The pace has suddenly picked up in my garden this week with an abundance of soft, green growth and the steady disappearance of visible soil between plants. Because of my addiction to herbaceous perennials there is literally no room for weeds (good!)……or any new plants (not so good). Every time I want to plant something different, another area of lawn is sacrificed or an extra container slotted by the back door. This busy, informal style of cottage gardening isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it certainly helps to bring in the wildlife. Insects to pollinate, birds, hedgehogs and frogs for pest control, it’s a fine balance between the natural world and horticulture that benefits everyone and everything involved. So, to celebrate the natural world, here are some jobs to be getting on with this week:
Diversity of habitats within your garden is key to encouraging wildlife. Everything links together, from the smallest moth or butterfly to badgers, foxes and squirrels. And it really doesn’t matter if you are tending a small backyard, an allotment or an average semi-detached suburban plot, there’s room for all sorts of creatures which don’t need a lot of space. Masonry bees live a solitary life in stone walls, woodlice in logs and tree stumps and blackbirds can safely nest within the clambering ivy. Let the boundary between cultivation and nature gently blur, and there will be so much more life in your garden this summer.
Planting for bees
Different types of bees are active from March right through until November, so the more you can prolong your flowering season, the better. Start with hellebores in January, follow on with forget-me-not, pulmonaria, primula, spring bulbs; daffodils and tulips, then alliums and woosh….you’re into Summer. Roses, dahlia, rudbeckia will keep going into late Autumn until the first hard frost when bees hibernate and Winter takes hold.
If you are planning on supporting our declining bee population, then The Woodland Trust (www.woodlandtrust.org.uk) find that bees of all species, (there are more than 250 types in the UK) tend to focus on purple coloured flowers like buddleia, teasels and lavender, and are attracted to native plants; honeysuckles, campanula, foxgloves. They often find tubular or single flowers easier to navigate for nectar and pollen than double blooms with lots of petals.
Now is the perfect time to sow seeds for any of the plants named above, which are really easy to grow. You could also divide existing clumps of perennials to promote more flowers for later this year. Keep your seedlings watered without letting them get too wet and protect from frost before pricking them out and potting on.
Planting for Birds
Birds contribute in so many ways to our garden environment, singing, nesting, eating pests and spreading seeds, so it seems only fair to offer them the reward of their favourite plants. Plan now for berry laden shrubs and trees to help birds through the lean Winter months. Holly, rowan, ivy, cotoneaster and hawthorn all provide shelter and nutritious berries. New shrubs or trees can be planted now. Make certain to add loads of organic matter to the planting hole and water regularly for the first few weeks. Sunflowers, teasels and grasses supply seeds when the heads are left in place after flowering, so come the end of Summer don’t worry about cutting back or tidying up too much, just save a few seeds for re-sowing in April next year and let the birds have the rest. The joy of watching birds build their nests and raise a brood is boosted further by lots of natural pest control and harmony reigns supreme.
If you would like to learn more, Ark wildlife www.arkwildlife.co.uk and the RSPB www.rspb.org.uk have lots more advice on garden environments and British wildlife.