Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts

Monday, March 7, 2022

Book Review: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants

 People who know me, know that I am interested in learning more about maintaining my land in a way that is helpful to wildlife and this includes educating myself about invasive species and how they harm my land. That is why when I received Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants as a goodbye gift when I moved, I was thrilled. This book hits the mark in so many ways.



Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants written by Douglas W. Tallamy

My copy of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants is a 15th printing and was updated and expanded in 2009. The first edition was published in 2007. Why had I not previously known about this important book?!

"Bringing Nature Home is a book many of us have been waiting for. So much more than a push for native plants, it articulates the broad interdependency of living relationships and literally redefines gardens as the new Nature" - Foreword by Rick Dark. 

It is the attention to detail related to how everything is interdependent and the ability of the author to describe everything in a helpful way for us regular folks that makes this book so beautiful. For example, by now many of us know that the Monarch Butterfly is dependent on the milkweed for survival. So many of us, myself included, either plant milkweed plants or help disperse and plant the seeds from the milkweed pods in areas where the plant is present. However, what I only learned through this book is that butterflies need both a "host" plant and a "nectar" plant. One plant for reproducing and one plant for feeding. Fortunately, the milkweed does both for Monarch Butterflies.  However, people like me mistakenly believe that popular plants, such as the Butterfly Bush, is another must-have plant for sustaining butterflies. Unfortunately, we sometimes choose the wrong type (or combination) of plants and do more harm than good.

"When designing a butterfly garden, you need two types of plants . . . Most people only focus on the plants that produce nectar. Even worse, they often turn to alien plants that are promoted as being good for butterflies, the most popular of which, hands down, is the butterfly bush (Buddleja species). . . .         but not one species of butterfly in North America can use buddleias as larval host plants."  

Well, who knew?  I sure didn't! I am thankful to have this knowledge now. I may still plant Buddleias on my land but cautiously and with a focus on ensuring that I have plenty of other nectar AND host plants in order to provide a complete habitat. According to the author, when we do not provide this complete habitat, we sometimes do more damage than good. And in this example, end up with a lower butterfly population.

While chapter one is "Restoring Natives to Suburbia: A Call to Action" and chapter two is "The Vital New Role of the Suburban Garden" the information contained in this book is relevant to all sizes of lots and land. Even my rugged ridge-top acreage in West Virginia. In fact, this book includes information about 2 trees I am interested in that others sometimes have never heard of: Paw Paw and American Chestnut. This book also mentions many of the alien (non-native) species I am dealing with on my land: Autumn Olive and Mile-a-minute to name just two. Interestingly enough, Autumn Olive was planted as a way to assist birds. In the long run, it became an invasive plant that - like some butterfly plants - provides some food but no other habitat (host) value.

Mr. Tallamy does a most excellent job of teaching the reader about the importance of native plants. And how those native plants support birds, butterflies, and the environment as a whole. He doesn't avoid the tough questions about non-native plants, rather he includes an entire chapter of "Answers to Tough Questions".

If you have any desire to learn about landscaping and providing a yard that better sustains wildlife, this book is absolutely the place to begin.

My Personal Stance Regarding My Responsibility to the Natural World Around Me

I am a bit sad that I had not heard of this book until it was gifted to me at the end of last year but am thrilled that I have it now. Truthfully, I have not read the entire book cover-to-cover. It is so packed full of information that I have read certain sections, and have returned to read those sections again (i.e. the section about Milkweeds and Monarchs and the section about American Chestnuts). This will be a reference book that I refer to again and again over time. Especially Appendix One, "Native Plants with Wildlife Value and Desirable Landscaping Attributes by Region" and Appendix Two, "Host Plants of Butterflies and Showy Moths". 

I have a strong desire to be a good steward of my land and to provide a helpful habitat to the birds, butterflies, and wildlife in the area - while eventually having a place that is as useful to humans (i.e. homesteading with a garden and chickens).  I also have a strong desire to leave the world - not just my land - a better place than I found it. 

To be completely honest, I feel there is far too much lip-service given to environmental issues and very little real action. The phenomenon of the most vocal environmentalists physically doing little to help the environment (while often making personal decisions that are harmful) astounds me. I could list the things that irk me related to this topic, but I'm not sure I am able to write it in a way that conveys my intent and that is ultimately productive. So I'll just say: if you are concerned about the environment, demonstrate that concern. Begin at home and in your community.

