Tag Archives: Wildlife

The Autumn Garden: Helping your garden wildlife survive the winter.

A good wildlife habitat

A good wildlife habitat

As the clocks go back autumn is well and truly under way and winter is just around the corner. Traditionally autumn was a time for the keen gardener to cut down, sweep up and make the garden tidy for winter. However our understanding of the needs of the wildlife that live and visit our gardens is much greater and most of us want to garden in a way that will encourage and help the many species that rely on gardens to survive the winter ahead. So here are some helpful hints to help the wildlife in your garden.

 seedheads are an important food .

seedheads are an important food .

The not so tidy gardener: leave herbaceous plant seed heads to stand over the winter, only cutting them down in early spring, these are an invaluable food soruse for birds small mammals and over wintering insects can take refuge through the winter.

toad hibination habitat.

toad hibernation habitat.

Similarly do not go completely mad removing every fallen leaf from the garden, the odd pile at the back of the border, or under the hedge, or piles raked to the edges of paths or in heaps on noncultivated bits of ground are wonderful hibernation habitats for a range of creatures including, amphibians, frogs,toads and newts. Reptiles like slow-warms and of course for small field mice and other mammals as well as a good habitat for intersects of many species.

Try to find room in your garden for the odd pile of small twigs and even logs, again in the corner of a border or down by the compost heap, somewhere where the piles will not be disturbed, if the piles are large enough and have leafs piled through them they may even turn out to be a suitable hibernation spot for a hedgehog to carry out it’s over wintering hibernation. Sadly Hedgehogs are becoming an increasingly rare sight inĀ  domestic gardens and we must all do our bit to try to create the right habitat for them.

a group of 'Bug Hotels'

a group of ‘Bug Hotels’

Many other species will also use these twig/stick and log piles from a mass of different insects to over wintering bees, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. A more decorative solution may be to hang a ‘bug hotel’ from a fence post or up under the eves of your house roof.

Hedge hog house

Hedge hog house

There are also ready made hedgehog houses on the market, these should be placed in a quite sheltered place away from any disturbance, including the local cats and any dogs. The hedgehog house should be in a position where it will not be disturbed through the winter months and preferable somewhere it can stay long term. The other big problems for Hedgehogs is habitat loss, the domestic garden is an important habitat but with implementable close board fencing now being the norm for garden boundaries rather than the porous garden hedge, the hedgehogs are struggling to move about the garden environment and are not able to have the size of territory they require for a healthy existence. So if you have a sturdy fence then think about cutting a small gap say 100/150mm wide by about the same high or a little bigger at a few points down your fence and on the corresponding side of the garden to allow hedgehogs to freely roam.

 mice nesting in long grass.

mice nesting in long grass.

Grass cutting, consider leaving the grass longer at the edges of the lawn perhaps 4 to 6 weeks growth, to allow a different habitat for over wintering species. Also if possible is there an area of grass that you can let grow to seed and leave uncut till early spring, this will become an invaluable area for insects, reptiles, amphibians and small hibernating field mice, particularly if this taller area of grass can edge a hedge or shrubby area.

a selection of bird feeders

a selection of bird feeders

Winter Feeding, from bird tables to nut and seed feeders to fat balls, and a whole range of bird feeders that are now squirrel proof, the market is flooded with all sizes and types to suit every situation and bird and gardener. Make sure you site the feeders well, not just for your enjoyment to see the birds from the kitchen, but also at a good height where the birds will not fall pry to the local cats. Also put out a low pot or bird bath for the birds, With both the feeders and bird bath it is very important to keep them regularly clean to prevent the spread of disease

So now you have an excuses not to be such a tidy gardener, and I hope these suggestions have inspired you to do your bit in your garden this autumn to help the animal species that live in and visit your garden get through the winter weather, be it a mild southern one or one with the odd attic blast.

For more information see www.rhs.org.uk/advise/wildlife for general information about helping wildlife in your garden. Also see www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife for help and information on bird food types for what bird species and for advise on different types of bird feeders

The Joys of the Summer Garden

Now is the time to really reap the rewards of all your hard work, the evenings are long and barmy, the garden is full of summer scents, time to sit back and enjoy it all!

Lewes Maritime Garden

Lewes Maritime Garden

Seating in a garden of any size it a must, from the all weather bench which stays in place all year round so you can grab that bit of last season sun on a Sunday afternoon in October or a sunny winter morning in February. To the versatile folding deck chair that can follow the sun round in mid summer so you can delight in different aspects of your garden at different times of the day. To the formal paved terrace with table and chairs to a small hidden patio with swing seat, all have their place.

by Arcadia, A Hove town garden.

by Arcadia, A Hove town garden.

Now is the time to get into your garden and really use it with afternoon teas, weekend drinks, mid-week suppers and full blown BBQ’s. Seats in shady quite spots for reading out of the midday heat to sun loungers on the lawn. To seats by wildlife ponds so the insect action can be enjoyed. Now is the time to make the most of your garden.

by Arcadia, wildlife pond, Tonbridge Wells.by Arcadia, wildlife pond, Tonbridge Wells.

by Arcadia, wildlife pond, Tonbridge Wells.

