February – April 2017
In my garden I have fences which rise high on three sides. On two sides I found that there was soft soil underneath, so I dug a hole on my side of the garden to allow wildlife to come in from the neighbour’s gardens. I checked with my neighbours that this was OK beforehand, and they were fully supportive. These holes would act as wildlife corridors for mammals such as hedgehogs, which can travel up to 2km in one night. This strategy worked, because on 27th March I had the delight of seeing a fully-grown hedgehog snuffling about on my lawn in the late evening.
I added another solitary bee house, making a total of two. Both are fixed to a south-facing wall positioned slightly downwards.
On March 1st, I planted two packs of Grow Wild seeds. Each pack covers up to two square metres of soil. Before planting the seeds, I prepared the soil thoroughly by raking it. Within two weeks tiny green shoots were starting to appear. The seed packets contained annuals such as Corn Cockle, Corn Marigold, Poppy, Corn Chamomile and Cornflower plus biennials such as Viper’s Bugloss and perennials such as Oxeye Daisy, Red Campion, Meadow Buttercup, Common or Lesser Knapweed, Hedge Bedstraw, Ribwort Plantain and Yarrow. I have also planted three more pots on my patio. One contained mint whose flowers are visited by bees and some butterflies, one contained parsley and the other contained chives (the pink flowers are loved by bumblebees).
In an area of the rose flower-bed which I had cleared of slates, I planted Verbena which is loved by butterflies and other pollinating insects. Unfortunately, something ate this within a couple of days so I am guessing I must be attracting more insects to my garden! The rest of the slates have now been cleared, so I am planning to plant some bushes such as Buddleia against the fence to attract more butterflies to my garden. I decided to jazz up my bug hotel and make it more impressive by stacking five old wooden pallets on top of each other and topping them with four bricks to stop them from being damaged/moved in the wind. In each section, I put different things. The bottom one was sited upside down to give more space at the sides for hedgehogs to go inside and this was filled with dead leaves. The next layer was filled with old bricks with gaps in between to encourage insects and spiders to make a home there. The next layer was filled with pieces of dead and rotting wood and twigs, and the final layer was filled with hay.
I however, made a massive faux-pas and bought a large bag of multi-purpose compost and when I got it home and opened it, I noticed a tiny label on the back which stated the compost was from ‘sustainably managed’ peat bogs. Of course there is no such thing as this as peat bogs take hundreds of years to form. I felt awful as by purchasing this compost, I was contributing to the degradation of peat bogs. I realised it was my lack of knowledge, but also the fact that the packaging was misleading as it was shown on a tiny label so I emailed the manufacturers to raise this with them. I decided the best way to avoid me buying peat-based compost again was to make my own, so I started a compost bin with a donated bin and a soil base. I have been adding brown waste such as dead leaves, branches and twigs, green waste such as lawn clippings and kitchen scraps such as vegetable/fruit peelings and tea bags.
I hired a man with a mini digger to clear the remaining shingle and hardcore from the front drive and back garden. He removed 7 tons and took it to be recycled as builder’s waste to be used for building roads. He bought 12 tons of top quality topsoil (also recycled) and laid that down for me. The workable garden (including borders, grass and vegetable patch) now measures 34.5 feet wide x 60 feet long. As you can see from the before and after photos below, this has made a massive difference to the amount of environmentally usable space in my garden. Some of the back garden soil will become my vegetable patch, and the remainder will become lawn and a shrub border plus an area where I plan to plant an apple tree. The front garden will become lawn with a flower border in the middle, and a box hedge to separate my property from my neighbour’s.
To light the garden, I bought some very low level solar powered lights to give the garden a tiny bit of light so you could find your way at night, but keeping the lights on the lowest setting so as not to deter wildlife.
Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscape, says:
“If all of us took one small action for wildlife at home – whether it’s providing shelter for overwintering insects, letting the lawn grow long and lush at the back of the garden, or putting the chemicals away for good – it would make a remarkable difference. Our gardens provide homes, food and shelter for a variety of wildlife and as part of a network which extends well beyond the garden fence, criss-crossing our urban landscapes. We hope many more people are inspired to make their patch more inviting and provide a haven for the insects, birds and other animals which share the open spaces around us.”