Laying the Foundations of a Wildlife Garden

Our garden (if we can call it that) was a barren old thing. Little more than a few square meters of concrete fenced off and overlooked on all sides by housing. Not exactly what you would call wildlife haven; though things did improve somewhat when we set about making a few small changes last year.

First up, and to compensate for a complete lack of soil, we added planters. Filling these, in turn, with a typical range of garden plants to keep us entertained and a few vegetables to put food on the table. We planted lavender, runner beans, violas and honeysuckle – pretty run of the mill plants which, despite not being planted expressly for the benefit of nature, did entice a few species into the yard. Namely a good variety of pest species (aphids, spider mites, cabbage fly, the list goes on) but also pollinators, and lots of them.

Next came the addition of a 1×1 meter grow bed (for vegetables), and pond in a pot, a few hanging baskets to increase planting space and finally, an as-yet unused bee box. That was that for 2019. A step in the right direction but not what anyone would call a garden suited to wildlife, and something that I hope to change in 2020.

I confess it doesn’t look like much…

Spurred on by a newfound desire to record as many species as possible in my neighbourhood and, of course, do my bit for nature, this year, we’re starting from scratch. The pots will be filled with species beneficial to wildlife and the grow bed given over to native plant species in the hope of creating a small yet mighty meadow. It won’t be long now until we can sow this and hopefully, by summer, we will see a vibrant swath of clover, trefoil, vetch, Ox-eye daisy and perhaps even some more unusual species. If, that is, the seeds of Bladder Campion, Scarlet Pimpernel and Wild Liquorice currently growing in the greenhouse come too much.

Away from the meadow, pot space will also be utilised with nature in mind. A process started in autumn when we crammed every available bit of space with spring bulbs to provide an early source of nectar. Crocus, daffodil, tulip, Snake’s Head Fritillary, English Bluebell, Hyacinth, Snowdrop; they’re all represented and some are even in full flower as I write this. By the time these have passed, it will be allium, Globe Thistle, Buddleia and Lamb’s-ear that take over. Not to mention a plethora of herbs we intend to introduce – thyme and marjoram providing particularly popular last year.

Keen to do as much as possible with a minuscule plot, we’ll also be planting out Red Valarian – ever popular with pollinators and rather beautiful. A slight side motivation for this is the hope of attracting a Humming-bird Hawk Moth into the garden. I did see one across the street last year…

Signs of life in the pop-up greenhouse: Red Valarian, Bladder Campion, Lamb’s-ear and strawberry.

Elsewhere in the yard, the roses, blackcurrant, strawberries and raspberry bush can stay as all boast at least some value to wildlife. Equally, we still intend to grow our chilli and tomato plants but will not be making a concerted effort to ‘protect’ these from pests – all of which, alongside their predators, will be embraced in the hope of some sense of equilibrium forming.

A few other ‘rules’ and ideas for 2020:

  • No pesticides. None at all. Not even an option.
  • Peat free compost only
  • Weeds and botanical colonists can stay- we’ll even leave a few pots vacant to see what turns up naturally.
  • Vertical gardening – we’re running out of space but do have an excess of walls perfect for hanging baskets. More space equals more plants.
  • A sparrow box – a bit of far-fetched idea but who knows!
  • More bug hotels.

As you can probably tell, I am quite excited to see what the new season holds for our little garden (I must start using that word). While our efforts pale in comparison to those of others, I believe it is important to do what you can with the space available to you, in doing so, contributing to the bigger picture of gardens as vital space for nature.

As ever, I’d love to hear any ideas you may have for making further improvements and do hope you will tune in to future blog posts to keep up to date with our progress.

Oh yes, I almost forgot the first few species added to this years garden species count:

#1 Bluebottle, #2 Ivy-leaved Toadflax, #3 Goldfinch, #4 Blue Tit, #5 Robin

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