Build it and they will come!
No one is ever too small to make a difference!
You may recall last month that l wrote about a vegan gardener who said that to provide the likes of bird feeders and water baths to your birds was no better than keeping them as pets? I disagreed with the statement l read then equally as much as today. I do not believe this is keeping ‘wild birds’ as pets but merely encouraging all life into our gardens as well as aiding wildlife where and when we can. Could not the same be said for pollinators under that guise? That by planting fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers all we are doing is encouraging wildlife into our gardens?
The pollinators are valuable to a gardener, equally as much as and is the likes of encouraging wildlife into our gardens so that we too can enjoy a slice of the countryside whilst we still have a countryside? Let us not forget that it is we humans who are decimating wildlife territories, with aggressive farming and fisheries, suburbanisation, unecessary new property builds and laying waste to millions of acres of ground per year therefore defacing the very level of the earth in which we say we live upon.
So l believe that we have a duty of care and a responsibility to ensuring that we CAN do as much as we can to continually encourage wildlife and the likes into our gardens under the premise of aiding conservation as well as providing us with beauty.
I welcome all visitors to my garden be this the birds, the insects and the mammals alike and whilst l could well do without the likes of mosquitoes in the summer grazing on my bare flesh they too have as much right to their life as indeed do we all.
I was saying to Suzi Tench of My Colourful Life of the life and culture one can expect to see from an open air compost heap when it is being worked. The compost heap during the various stages of the heaps life enjoys different seasonal visitors equally as much as when you are working on the heap itself and turning it over.
I have had what l considered almost a million ants in the heap at the height of summer 2017. A huge nest that comprised many various entities to do with ant life from pupae stage to workers to flying ants, it was more like a raised army from Game of Thrones than it was a small ant nest. It was part and parcel of having a compost heap, as well as the time last year winter 2018 that the heap was overrun with woodlice thousands upon thousands of them breeding as well as aiding the decompostion process. All ‘heap’ life is doing just that, helping the breaking down process. The compost heap will have many visitors and long term residents during its active periods, and you need to be able to welcome and encourage them at all times.
Whilst l have no photos of the frogs and toads that visit or indeed the cheeky hedgehog l have seen on occasions, l do have three sets of images that display the greatness and charm of an outdoor heap.
You always want to welcome worms into your heap they aid enormously in the active breakdown of your heaps. The more you have the merrier everyone will be. You want worms breeding and living full time in your heap. Earthworms are detritivores and they eat dead material not living material, so the myth of worms are eating plants is poppycock. You can encourage more worms to your heap by adding more kitchen waste, but also bran is reputed to be like catnip is to cats an great agent for encouraging worms to your compost heap.
Most worms live within 10 – 12 ” of the top soil in your gardens, so by ensuring that you provide them with the right nutrients they will come – as they say “Build it and they will come!”
I always suggest building the base of a new heap direct to the soil, so that you can allow the worms free access. but worms will go where the nutrients are. I have had worms in compost bins equally as much as my pile. When trying to attract more to your heap, keep the compost moist but not wet.
Worms are beneficial to so much of our wildlife, soil conditioning and the overall plant health. Another thjing to remember of value is that the more worms you attract to your garden and your heap alike is forever and continually increasing the amount of organic fertiliser that is free to your garden. If you keep chickens, keep them off the areas where you are trying to encourage worm life.
A regular visitor to my heap are Slow Worms – oh how l love to see these when they are residing between the months of spring to autumn. 2017 – 2018 l enjoyed the company of a total of a dozen of these beauties and they honoured my heap with youngsters – a real thrill! The Slow Worm – Anguis fragilis – is principally a blindworm. These are not venemous and their diet is principally snails, slugs, worms, insects and occasionally spiders. They are attracted to compost heaps because of their warmth.