The first big step is education. Mr. Tallamy does an excellent job of educating and explaining. I don't feel that he is lecturing or berating, rather he is encouraging. He turns a world-wide problem into small bite-sized chunks. 

The second step is for more of us to do something. I may only have 4 acres surrounded by hundreds of acres that aren't being cared for. But I can do something real on my little bit of land. Something that is meaningful. 

I am not as articulate as Mr. Tallamy so I will end with an important question and answer from his book (edited for length - please read his entire answer if you are able):

Q: My house sits on an eighth of an acre. Is that enough land to make a difference if I use natives instead of aliens?
"Your small plot is connected to other plots, which are connected to others and others and others. Collectively, they are North America. Changing the plant base of all of suburbia is quite an undertaking, but all you have to worry about is your eighth of an acre." 
"If we humans are capable of [ruining] hundreds of millions of acres . . .we are also capable of returning natives to our gardens"

Thank You

Finally, I am so thankful for the science teacher/co-worker/friend who gifted me this wonderful book. You demonstrate your concern for the earth (and students, and co-workers, and all who cross your path) on a daily basis. You are a wonderful role model in so many ways. And you have enabled me to make more informed decisions on my land that will help sustain the wonderful wildlife of West Virginia.  





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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Why Insect Hotels Are Good For Wildlife And Gardeners Reviewed


Insect Hotel


Bug hotels or Insect Houses are an essential item in our garden. They are a feature in themselves and are a vital component of our wildlife-friendly garden.

Insect Hotels can be bought or handmade and are both equally effective. When you have a bug house you are aiming to attract all manner of insects and wildlife to gain a balance of insects in your garden which is vital if you are aiming to have a harmonious wildlife garden.


Insect Hotels Benefits To The Garden

Having an Insect Hotel in the garden is not entirely altruistic. The aim of any wildlife gardener is to use no pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides at all. 

These chemicals kill "pests" and beneficial insects equally in most cases and are not good for wildlife.

For the gardener, an insect hotel can attract all manner of bugs and many predators that will help us to keep a good balance in the garden thus eliminating the need to use pesticides. 

Bee on Daffodil

In the early days of converting a normal garden to a wildlife pesticide-free garden, this can take some nerve. A garden needs a natural balance of predator and prey.

If you or a previous garden have been using chemicals then stop, undoubtedly in the first year or so you will see greenfly and blackfly and all manner of pests eating our plants. This is because your garden became unbalanced. It is now for us to redress this balance and installing insect houses is one easy step.   

However, if we want a wildlife friendly garden we must resist the urge to use chemicals. Instead, we must attract the beneficial insects, spiders and predators to our gardens who will easily and quickly dispatch those pests eating our plants.

 A great way to do this especially in the early days is to have an Insect Hotel or several bughouses. Provide insects shelter and a food source and they will arrive. 

Insect Hotel In Garden

Personally in the first two years of taking on this garden, I simply did not grow plants I knew would be susceptible to aphid attack. The previous gardeners had used chemicals and had a very non-wildlife friendly garden, so I knew once I stopped all chemical use I would face some difficulties. 

It took a year or two to fully balance the garden again. I was lucky as my neighbours also stopped using chemicals which helps a lot as wildlife do not know about boundaries. It was so worth it as since then I have not had to spend any money on insect prevention, the predators do it all for me free of charge night and day! 

In this article, we will mainly talk about insect houses with a mention and further resources to our ground-dwelling beneficial creatures need as well.


Location Of an Insect Hotel.

A Bughouse is best located in a warm undisturbed spot in your garden. For insects, it is important it is in a fairly dry area so under the house or shed eaves, in a tree or against a sunny fence. 

Some may be a thing of beauty or they may be something you wish to hide from full view. Either way, it does not matter to the bugs as long as they can go about their business undisturbed. We like the look of ours so we do not make any particular effort to hide them. 


Who Lives in an Insect Hotel?

Close Up Of Insect Hotel

So what can you expect to live in your insect house?

Generally, you can expect a variety of insects such as ladybirds and woodlice. You will get spiders of course and hopefully bees or maybe wasps.

These are all beneficial creatures to your garden. These creatures need a place to shelter, raise their young and keep themselves and their young hidden from predators. 

You can of course just put up your insect hotel and forget about it, but It can be good fun to carefully observe your insect hotel to see who has taken up residence.


Types of Wildlife Hotels. 

