November, 2009

Homes for Wildlife

Homes for Wildlife
If you love the creatures in your garden, you'll love our Homes for Wildlife project. This is the place to ask and answer questions about making your backyard wildlife-friendly.

Gardening for wildlife

Follow the adventures of Adrian Thomas, our wildlife gardening expert, and be inspired to create your own wildlife haven on your doorstep. Adrian posts here every Monday and Friday without fail, so make it a date and drop by!
  • If you can't stand the rain, get into the kitchen

    Please excuse my wimpishness, but given the driving wind and lashing rain I failed to venture into the garden this weekend, bar to clear the leaves from the pond (the Flowering Cherry is moulting madly) and to top up the bird feeders.

    On the subject of bird feeding, I’m passionate about trying to let the garden provide as much as possible by growing plants that harbour insects and produce seeds and berries, but that doesn’t stop me doing a fair bit of supplementary feeding. Without my seed and peanut feeders, the number of visits that birds make to my garden would be only a fraction of what they are, despite all my efforts to actually grow their supper. I liken the feeders to dangling, magic seedpods – birds must marvel at how they replenish themselves.

    The good folk at The Lodge must have sensed that I’d be a frustrated couped-up bunny this weekend, and so sent me through some online RSPB links for indoors birdfood activities.

    If you’ve got to keep the kids or grandkids occupied, you might like to try these family activities: to create a bird feeder, or to make a bird cake (and no, that’s not a cake with a bird in it, cheeky!). These photos show children at some of our recent Feed the Birds Day events getting stuck in, making bird cake, making wooden seeds feeders that can be hung on a wall, and making hanging bird feeders out of wire and logs.

    If you’re wanting something to do more cordon bleu, here are some recipes bird-friendly celebrity chefs have suggested.

    And if you just want some information on the best foods to use, then check out this RSPB guide.

    The RSPB is actually just embarking on some new field trials to further our knowledge on what supplmentary foods birds like best. I’m one of their volunteers testing out the products in my garden. Sadly all volunteer places are taken, but I’ll keep you updated on how I get on, as daily I measure consumption rates at my seed feeders and weigh my fatballs!

  • Wood en things

    I recently took delivery of some various sized logs to keep me warm this winter. Some are so big; two people can barely lift them. Fired with inspiration from your Forum posts helped me take a critical look at what, from this consignment, I can share with wildlife before I cut and split them.

    By now I guess you all know, where possible, I like to share my comforts with wildlife and this frequently includes my firewood. This is just one example – I will share some of the others over the coming weeks – if only to inspire those of you using firewood to do the same!

    I selected two very large butts of ash to transport to the end of the garden to create some standing deadwood in my planed copse area. I just need to accost an unsuspecting neighbour to help me get this one down the end of the garden!! There’s also a whole load of alder poles and straight away I visualised a vertical screen just adjacent to my wood shed.

    I can create a gentle curve with them where the dark outline is in the picture below and plant some nectar rich plants at their base. The screen will give me extra privacy in summer when lying by my pond watching all the wildlife in and around it.

    Some of the other smaller pieces were sufficiently twisted and knarled to lend themselves to placing randomly on my yet to be planted drought garden.

  • More sinking feelings?!

    I'm delighted today to pass you over to Julia Makin to tell us the latest news from RSPB Old Moor's wildlife garden, and news that they've trumped me with their household water gardens:

    "May I second Adrian’s lack of enthusiasm for going outdoors this week; it is truly biblical weather outside!

    So when all creative glory has finished in the kitchen, put the kettle on, grab some scrap paper and put your feet up. It’s time to start dreaming of spring.

    What would you love to see where next year? And how can you make your life easier? Remember, if you’ve created a space you’re unhappy with, you can change it. Even the best gardeners would agree – no one gets its right first time!

    At Old Moor we’ve planted native bluebell, snowdrop and garlic bulbs and are already imagining clouds of colour under trees and around benches, which will make these features look as though they’ve been there forever.

    To work around our hectic lifestyles we’ve decided to introduce new, low-maintenance shrubs such as box, bay and hellebores before winter which create structure and provide vital food and shelter for birds. Although we strive for native where possible, we are including (non-invasive) hebes because they’re just so pretty and bumblebees quite like them too.

    Finally, Adrian’s October 23 blog has given me some ideas for water features. We have both a sink and tin bath pond (ha!) that somehow never got finished (well, we’re only human) (photos below). So I propose a little (friendly) competition for who can get the most/unusual visitors next year. All mini-pond owners welcome to join in. Please send all photos, descriptions and moments here please!"


    Click here to see Julia's Old Moor blog, and if you'd like to make a visit to Old Moor, it is well worth it - great food, great Tree Sparrows, great reserve! Have a not-too-wet gardening weekend, and see you in my next blog post on Monday - Adrian :-)