Mak­ing gar­dens an­i­mal-friendly

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

IT is a lit­tle-known fact that more than 80 per cent of the UK’s pop­u­la­tion has some­where to grow out­door plants, in­clud­ing pa­tios, win­dow boxes and bal­conies.

Although these may not be the largest of out­side spa­ces, they can still be ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial for all kinds of wildlife, par­tic­u­larly in­sects and in turn, birds, and maybe even mam­mals, such as bats – you might even get one of these beau­ti­ful drag­on­flies, which dropped into the gallery this week.

Ob­vi­ously, if you’re 10 floors up, then no hedge­hog or squir­rel is able to take ad­van­tage of your wildlife gar­den­ing, but bats will love you for en­cour­ag­ing in­sects and give a reg­u­lar fly-past at dusk.

In the small­est of gar­dens, piles of twigs and sticks, bee boxes, in­sect ho­tels, pots of fox­gloves and herbs and a small wa­ter fea­ture are among the wildlife gar­den­ing ideas that could pro­vide homes and food for a va­ri­ety of in­valu­able in­sects such as but­ter­flies, moths and bees.

And don’t for­get bird boxes – now is the per­fect time to put boxes up as it gives the birds time to check them out be­fore next spring.

A good wildlife gar­den is more than just a cor­ner of a gar­den left to go wild, and whether you are cre­at­ing a new wildlife gar­den, or have an es­tab­lished one, think of it as a na­ture re­serve and you as the war­den.

Pro­vide as many habi­tats as pos­si­ble, but avoid cram­ming too much in and fo­cus on what can be done well in the space you have.

Here are a few ex­am­ples:

Long grass pro­vides habi­tat for egg-lay­ing and over-win­ter­ing cater­pil­lars and leather jack­ets. Black­birds and star­lings search for leather jack­ets – crane fly grubs – in short grass.

Dif­fer­ent species of tree and shrub and flow­er­ing plants pro­vide nec­tar and other food sources through the year.

Ro­ta­tional shrub cut­ting cre­ates dif­fer­ent struc­tures and ages of growth, ben­e­fit­ing dif­fer­ent wildlife at dif­fer­ent times.

A wa­ter fea­ture with dif­fer­ent depths is great for wildlife. Shal­low ar­eas are used by bathing and drink­ing birds, emerg­ing drag­on­flies and some­where for am­phib­ians to lay eggs. Deeper ar­eas help aquatic in­sects sur­vive cold spells and are good places to watch newts swimming.

Wildlife re­quires two fun­da­men­tal things: some­where safe to breed and shel­ter and some­where to for­age through­out the year. Grow climbers against walls to pro­vide shel­ter and roost­ing and breed­ing sites for birds.

A thick, well-de­vel­oped, thorny shrub bed or hedge pro­vides nest sites and shel­ter for wildlife.

A bat box pro­vides roost­ing sites for bats, a pile of leaves may be used by a hi­ber­nat­ing hedge­hog.

Leave tidy­ing of borders and shrubs un­til late win­ter or early spring to pro­vide shel­ter for in­sects through win­ter.

Short lengths of drink­ing straws, hol­low canes or plant stems tied in bun­dles are ex­cel­lent nest­ing sites for ben­e­fi­cial lacewings and lady­birds.

Dead wood is good for bee­tles and other spe­cial­ist ben­e­fi­cial in­sects, fungi and mosses.

Early and late flow­er­ing plants pro­vide nec­tar for in­sects at crit­i­cal times – just af­ter emer­gence or prior to hi­ber­na­tion.

Tidy borders and cut shrubs in late win­ter and early spring to help re­tain seeds and fruit for birds and small mam­mals through­out win­ter and ivy is a late source of au­tumn nec­tar for in­sects and late win­ter fruit for birds.

Fruit­ing bushes are a good source of food for birds and mam­mals dur­ing the au­tumn and part of the win­ter, and an­nual plants that pro­duce many seeds in late sum­mer are a good source of seed for birds through au­tumn into win­ter.

Many of our ac­tions have an im­pact on wildlife be­yond our gar­dens. Con­sider this when choos­ing or us­ing your ma­te­ri­als when cre­at­ing your wildlife gar­den.

Avoid us­ing peat and use al­ter­na­tive forms of com­post – peat ex­trac­tion de­stroys vi­tal wildlife habi­tats – and when plant­ing na­tive plants, en­sure they are of gen­uine na­tive stock and not of con­ti­nen­tal ori­gin.

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

●● A mi­grant hawker drag­on­fly

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