Posted: Friday 2 August 2013
by Kate Bradbury
The Giving Nature a Home campaign aims to encourage gardeners to create better wildlife habitats in their gardens.
This summer, the RSPB launched a new campaign. Calling for “a million homes to be built to end the housing crisis”, the Giving Nature a Home campaign aims to encourage gardeners to create better wildlife habitats in their gardens. It’s a subject close to my heart. For the last four years I have been creating wildlife habitats in my private garden, and enjoyed watching the different species I have attracted in the process.
I’ve also tried to make the communal area of our flats more of a home for wildlife and, while I’m free to do what I like in my own garden, the communal area has been more of a challenge. There have been many successes: I have installed a bird box, compost bin and stick pile, each of the two large air vents above the car park is now fitted with a green roof, and pollinator-friendly lavender and Verbena bonariensis have been planted in the borders.
But there’s still a long way to go. Once a week the gardeners arrive with their noisy lawn mowers and leaf blowers, and chop back, mow and manicure everything literally to within an inch of its life. Any budget for plants is spent on annual bedding such as pelargoniums and petunias, and seven silver birch trees have been removed and replaced with more low-maintenance palms (Trachycarpus fortunei). On top of that, seed I have sown has been doused with weedkiller in a bid to keep everything neat and tidy.
I’ve battled on, despite nearly giving up several times. I’ve negotiated with the gardeners to stop using weedkiller and to donate the grass clippings and other garden waste to me for composting, rather than throw it in the bin to landfill. A strip of wildflowers I sowed last year has been allowed to flourish, and I’ve gradually filled the borders with plants propagated from mine and my mum’s garden.
The borders are now planted with catmint, penstemons, cranesbill geraniums and opium poppies as well as lavender and Verbena bonariensis. Last week I filled the gaps with honesty, foxglove and red campion for next year (and told the gardeners so the young plants won’t be removed). I’m managing the green roofs like meadows to encourage the growth of more wildflowers, and I’ve sown red clover to increase biodiversity.
There’s definitely more insect activity now. Bumblebees visit the border plants and the wildflower strip attracts more hoverflies than my private garden. Just last week a neighbour told me that, thanks to my efforts, she’d seen more butterflies (I neglected to tell her how much the recent sunshine had played a part).
There are so many sterile, desert-like communal gardens attached to apartment blocks around the country. Most of them, like mine, are chopped back, mown and manicured once a week by gardeners with noisy lawn mowers and leaf blowers. I wonder how many budding gardeners living in the apartments are itching to grow a few plants in these spaces, and make them more welcoming to wildlife. I wish they would take the plunge and do so – perhaps the RSPB Giving Wildlife a Home campaign will inspire them?
02/08/2013 at 22:17
I have every type of bird visiting my garden because I feed them. got loads of native trees bushes and flowers frogs newts and slowworms butterflies and bee's and hover flies love it here too my garden is for all of these creatures. they are all part of the big picture and with out them life as we know it will end. unfortunately man will continue destroying the earth and all that's in it. how sad that we haven't learned the lesson.
03/08/2013 at 10:06
I have a wildlife garden and it always gives me great pleasure.I do not use chemicals and i do not interfere and the balance is usually fine .I may lose a few things that have been eaten by something but that is a small price to pay for all the beauty and pleasure i get from nature. :-)
03/08/2013 at 12:31
I think what Kaycurtis is saying about Man is true it's all about greed and profit.
03/08/2013 at 19:26
I used a turf cutter on a smallish patch about 1m by 2m and one mower width away from my pond and sowed it with a low wildlife meadow mix I bought from Meadow Mania. It was quite windy in March when I sowed since the garden was too wet to use the turf cutter before the end of March. It looked like it was an utter disaster in May but in end of June, early July it began to flower and looked amazing. It has never been watered or fed and I have just come back from 2 weeks away and found it is still full of flowers though these are different from the ones flowering in July. There are always at least 8-10 bumble bees in this small bed and about 4-5 butterflies which is more than on by buddlia. My garden is very wildlife friendly and won best large wildlife garden in Dorset last year. It is quite large and I have all sorts of things from slugs and snails, rabbits and deer and badgers, to other less destructive wildlife. None of the destructive ones have touched this bed and growing the short meadow mix means that the wind has not knocked it over and even my dog running through it has not damaged it. I am going to dig up more of my lawn in the autumn and add some more meadow mix, adding crocus for even earlier blooms for the bees etc. I will leaving a walking/mower area around it. I would encourage all of you to sow some of this even in a pot on a balcony since the result is so amazing and the wildlife love it.
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04/08/2013 at 08:48
One thing I've noticed with using pebbles (mixed sizes, nothing big) as a mulch - ground-dwelling beetles like it as a hiding/hunting place. I'm not advocating using such a mulch as a replacement for all 'organic' mulches, but a small area does appear to offer a new habitat.