It is better to have several insect-specific bughouses around the garden in suitable locations than one great big multi-bug house.

The idea is that each will be more suitable for one species than another. Of course, there is no way of knowing who will decide to take up residence! 

The rationale is that different species require different approaches. For example, a home to attract bees requires a warm sunny dry location. Ideally, it should face south or as near south as possible and the area in front of it would be clear of vegetation. It is important to be a few feet off the ground and secured strongly to a wall, tree or fence.   

Insect Hotel In The Woods

Spiders are happy in a site with more cover where they can spin webs between tree branches and the insect hotel but in my experience, they are not too fussy.

In addition, while you are siting your bug houses spare a thought for ground dwelling creatures like hedgehogs who are also very beneficial to our gardens.

Hedgehogs are a species in serious decline. A lovely pile of wood and leaves in an undisturbed corner of the garden will go a long way towards helping these enchanting and ancient creatures. If you would like to take it a step further you can purchase a special house for them known as a Hogitat. Please read more about How To Help Hedgehogs In Your Garden  


Well Established Wood Pile 

If you are wanting to attract frogs and toads they will love a warm wet, damp environment in a shady spot down on the ground.

You can start a wildlife hotel at any time though you may be more successful if you put one up in early Spring or Autumn/Fall. 


Materials For An Insect, Bee Or Spider Hotel.

Ideally, you will have a bug house made of natural materials. The wood is best untreated with no paint or preservatives as that will only deter and harm insects.

Wooden tubes for insects in Bug House

If you are making your own do try to use items already in your garden to promote recycling within the garden. So small branches, hollow stems tied together, dried leaves, seed heads will all contribute to your insect hotel.  

The structure needs to be strong and solid with a sloping and wide roof to keep the rain out.

If you are buying a bug house with pre-drilled holes in the wood they should be smooth and if doing it yourself make sure there are no splinters. 

Think about the types of creatures or insects you want to attract and the habitat they require. 

Wood shavings for insects in bug hotel

Looking After An Insect Hotel.

You can expect an insect hotel to last about 2 years on average, maybe longer depending on the materials used. As it is made of natural material it will degrade over time. 

During this time it is recommended to clean it out at the end of each summer to remove any dead cells or insects and replace any worn-out sections. That is all that is really needed. 


Insect Houses Are A Learning Opportunity For Children

Bug houses are a great learning experience. It is also a wonderful fun and educational opportunity for children to learn about and appreciate the natural world. 

In a small wood near a busy residential area, primary school children have made insect houses to site all over the wood to help the local wildlife and they take great pride in their creations and interest in the inhabitants. 

Bug Hotel In The Woods Good For Winter Shelter

In our garden, we have a dry insect house 3 feet off the ground on a sunny fence, a log pile in a shady but warm corner to attract hedgehogs and in a corner near the garage a large saucer of water with dense habitat around it to attract frogs and toads. The spiders seem to make their home in many of these locations as well. 

 Having a bug hotel or two and making a habitat for wildlife is very enriching in our gardens and our lives.

Insect houses take up very little room, so most people could have an insect house in an outdoor space. The end result of all this care is a garden that is filled with the sound and sights of beautiful insects.

 Yes, we do still get greenfly and blackfly, but predator insects soon become aware of them and keep the numbers down or even eradicate them for me. We do perhaps have to accept some level of pest attack on our plants but when you achieve that crucial balance it becomes less of a problem.

I am certainly prepared to have some plant damage to know that I am not killing all insects indiscriminately. Chemicals kill both "pests" and beneficial insects.

I once had a houseplant that became invested with a type of whitefly, so as it was summer I put it outside during the day for a few days and the wasps ate all the flies for me and the plant survived.

Other insects like this gorgeous butterfly happily live in the garden now going about their daily lives and bring me a lot of joy. 

Beautiful Butterfly In Summer

People often think about the beautiful more visible wildlife like birds, but it all really begins with the small perhaps less beautiful or more scary insects. If we take more care of them they will help our gardens be more healthy and we will certainly see more birds and other gorgeous wildlife as well. 

 Without our negative influence of chemicals, over time the garden adopts an easy give and take, ebb and flow of natural processes and our plants and us benefit from that.

There are many useful and fun things you can do for wildlife in our own garden spaces, having a few insect hotels is a great start. 






