It’s Wild About Gardens Week, and we’re celebrating with a series of blogs looking at different aspects of wildlife gardening. This one is from Simon, our Your Wild Life Project Coordinator. As part of the project Simon and his volunteers have been creating a wildlife garden in North Solihull.
This week is Wild About Gardens week, a campaign run in partnership by the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society. Its aim is to raise awareness of the wonderful wildlife found in people’s gardens, and to encourage everyone to create space for wildlife in their own garden. Gardens are home to a huge amount of wildlife, and in a world where pressure on wider green spaces is increasing, they offer a vital sanctuary for many of our beloved species of bird, insect, plant and mammal.
This is therefore the perfect opportunity for me to let you know about one such wonderful wildlife garden that I have had the privilege of working on in North Solihull, as part of the Your Wild Life Project that I run. The Your Wild Life project is a community project in North Solihull, which aims to get people active and outdoors on wildlife related activities. For the last 8 months myself and a group of dedicated volunteers have been working hard to create a new wildlife garden at the Three Tree’s Community Centre in Chelmsley Wood. The garden is nearing completion and it has been truly transformed, making it a better place for wildlife and the people that visit it.
When we took over the garden it was basically a dumping ground, a corner of the community centre that was dominated by a large litter-filled compost heap and not much else! However there was great potential there; a ring of silver birch trees surrounded the edge of the space and there were two apple trees. There was also a lot of deadwood habitat. Plenty to work with!
We started by building a compost bin to transfer all of the current compost into. Once this was out of the way we could begin work on excavating the new pond, which was to be the centre piece of the garden. Every wildlife garden needs a pond, even a small one can bring in frogs, toads and newts, as well as attracting insects (such as hoverflies) which provide important food for birds and other invertebrates. Creating the pond was a challenge; we had to dig through rock hard ground full of old bricks, and then struggle with installing a rustic wooden fence (to stop small children falling in!). However this was all worth it for the end result, a lovely pond full of flowering plants, such as yellow iris, which we hope will provide a home for wildlife and a feature for visitors to enjoy.
We also planted lots of new plants in the borders around the edge of the pond. After improving the soil by adding lots of compost, we planted a range of domestic garden species and wildflowers, which were sourced from local plant nurseries. All the plants were chosen for their value to bees and butterflies, and they have already worked, attracting more insects and adding a splash of colour to a previously dreary area. Verbena bonariensis and Foxgloves have added height, lavender and rosemary (along with thyme and majoram) nectar and a nice scent, scabious and knapweed a foodplant for insect species, and shrubs such as guedler rose and apple blossom some more pollen.
No wildlife garden would be complete without a bird table and bird feeders. We repaired an old bird table and have attached bird feeders to the trees, which has already attracted blue tits, great tits, sparrows and robins. We also put some bird boxes up in the trees, to give the birds somewhere to nest.
Log piles are one of the best things (and easiest!) you can do for wildlife in your garden. The decaying wood provides refuge for lots of invertebrate species, as well as a whole host of other wildlife. Just this week I looked through a log pile that had been in place for only 4 days and I found a frog, toad, newt and a devil’s coach horse beetle! We used the logs that were on the site to make nice log piles for invertebrates, and then drilled holes in some and attached them to trees to make bee nesting areas.
The garden is almost finished, though we are working on a few more nice additions. We are installing a log bench and table seating area, so that people can sit by the pond and enjoy the space. We will also be planting some flowering plants in pots to dot around the garden, as well as sorting out some hanging baskets for the walls around the garden. The garden has revitalised this small corner of a community garden and created an important refuge for wildlife in a heavily built up area.
I would urge you to do the same in your garden, no matter how small an area. Even just buying a couple of potted flowering plants can attract bumblebees in search of pollen. There is plenty of helpful resources on the internet (see below for details) on how to attract more wildlife to your garden. Why not give it a try and soon you could be enjoying the site of birds flitting about or frogs hopping around, right in your own garden!
Downloadable resources for making your garden more wildlife friendly can be found on the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust website or the Wild About Gardens website. You can also follow Simon, and see his wonderful wildlife photography on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.