Posts Tagged ‘gardening for wildlife’

Pruning Clematis

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Since the weather is so mild and the ground firm underfoot, I have been tempted to get ahead in the garden.  Normally I prune my Clematis in February / March however I started today on the Clematis tangutica that winds its way up the cherry tree.  The prunings are attractive so I usually make something with them despite them being rather unruly.  Today I just quickly wound them up into a ring that will look like a straggly nest for the weather-vane.  Tomorrow I will tackle the Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’.

Group 2 Clematis are pruned in February March for more details this is the link to the RHS website

5 Tips to encourage wildlife

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

As spring unfurls, hedgerows are greening up, garden borders are crammed with new shoots, noisy birds are busy nest building and raising young. Warmer temperatures get the lawn growing, dandelions flowering and hungry insects seeking out nectar and juicy shoots. So what can we do to keep nature in balance and to encourage wildlife in our gardens?

1 Provide overwintering sites for insects (and their eggs), bats and amphibians, for example leave access to sheds and barns, south facing dry stone walls, ‘wildlife hotels’, log or stone piles which can be be ornamentally stacked and therefore act as a focal point. Avoid cutting back everything in the garden in the autumn instead tidy up in March, composting all debris or making a log pile with the woody material.

2 Value trees, hedges and large shrubs in your garden (or plant some), these are very important to birds for shelter, nesting and as a source of food since insects will live, feed and breed in the crevices, on the leaves and flowers. Birds eat huge numbers of caterpillars and some even time the incubation of their eggs to coincide with caterpillar emergence

3 Grow a range of early flowering plants such as Lonicera fragrantissima, Daphne, snowdrop, Scilla, Cyclamen, Hellebore, Pulmonaria, Begenia to provide nectar for early emerging insects (for example honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies)

4 Create a pond, the larger the better however even a small pond will attract some wildlife. A pond without fish and with at least 1/3 of the base covered in submerged oxygenating pond plants is ideal. In my pond I have a healthy population of newts including great crested newts.

5 Don’t be too tidy in the garden, an area of long un-mown grass is important for a wide range of moths and butterflies (moths being good bat food), it will also save time and money. Mown paths through long grass look good, and can lead to an attractive seat or a glade with some furniture. Mid summer and in October this can be cut however consider cutting it a bit higher than the rest of the lawn for permanent interest and structure to the garden.

One year on

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

This small garden used to be dark and dominated by a large chestnut tree.  The tree succumbed to honey fungus and has been removed, some low retaining walls give a sense of space and the plants hum with bees.   The client had enough local stone for the low walls and a garden office provides a good focal point; set at an angle one can glimpse past it to the vegetable garden.

The landscaping was carried out by

How to create a wildflower meadow

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Creating a meadow from rough grass or lawn

Key facts to understand

  • It is important to ‘cut & collect’ to mimic animals grazing (use to make compost)
  • Don’t hesitate to cut the meadow where there are still some flowers, if you wait until there are no flowers you will end up with dominant species such docks and knapweed
  • There is no need to remove top soil as a means to reducing fertility, instead establish Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)

Reasons to create wildflower meadow

  • Massive decline in insects species and numbers
  • Insects (including bees) tend to be underweight, infected (imported diseases) and stressed (loss of habitat) all at the same time
  • 70% of bee friendly plants sold by leading garden centres contain neonicotinoids (systemic insecticide)
  • Reduce mowing, saves time and money
  • Attractive, brings wildlife into the garden (insects & birds) and helps biodiversity

This is a meadow which is full of coarse grasses (e.g. Yorkshire fog) & docks, very few flowers. Tall grasses smother wild flowers; more grass than flowers.

This meadow has not been ploughed nor treated with fertilizers for at least 50 years, there are over 20 different species/m2. Lots of fine grass species; more flowers than coarse grasses.

Yellow rattle
Yellow rattle is a semi parasitic grassland annual, it reduces the vigour of grass and allows wildflowers to establish and thrive, it also reduces mowing requirements. It loves Yorkshire Fog grass and Cocksfoot grass.