More Wildlife And Gardening Articles

6 Ways To Help Wildlife In The Year Ahead

Spring Woodland Walks For Wellbeing Reviewed

Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed

Diary Of  A Wild Country Garden

Essential Wildlife Gardening Gifts

Gardening And Wildlife Articles On Review This Reviews 




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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Reviewing How To Put The Garden To Bed For Winter



During late October and early November, I start putting the garden to bed. I like that expression, it makes me feel like I am doing my last caring duties for our garden this year and then the garden and myself can rest in the long cold dark days of winter.

Of course, there will always be jobs to do all year round. I do need to prune the climbing roses and I need to do a little hedge cutting later on, but the bulk of the autumn work in our garden is over and the best thing I can do now is to enjoy the autumn colors of the trees and plants still flowering or bearing berries and then let it rest. 




What Is Putting The Garden To Bed? 

Well for us it is to make sure that the plants in the garden can survive a winter full of winds, gales, heavy rain and snow.

Here are a few key tasks I do in my garden. This is not an exhaustive list and will depend on what sort of garden you have. 
 

Protect Plants From Wind Damage

I need to make sure that plants are not too damaged by high winds. So for example we have several lovely Buddleia and Lavataria. 

All summer they have given us beautiful flowers and attracted many bees and butterflies. They all grow very tall so are at risk of wind rock and breaking branches. So about October, I reduce their height using loppers by about half. This prevents any issues and still gives a decent size plant at about 4 feet high. In Spring I will prune the Buddleia to about a foot high but this autumn prune is simply to prevent damage.

I repeat this with any other shrubs or plants that may be in danger. For this, depending on the thickness of growth you may use loppers or shears or these Wolf ByPass Secateurs

However, never prune Spring flowering plants now or you will not have any flowers next year. Also, it is too late to prune lavender now as any tender new growth may be frost-damaged.




Care Of The Grass In Winter 

The last cut here will be around the end of October. We tend to leave the grass a little longer over winter but it is a personal thing. We use a manual lawnmower which suits our small lawn and us very well. If you are considering a new lawnmower here is my review of the Benefits And Drawbacks Of A Manual Lawnmower. 

It is useful to do autumn spiking of the lawn with a fork or special tool then brush grit into the holes to help with drainage. If you feel the lawn needs feeding now is the time to give it an autumn feed. 

The other main thing to do is to keep off the grass if you can when it is sodden with rain. Walking on it too much will cause damage. 




Uses Of Autumn Leaves

Gather fallen leaves into a wire netting bin or wooden bin or in bags with holes punched in for drainage, water well and leave to rot down so you can have lovely free leaf mold this time next year! 

Add a layer of mulch to your borders. A thick layer of leaves or compost will enrich the soil and make it a great habitat for worms and other beneficial insects that love to live in the soil.

Here Are More Details On The Joys And Uses Of Autumn Leaves 


Make A Wildlife Habitat This Autumn

One of the best things we can do this Autumn/Fall is to make more habitat for wildlife in our gardens. Anything we need to cut down do not throw away but make into a big pile in a quiet corner of the garden. I aim for as little as possible to leave the garden, rather to recycle it within the garden.

This pile of logs, leaves, sticks will make a great winter retreat for insects, spiders, hedgehogs and all manner of overwintering creatures.

In turn, they will make your garden a healthier more balanced place for predators and prey and nature to work is magic.  




Fleecing Tender Plants In Autumn

One of the main tasks we do is to buy a great roll of fleece and proceed to wrap up all the tender of more delicate plants. We do not have a large greenhouse so they all have to stay outdoors and most would not survive a winter left to fend for themselves.

If you do have a greenhouse then it is easy to just move all your tender plants in for the winter. 

However, I have found that a thick protective covering of fleece works really well. All I need to do then is to brush any snow off it. 

So each plant and most of these tender plants are in pots receives a cosy wrapping of fleece all the way around the pot base and the foliage. I leave the top open for if its a nice day but with enough material so I can close it right over if the weather is brutal. 

For many of the plants, I am most worried about the roots. If the foliage dies down or gets wind burnt it will usually grow back if the roots are strong. 

However, if the roots become frost-bound or starved of oxygen the plant will die. So especially for plants in pots, it is vital to protect the roots if nothing else. 




Ideally and especially for terracotta pots, you would first wrap the pot in bubble wrap or hessian then wrap the fleece over it and the foliage. If you do not have bubble wrap then use fleece over all of it.