Spot the areas of the garden you use and some you may want to use more, decide if a bench is needed on the edge of a lawn or path or whether a larger paved seating area is needed.

by Arcadia, A Cottage Rose garden

by Arcadia, A Cottage Rose garden

Be careful with paved seating areas, they must be in scale for the garden as a whole. The temptation is to go big and not have enough planting incorporated into it, any garden element needs to link with the rest of the garden. After all having a terrace big enough for 8 to dine is large and if most of the time it is just two of you then perhaps a smaller terrace where 4 sit comfortably may be better. Then extra tables and chairs can flow out onto the lawn when the 8 people for the family gathering show up twice a year.

by Arcadia,Walled Garden.

by Arcadia,Walled Garden.

It is also a great time of year to go garden visiting, whether this is large gardens open to the public, where we can all ooh and Arr over the large flower beds and beautifully gardened planting. At a smaller more personal scale, gardens that are open in the national gardening scheme. www.ngs.uk. To garden trails opened by our neighbours round town districts or villages, where we get to see what works well in gardens of a similar size as ours and perhaps if they live one street away you can pick up helpful hints about what will grow well in your own garden.

by, Arcadia,Walled Garden

by Arcadia, modern town garden

So down tools for a bit, stop worrying about the weeds and the slugs and snails and just sit back and enjoy or get out there and enjoy someone else hard work!

Autumn in the garden. November 2015

The Autumn garden is a magical place, the vibrant summer hues fading,the browns and rusts of turning leaves mingling with the rich colours of late flowering perennials, there is much to be enjoyed and much work to be done.

The new eco-sensitive gardener is of course not a completely tidy one, gone are the days when every herbaceous plant the moment a brown stem appeared is cut down to the ground, instead the prairie garden movement that sprang to life in Germany has made us all appreciate the beauty of clumps of brown stems and seed heads with frost, dew and spiders webs bringing winter beauty to the garden.

Also the gardener can do much to help the wildlife of their garden over winter from the odd small pile of leaves for over wintering amphibians, to larger piles of logs and leaves for hedgehogs, sadly a much rarer visitor to must gardens, to piles of twigs and grass for insects.

But there is still some hard graft that needs to be done. Leaves cleared from the lawns and grassed areas, if you have room, keep the leaves to make into leaf mold, just one or two black bin liners full stuck behind the shed ready for use next year is worth doing. Clearing paths of flopping dying foliage and giving them a good brush and wash down to help stop them being slippery over the winter. There is still time to plant Tulip bulbs now and Lily bulbs into December.

autumn pond maintenance

The big autumn job and one that often gets over looked is if you have a planted pond, be it formal or informal and do not be fooled by the word ‘wildlife’ pond, as natural and balanced as it may be, it will need some maintenance and now is the time to do it. If you do nothing your wonderful pond of any size or style, packed with aquatic, marginal and bog plants, will do what nature intend and in time will go from pond to swamp from swamp to bog garden and finally to land and will be a pond with open water no more.

There is nothing for it, you will have to get down and dirty and hit the water. Depending on the depth of the pond, wellys or wadders and if it is fairly big and deep then a dirty water pump is a great bit of kit to get hold off. Over several hours it will reduce the water level exposing more of the planting and hopefully you will not have to go in over your wellys. Rubber gloves or even washing up gloves are good. For cutting I find a bluntish old bread knife on the end of a long string round the neck every bit as good and easier than gardening secateurs. Containers for putting the plant debris in, plant pots or a big bucket or garden plastic trug, but with holes in. You want something that floats and drains the water out.

wildlife pond autumn maintenance

If it is a sizable pond and you are going to be in it standing on the marginal planting shelves working then see if you can get a second pair of hands to help, by feeding you empty containers to fill, otherwise walking in and out of the pond is not only hard work but you will no doubt be adding more organic matter and soil into the pond.

autumn pond maintenance

You want to cut down all the dying down marginal plants as close to the water surface as possible if you can reach the dying leaves on floaters like water lilies as well even better. You want to remove as much organic matter as you can, to stop it falling to the bottom of the pond rotting and in time filling the pond in. Also reducing the organic matter will help to keep the water in the pond well balanced.

Once you have cut down the bog plants and as much of the marginal planting as you can reach, you should now have some bare pond edges and banks. Now If possible also reduce some of the oxygenating plants as well, a plastic garden rake is best for this running it under the water surface, pulling out what you can, moving round the pond taking one sweep out of each section of the pond, so you do not remove it all. Spread the contents of the rake on the pond banks, remove any obvious aquatic snails. Leave the contents of the rake on the banks over night to allow pond insects and the odd newt to head back into the water.

autumn pond maintenance

All of the pond debris should compost well unless you have some very hardy bull rushes. Do not fear about taking to much out of the pond, remember pond plants are at best vigorous and at worst dame right thugs, if very attractive ones at that.

After all this very hard work, the pond will look a little bare and perhaps very low if you have been pumping to get at the marginals,but with winter rains coming it will quickly fill up again. If you have fish and you pond is less than 1.20/1.30m deep then a couple of tennis balls for small ponds and a football for larger ponds just to stop it completely freezing over is a good idea. By spring it will be full of another years worth of fabulous marginal planting and busy with aquatic life.