Gardening for Wildlife
Speaker: Lucy Frost
Date: 27th January
Lucy’s Power Point talk was based around her passion for organic gardening and designed to show us how to attract wildlife into the garden by providing suitable habitats. She told us she had started giving gardening talks following her course in Zoology at Reading University in 1990. This had in sparked off her interest in the environment and resulted in her gardening organically in her 2 acres of land newly purchased in Melstead near Alton. Her talk was divided into two sections with illustrations from her own garden and other areas.
Part 1 – Be organic
- Lucy stressed the need for a healthy enriched soil; it needs lots of bacteria and compost from our own compost bins. Chickens make good fertilizer, guano; worms and centipedes help make home made garden compost friable. Chemicals cause the worms to emigrate. Well rotted farmyard manure is also useful as is green manure and leaf mould. But keep the different types of compost separate. Some denizens of a compost heap that might appear include slowworms and grass snakes, adders are unlikely!
- Organic pest control can be practised with the aid of a few friends. Thrushes and hedgehogs will predate on invertebrates without the need for slug pellets which are toxic to animals that feed on the slugs and snails. The common shrew feeds for 24 hours a day and violet ground beetles are also effective. Be careful not to destroy ground beetle eggs which look like snail eggs. Hover flies are good at clearing up pests.
Lucy recommended the use of copper tools which leave copper deposits in the soil which slugs do not like. She also uses Nemaslug, Slug Killer, nematodes in solution which kill the young and smaller slugs, a “slug pub” is also useful. Savona is an insecticidal soap. Ladybirds and lacewings are beneficial but look out for the European ladybird which we don’t want.
Part 2 – Habitats
- Borders – cottage garden plants provide food and shelter for insects; valerian and lavender are good examples. The Hummingbird Hawkmoth may be encouraged as it has appeared in Lucy’s garden. The border debris should not be cut back till March, leaving it raises the temperature by 0.5oC. A lawn is a sterile environment and only encourages crane fly and scarab beetles (although green woodpeckers love them).
- Hedges and fences – these provide cover (even the dreaded Leylandii) for birds and insects. Escallonia is particularly good as it flowers three times a year and honey bees and painted lady butterflies love it. Honeysuckle is a must for moths. Pulmonaria, celandine, blackthorn and pussy willow are also good for bees early in the season and will help to keep the bees strong.
- Shrubs and Trees – Have a woodland area if you can with nesting boxes and bird tables. A wild flower meadow is good for the food web. A nettle and thistle patch is crucial for large butterflies. Artificial house martin nests are now available. A pile of old logs is a marvellous habitat.
- Ponds – they do need maintaining as they tend to fill up, but are good for insects, the broad bodied chaser for example, and a variety of amphibians.
- Garden Organically
- Provide suitable habitats
- Be imaginative! You will benefit the wildlife and enjoy watching them.
This was a most enjoyable and informative talk which gave us many ideas for encouraging wildlife into our gardens.