For plants that really do not like our winters such as our beautiful Bottle Brush Plant I fleece them and also bring them into our sheltered porch.

Do buy the thicker fleece if you can. I have tried different fleeces and the thinner ones tear too easily and I usually have to double wrap the plant to feel it is protected.

With the thicker fleece, although slightly more expensive you only need to single wrap and so far I have not had any trouble with tearing. 


 


Move Tender Plants to A Sheltered Spot 

After all the tender pants are fleeced up I move them to their winter homes.

This is a place where they are kept as safe from high winds and cold as possible so against a house wall is good. Our Tree Peony in particular hates strong winds.  I group them together so that they get shelter from each other. 

As I do this before Halloween it has to be said that when all wrapped up our plants do look somewhat like cute little ghosts especially after dark and particularly when my husband decides to elaborate by putting black netting, lights or eyes and ghostly additions !!! The neighbourhood children do love it though! 




Care of Herbaceous Perennials 

For herbaceous perennials, the best thing you can do in autumn is nothing at all!

It used to be the time to tidy up all the herbaceous perennials, cutting them down and generally tidying them up.

 However, we now know that many insects use these plants to overwinter in their stems and foliage. For them, our untidy garden is a warm safe home. In order for nature to survive and thrive there is a worry that Are We Too Tidy In Our Gardens?

So for the good of nature and to relieve us of a task, we now need to do nothing. When new growth starts in the spring and the insects are no longer needing their warm homes and shelter and protection we can then cut back the old growth.   


Protection of Tender And New Cuttings Over Winter

Any tender and new cuttings I took are in small pots and I move all these into our little greenhouse on the patio for winter. It has a cover I can take off if the weather is reasonable and put down when it is cold or particularly windy. 

It is not heated and does not need to be, it just keeps the worst of the weather off the new cuttings and keeps them mostly free from frost. If I did not have this I would use a cold frame or even cover them all with fleece.



General Care Of The Garden In Winter

So when we have completed all these tasks it is so lovely to know that all our precious plants are warm and cosy and ready to rest through the winter.

I will of course need to periodically check them over to see that they are doing well. On sunny days I will uncover some of the less tender ones so they get some sunshine and remain hardy.

If it snows heavily I will brush off the worst from the plants. Other than that I do not need to concern myself with them. 

Then all we gardeners need to do is to sit down with a lovely mug of whatever you like, put your feet up, enjoy the beautiful autumn sights in the garden. Perhaps take a moment to drink in the beauty of your own autumn garden, window box, or patio and in nature and start dreaming of and planning for spring!

Take The Time to Stop Look and Listen In Your Garden





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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Too Early to Plant, So Take a Trip Through a Garden Instead! A Book Review

March has arrived!  It's too early to plant, so take a nice trip through the outback of Australia with this memorable book!  

 

Many of us are getting very itchy fingers!  We all want to start digging in the dirt!  That's not a bad thing, but here in my neck of the woods, it is far to early to even think about starting all those seeds!  So what's a bonafide gardener to do?  My suggestion, is read a book!  

By accident, I came across this book, "The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart" by Holly Ringland.  I was itching to get my hands dirty, I knew it was too early, yet I needed something to take that itch away.  Talking about flowers seemed to be a good idea.  I must confess that I got this book from the library (thank you Libby app.).  To say that it piqued my interest is putting it mildly.  Alice Hart's life is a story that has been lived by many people in some form or other.  Using her love of flowers, helps her to grow, learn, heal and above all live her life!  The flowers just help her with their stories and meanings.  They help her to express what she sometimes doesn't understand or can't put words to.  

I have always wanted to travel to Australia, but I'm pretty sure that I will only be doing that virtually, especially in these times.  So, I was getting rid of two itches at once (gardening and travelling) while delving into the pages of this book.

Trying to get rid of the itch to garden too early can be difficult, but this book took me away to places I have only dreamed of.  That helped me a lot.  Alice Hart (the main character in the book) grabs you right away.  You want to hold her hand as she traverses a new normal amid family secrets and stories that make life "Okay" again.

So many things are not spoken, and through the language of flowers, Alice finds a way to embrace what is going on in her life. 

Do Flowers have a language?  Oh yes indeed they do!  The first book I read about the Language of Flowers was a book reviewed right here by our own writer, Renaissance Woman!  I was so taken with this book that when I found The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, I knew I had to read this book too!

