxes, especially for species that are still declining in number such as house sparrows and starling. Boxes are reasonably priced to buy, but you can also make your own (we hope to be making a video of this in the next week or so), and if you live in a tall house it’s worth thinking about house martin and swift nest boxes too
  • Clean out your old bird nest boxes to remove parasites
  • It’s nearly time to prune trees and shrubs that might need it. The ideal time is after the birds have eaten the fruit, but before they start nesting
  • Now is a good time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs before the leaves all pop out. Native species are great, especially if you think about providing a range of flowering/fruiting times for wildlife. But non-natives also have a place in the garden for extending the seasons
  • Keep feeding the birds! They’re getting ready to mate and will soon be laying eggs - your help will be appreciated all through the year
  • Start thinking about what seeds you might want to sow. Choose organic if possible and some can be started indoors now, ready for planting out when the frosts have truly passed
  • Here’s a good list of plants attractive to bees and other pollinators
  • Don’t tidy up the garden yet, wildlife doesn’t really like neat gardens. Consider putting up some ‘Nature lives here’ type signs if you think your neighbours (or parents!) are tutting at your wild areas! Wait until new growth is really kicking in before clearing up the dead stems
  • Start prepping solitary bee nesting sites. Here’s a great guide to bee hotels – bundles of reeds or raspberry canes and other hollow stems are a good alternative to bamboo or drilling in blocks of wood. February is a good time as species like Red Mason bees can start nesting by March
  • Dig a pond! It’s very nearly time for frogs, toads and newts to spawn, and you’ll be amazed by how quickly nature makes a home in even the smallest water hole - here’s a great guide to download. I dug a pond a couple of years ago and had a newt move in within a week and we had seven frogs spawning last year
  • Plan where NOT to mow! Keep the mower in the shed as much as possible and try to avoid strimming – maybe get yourself a Japanese grass sickle (Kama). I got one last year and in the first five minutes of use in place of a strimmer, I saved the biggest frog I’ve ever seen from injury. You’re a lot more likely to spot movement when using hand tools like this. You could even book yourself on a Scythe Course (Poldark anyone?)
  • Turn your compost! Last year’s compost should be ready to go on the garden now
  • And one last thing - don’t forget to make our Pollinator Promise!

With all these wonderful tips, you’ll soon create a little piece of paradise for all your local wildlife. For more handy hints on how to make a home for nature, check out the RPSB’s website here.  

 

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