Other visitors to both the garden and the heap are birds – l love to see birds in the garden, l love to hear birdsong . The most notable visitors l always have in my garden are the magpies, wood pigeons, robins, blackbirds, chaffinches, tits, wrens and sparrows and the gorgeous yellowhammers. Sadly l haven’t seen many swallows or swifts this year, but l believe this is potentially due to the massive and aggressive hunting of the species in countries like Egypt.
Mr and Mrs Blackbird always seemingly avoid image capture but are permanent residents in the garden and nesting nearby l have in the spring heard the joyous singsongness of Mr Blackbird. In the summer of 2017 l had a pair of male robins which l presumed were possibly father and maybe son, as robins are quite territorial and protect their lands fiercely so the following sequence of photos was quite astonishing to me, hence the reasoning behind family.
It was as l was attending one of the regular turnings of the compost heap that always attracts birds to the perimetre watching for any tasty morsels and tidbits that this sequence occured and was a real joy to be so up close and personal with. Of course Suze would say that when a robin visits it is someone upstairs popping by to say hello.
A compost heap is a terrific place for many forms of wildlife to both gather and hunt as well as breed and reside.
I do think it is essential as l said initially that we do what we can to encourage, motivate, inspire and support wildlife into our gardens and environment. So here are some ideas for you ….
Don’t always concrete every spare bit of your garden or just lawn everything, why not have a little slice of environmental heaven where upon you have a wildlife patch. Think of it as saying no to concrete jungle or even cutting down on mowing time. This patch will encourage lots of beneficial insects to your garden.
Plant pollen and nectar rich plants and flowers with a longer season so as to encourage more pollinators to come and play in your environment.
Suze and l are currently looking at introducing a water feature to our garden as the sound of water is a lovely sound to listen to. But in addition to that we do have also an ancient birdbath which is topped up every day which does encourage the birds down for a welcome drink or a bath, and l have also seen the likes of mayflies, dragonflies, butterflies and bees stop by for a quick ‘sup’ up. Birds love these features, but if not a fountain, perhaps think along the lines of a sunken water bowl or a small pond. Mammals will also benefit from this as well.
Our next door neighbours have just got a water fountain similiar to this and already l have seen birds enjoying it.
NB – a great hint supplied by Cagedunn is if you are not using a water bowl with sloping sides for the likes of bees and butterflies then please do remember to include a large rock in the bowl to act as an island. This ensures that the water drinkers do not drown.
Bug hotels and or log piles are superb ways to encourage the likes of amphibians, reptiles and insectivores to your garden – frogs, toads, slow worms, garden friendly snakes and hedgehogs.
Summer Hedge 2017
Spring Hedge 2019
Here we are in some ways lucky we have hedging of sorts bordering both sides of the garden, but the introduction of some kind of borders to your garden would encourage a beautiful habitat for all sorts of wildlife including insects and pollinators. The birds here adore the hedging as it affords them suburban environments to roost and nest within.
Instead of hurrying along every week to mow your lawn you could leave the grasses to grow a little bit longer and if you cannot even remotely consider doing that to your entire lawn, then why not just allocate an area that this can be done too? Long grass is a great place for insects that will also award other wildlife a hunting ground.
The other option here also, is at the end of the summer season, don’t be too quick to cut everything back, allow it to enjoy a longer season, growing older and dying off naturally and allow even perhaps an overwintering situation to arise so that many of the insects have a place to snuggle down and hibernate into.
One of the more obvious ways and of course we go back to the vegan gardener who is/was against this idea is the more direct approach. Suze and l have here a selection of bird feeders. But you know you could also provide some nesting boxes for both birds and bees or as said a bug hotel.
I created mine on the cheap just by using some old logs, log slices and pallets. Sticks, bamboo shorts, rocks and upturned crockery pots. But it does the job, as l know we have a hedgehog, frogs, toads and newts living beneath. I have a planter on top so we can plant out some creeping plants that will dangle down over the sides.
So there are some ideas for you and hopefully you too can encourage wildlife to your gardens to, because none of us is ever too small to make a difference. Let me know below what ideas you have for encouraging visitors to your gardens.