While enjoying the story, I also learnt of trees and flowers that require a "burn" in order to spread their seeds, birds of the Australian landscapes and flowers that we will never be able to grow here in the north.  In addition, the need to keep our hands off of flowers that will die when we pick them.  

I'm sure that you will enjoy this book as much as I did and it just might help you get through that itch, that for us is starting far too early.

Waiting till April will make our efforts of digging in the ground much more fruitful and successful too.

You can learn a lot by reading and hearing the stories set in far away places. When they are  a novel that is fictional, but interspersed with truths of gardening and the habits of flora and fauna of distant places, you know you will be changed.

Here's hoping that spring will come along in due time and our itches to get our hands in the ground will be fruitful and result in beautiful gardens for the year to come.
 
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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

6 Ways To Help Wildlife In The Year Ahead

 

Butterfly On Wild Flowers By Raintree Annie

If one of the things you would like to do in the New Year is to do more to help our precious and often at-risk wildlife here are six easy ideas reviewed.

Even if we do just one of these we will be helping wildlife and nature. Do all six and your garden could be transformed into a wildlife haven in less than a year! 

In our gardens, balconies and patios we can all do one thing for wildlife and make such a huge difference. Some of these ideas are very easy indeed while others require a little more thought and time but all are fun and not difficult for most people to achieve. You may well find children enjoy being involved in many of these activities as well.

 

1. What To Do With The Old Christmas Tree 

I hope you had a lovely time at Christmas and an attractive, decorated Christmas tree.

We will keep ours up in the house for a little while longer but now is the time to think about what to do with it once the time comes to take it down.

I find it quite depressing to see all the Christmas trees outside people's houses ready to be taken away by the refuse collectors, of no more use to the neighbourhood. 

I do not like waste and feel there is a better way to recycle our old Christmas trees long after they have given us so much happiness. 

Making a woodpile with the chopped branches, creating a stumpery, shredding it and using the shreddings for mulch or even just laying it down in an undisturbed area of the garden for habitat and shelter all help our gardens and our wildlife.

What Do You Do With The Old Christmas Tree discusses more uses for our old Christmas trees.  

 

2. Don't Be So Tidy in The Garden! 

This may be an easy one to follow! However, I understand many of us like to have a neat and tidy garden, all edges carefully trimmed, leaves gathered up and all weeds eradicated. There is something very pleasing about a neat and tidy garden. However for nature, for wildlife they need us to be a little messier in our gardens.

Wildlife view our gardens as s source of food, warmth, shelter and breeding sites so they look for leaves, woodpiles, shrubs, water and long grass to name a few. 

There is a way to have a mainly neat and tidy garden and to help wildlife though. Messy does not have to mean ugly.

A small log pile can be made attractive to us and useful for wildlife, leaves left in borders or in a small pile out of the way are an invaluable source of shelter and food and just leaving things a little less manicured can be a boon to nature generally. 

We can easily designate a small area of the garden where we allow it to be a little wilder. In fact, I think a garden that aims to attract wildlife is especially beautiful and full of sound and sights and life. 


Diary Of a Wild Country Garden. Are we Too Tidy In Our Gardens? Raiintree Annie 


If you decide to do this you will reap the benefits in terms of seeing more birds, butterflies and bugs and attracting more insect and bird predators to your garden to help you with the pests and diseases all gardens have to deal with. For more ideas please see Are We Too Tidy In Our Gardens? 


3. Provide Water For The Birds 

Perhaps the most important thing we can do for birds is to provide water. Birds need water to drink and clean their feathers. This is vital for their health and wellbeing.

It is also something that fewer homes provide. Many people think about feeding the birds but less think about the need for water and bathing. Do You Have A Bird Bath In Your Garden? discusses this further with tips to help our beautiful birds. 

As long as the water is clean and fresh and ideally we need to change it every day or every few days, it does not matter too much what the container is. 

However, many of us choose to have a lovely looking birdbath or a cute novelty birdbath to make our gardens look gorgeous while assisting the birds. You can find beautiful examples here Reviewing Basalt Birdbaths 

In addition to beautiful birdbaths, I  also use plastic saucers on the ground on our patio to help the smaller birds like these gorgeous sparrows in my garden. I know other wildlife like hedgehogs and squirrels visit the water as well. 

 

Sparrows Bathing by Raintree Annie

One of the main pleasures to us of having a birdbath is to watch and photograph the gorgeous, beautiful, fascinating birds every day from the comfort of our own home.