Yellow rattle is established from seed in September (no later), sown onto bear soil (e.g. upturned 1m2 patches of turf*) although it germinates February / March (requiring the winter chilling). Establishment can be unpredictable (for example the cold wet spring of 2016) however it usually establishes very well, taking 2-3 years to build up. Use fresh seed sown at a rate of 0.1-1g/m2 (less is required in the shade where grass is weaker, more is needed where grass is strong).

* Different ways of creating bare gaps in the sward

Cut the grass short in the autumn then:

  • Lift and flip over 1m2 patches of turf at intervals throughout the meadow area
  • Harrow or rotavate strips at intervals (e.g. up hill) aiming to expose 50% bare soil
  • Winter grazing with stock (e.g. sheep) as their hooves open up the sward

How & when to establish wild flowers
Delay trying to establish wild flowers in your sward until you have got a good cover of yellow rattle, this may take up to 3 years. Then plant small 9cm plants into the sward or use ‘Green Hay’ from another meadow (contact other meadow owners, for example members of the Moor Meadows group below sell this). Expose some bare earth then spread fresh green hay (same day as it is cut).

If you have a very small area of land that you want for a meadow (e.g. 5m x 10m), rotavate it all, sow yellow rattle (September) and plant wildflower pots and plugs (e.g. scabious, knapweed, betony, bedstraw… depending upon the soil and aspect). You could do the ‘stale seedbed’ technique prior to sowing yellow rattle.

Stale seedbed method – prepare the bed as if it was ready for planting but instead of planting water it and allow all the weeds to grow, then without any futher digging, spray off the weeds then sow / plant.

Rabbits love to dig up freshly planted pots, you might need to put some chicken wire over the top for the first few months.

When to cut
You do not have to stick to exact times each year, the most important thing is to cut 4 times each season. If you have a very large area, you can divide it up and cut at slightly different times.

  • Cut when the grass first falls over
  • Then cut the new growth twice during the summer (on a high mower setting)
  • Give a final cut at the end of the summer

Cutting tools
Strimmer, sythe, mower on high setting if it can cope with long grass althernatively a sythe mower or tractor mounted topper.

Notes by Angela Morley ( taken from Meadow Makers Conference 1/7/17

Further information

Summer in the garden

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Single roses are valuable to insects, here Rosa moysii is acting as a bee magnet

Rosa moysii has now stopped flowering and will soon be covered in unusual shaped red hips, its pretty leaves and upright habit continue to provide interest to the border.  Beneath, Viola cornuta & Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ have been flowering non stop since May.

Mole problems

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Gardening for wildlife can be very testing, a couple of years ago I had a lot of grass snakes in the garden, they have since moved on much to the relief of my nerves.  Currently I am blighted by moles, gorgeous little creatures I agree however my lawn areas are being churned up, in my polytunnels the salad beds are being hollowed out causing death to my plants and now the moles have moved into my flower beds.  I have tolerated these moles for several years but the situation has become severe.   Extermination a tempting thought but it is not the way forward for a wildlife gardener so I am going to try the following deterrent:

Mix 2 tablespoons of detergent, 6 oz of Castor oil in a gallon of water – mix one ounce of concentrate per gallon of water and apply to the lawn. Re-apply after rain or watering.

Lets see if it works! …

Exotic wildlife

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

I was rather pleased to spot this exotic looking grasshopper basking in the early autumn sun and maybe soaking up the heady scent of Rosa ‘de Rescht’ also.

Growing well – Devon

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

This garden was planted in spring 2015 and it is very exciting to see how well it has established, the hedges have bushed out well and need just a couple more season’s to start approaching the desired height.

The pools attract hundreds of  dipping swallows, a spectacle to behold!

Reclaiming the view

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

It is lovely to have a healthy hedge in the garden full of birds however by mid August I do look forward to reclaiming the view.

Let your grass grow

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Natural meadow area at the centre of Strode College campus, with two table tennis tables in a mown glade at the centre (not shown).  This approach has a lot going for it:  beautiful colours, textures, low maintenance, cheap, easy,  native, beneficial to moths, butterflies and all sorts of other insects…

In a few weeks time the meadow needs to be mown (or scythed) to tidy.