April showers bring the promise of summer not being faraway. So many of us start to venture into the garden to get it ready for the times that we will spend enjoying the warm weather. But it is now becoming increasingly obvious that our gardens are so important for wildlife. That starts from insects that pollenate flowers so that we enjoy our vegetables and eventually fruits as the last of the summer days start to wane.
I find it amusing to see the dates written on the packets of seeds that we buy which have been collected and stored and yet usually only state ‘best before’ as the next year at the latest. When you think of the time that it takes for a tree to grow before it eventually dies and falls – which can be decades if not more. And yet as soon as the tree falls and sunlight touches the soil, dormant seeds will germinate and grow.
We need to use our gardens as a habitat for wildlife by planting shrubs such as the ‘butterfly’ bush, the buddleia which is a favourite with many insects. Flowers that are the original plant and not hybridised have very simple petals which makes it easier for insects to find the pollen and nectar. Once the flowers have double petals and become more complicated, the less they attract insects. Please don’t have artificial grass – it’s us humans making life easy with no thought of the effect on the foraging quality of a lawn. Certain species of birds are timed for the emerging insects such as the Bluetit that is almost reliant on the Oak Moth caterpillars emerging at the right time when their nestlings are calling for food. One reason for large nests of baby Bluetits failing is because the timing has gone wrong and there is no food for them.
Red Admiral on Buddliea Secret World
Water Beetle by Victoria Hillman
Both Dormice and Harvest mice rely on pollen and nectar for the first part of the summer and then as the flowers turn to berries, the harvest is rich with grain and nuts. A pond in your garden doesn’t have to be large. With a sloping edge so that anything falling into the pond can climb out, you will be amazed how soon wildlife takes up residence with the magical emergence of dragon flies. Frog and toads will soon frequent your garden and the small hole in the fence will let them in and even attract some hedgehogs. One good garden is not enough for a hedgehog who will roam over 1 kilometre to forage.
Young Dormice by Richard Austin
How fantastic that farmers are now allowing wildflowers to grow alongside their hedges although I doubt, we will see beautiful fields full of poppies as wildlife photographer, Andy Rouse once captured when taking a photo of a roe buck looking out. We have to learn to share our gardens and our countryside with our wildlife before it is too late.
We hope you will join us at Easter when we have our open days. Visit www.secretworld.org for more information or tel 01278 783250 for details or advice.