I like a variety of birdbaths around the garden and so we have several beautiful birdbaths and these ordinary saucers placed around the garden so that the birds do not have to compete for water and bathing rights! 



4.Leave An Area Of Long Grass 

This is an easy one to fulfill if you have a garden with a lawn. Simply designate one area of the lawn and do not mow it all. 

Rather than taking action to help wildlife, this one is all about inaction! Do nothing and wait and see what happens to that small patch of long grass.

It will be interesting to see if you grow any wildflowers or clover. See how liberating it can be to grow daisies and dandelions and how insects love them! Watch out to see if your long grass attracts bees, butterflies or hoverflies. 

It's easy, free and a very simple way to help wildlife especially insects. It does not need to be a big area, just what you feel you can allow to grow a little wild.  

If you do want to take it a step further and grow some wildflower seeds, you will need to take up some of your grass as grass will generally out-compete the wildflower seeds. 

Simply strip the grass away, rake the soil into fine tilth, sow the seeds according to the seed packet and wait for them to grow. The only work you will need to do then is to cut back the wildflowers in autumn.


5. Grow A Window Box For Wildlife

We do not all have big gardens and lawns and may wonder what can we do to help wildlife when we live in a flat or apartment or a house with a hard landscaped yard.

However, if we have a balcony, room for a hanging basket, a window box or a small patio area for pots we can undoubtedly attract and help wildlife. For more ideas on how to attract wildlife in a smaller space, please see Can You Attract Wildlife If You Only Have A Patio Garden Or Window Box

It is amazing how butterflies, bees, lacewings, hoverflies and ladybugs will find their way to your window box given the right flowers and conditions. 

 Depending on where you live you may need to protect the container in winter. If you are gardening on a balcony, always bear in mind the weight of any containers when filled with soil and plants does not exceed what the structure can take. 

A simple container is all we need. You can fill your window box with flowers both perennial and annual or decide to grow vegetables, it is up to you. 

Some flowers are better for wildlife than others, but really as long as the plants have some flowers the insects and bees will find them. 

Flowers I have found successful in window boxes and hanging baskets and troughs include bright cheerful Marigolds along with Nasturtiums and evergreen Ivy for trailing. Verbena, Fuchsia in a bigger pot and Heather are lovely. 

You do need to give Heather acid or ericaceous soil so it will need to be mixed with other acid-tolerant flowers. I also like to put in a few dwarf yellow daffodil bulbs to cheer up the containers.

If you like you can grow wildflowers in a pot and I have done this for several years. You do just need to make sure that the soil is very poor as wildflowers, in general, need poor soil. I use old compost and lots of grit in my wildflower containers. Bees and all manner of insects adore these wildflower pots! 

I love to grow herbs such as Rosemary and Lavender and Chives do well also in containers. I would give most herbs a try in pots. Good for us to eat and great for wildlife. Bees seem to always love my Chives!



Your container can easily look good for you and be good for wildlife. You will want some evergreens like Rosemary or Heather there and other summer flowering perennial and annual flowers for interest and nectar for as long as possible.

For ideas on making a healthy balcony garden please see Totally Natural Healthy Ways to Increase Your Garden's Growth - A Garden Review


 


6.Give Nature A Home 

One lovely way to attract and help wildlife is to give them a home to live in and raise young. Whether it is a Bird Box, a Bee House, Insect House or a home for hedgehogs it is possible for everyone with any outdoor space, however small to contribute. Here is an idea for a lovely Birdhouse For Eastern Bluebirds 

Over the years many habitats that our birds and insects require to live and breed have been lost. Houses are built without space for birds to nest, grass that is artificial is useless for wildlife and there are fewer places left for bees and bugs to live, hibernate and breed. 

However, if we all do a little we can help to reverse this and give our valuable wildlife a home. 


 


If you love nature and know adults and children who would like to do more for wildlife you may wish to buy nature-related gifts for Birthdays, housewarmings and special events this coming year. For ideas please see Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

5 Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed

Bird In Tree By Raintree Annie
It is wonderful to buy a gift that will be appreciated and be of use and joy to the receiver long after the day it is given. 

If your loved ones are interested in wildlife or like gardening with wildlife in mind here are some beautiful gifts they will enjoy for a long time. 

These gifts are perfect for helping our wildlife and give hours of happiness and interest to your loved ones. They will enjoy watching the birds, carefully observing the many insects and spiders and learning about the fascinating world of wildlife. 

Many of these gifts are suitable for children to seniors and will keep on being of interest, not just when they open the gift but for all year long.  Here are a few ideas of wildlife gifts from my own experience.

1. Insect Or Bug House. 

These are fantastic for attracting all manner of insects and spiders. You simply hang it up in a sheltered spot away from winds in the garden and ideally about 6-7 foot high. I find it is ideal to place an insect house near a pond if you have one, or a hedge or trees or a mixed flower bed. 

You will know that you are providing a lovely home for all manner of insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and butterflies that will make it their home or resting place and often provide beneficial activities for the garden in terms of predating and pollinating. 

Gardeners will love it as it will attract beneficial insects to help them in the garden and anyone interested in insect life will appreciate being able to observe the bug hotel filling up! I have one and although it takes a little while for the insects to know it is there once they find it they move in!


 A lovely gift for a young child interested in bugs through to an adult gardener. 


2.Wildlife Books

A wildlife book for a child just starting on the discovery of nature is a beautiful and thoughtful gift. When introducing children to the fascinating world of wildlife you want the book to be fun educational and interesting.

 A book like this can be the very start of a lifelong love of nature and wildlife that will bring joy, understanding, fun and interest to children and develop a deep love of wildlife and conservation that can last a lifetime. A beautiful thoughtful and truly giving gift.
  


If gifting to an adult a beautiful wildlife book gift is Kate Bradbury's "The Wildlife Gardener."I have given this book as a gift myself and it was very well received. I then ordered another one for myself it was so good! You can read more about it in Diary Of A Wild Country Garden Why I Bought The Wildlife Gardener Book Twice! 


3.Bird Bath 

One of the most important things we can provide to wildlife is fresh clean water. It is essential for birds to drink every day and bathe to clean their feathers every day for their good health. 

In towns and cities especially, birds need birdbaths with fresh clean water in as many gardens as possible. If you have a birdbath in your garden you will attract a wide variety of birds all year round and once they know it is there it is likely to become very popular!

Our birdbath has bird visitors from robins, sparrows, blue tits and blackbirds to name a few every single day all year round!

This is a fantastic gift for many people from the enthusiastic birdwatcher, to anyone who simply enjoys watching the antics of the birds, to the bird photographer who can gain many opportunities to take amazing photographs of birds in action at the birdbath throughout the year.

Many of these birdbaths are also very beautiful decorative pieces for the garden.

 


4. Bird Feeders Station
 
Especially in winter but really all year round birds need additional food to help them survive. A bird feeder set will be lovely to look at, help the birds and give immense pleasure all year round to anyone who loves birds and enjoys watching their antics or learning more about them.

 Great if a young birdwatcher is learning about how to identify different birds as they will visit birdfeeders again and again and with luck will attract a wide variety of birds to learn about.

For anyone, it is beautiful to spend some relaxing time simply watching the birds and often getting to know regular visitors.  I can spend hours simply watching the birds without realising how much time has gone by! It adds interest to the day and a wonderful connection with our wild visitors.
 
A very useful addition to this gift is to give with a supply of good quality bird feed so that they can get started right away on Christmas day!    

There are various ideas and gifts for attracting birds to a garden along with various birdfeeder products in this post from Diary Of A Wild Country Garden Wild Birds Visiting Our Garden 

Baby Robin By Raintree Annie


5.Birdbox.

Many people like to attract wildlife to their gardens and a great way to do this is to hang up a birdbox. Smaller birds like bluetits often love to use these and I have had success in my own garden.

Anyone of any age interested in wildlife can spend ages watching the birds bringing in nest material and identifying them. If fortunate, they may see the baby birds fledge all the while learning more and appreciating wildlife!

Simply hang the birdbox in a sheltered shady spot far away from any birdfeeders or birdbaths so that it is not too busy or noisy for the nesting birds to raise their brood. Ideally, it should be sited in a place where it will not get too hot as this may be difficult for the baby birds to tolerate. 

Then it is a matter of waiting to see if you can attract a breeding pair and raise young in the garden. I feel it's a good idea to have bird nesting boxes in place by early January at the latest so that the birds have time to get used to a new feature in the garden and can assess it long before nesting time. 

It is amazing to watch and highly educational for young people and a real pleasure at any age. 
 



Whichever gift you choose for your loved one, if they love birds and wildlife they will love the thoughtful nature of your gift to them. 




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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