Wild about gardens

It is wild about gardens week. One of the key focusses this year is making gardens more bat friendly. One of the ways we can do this is making sure there are plenty of insect attracting flowers. As the bats main source of food this will help attract them to your garden and help their numbers.

Ways to help on the wildlife trust website.

I have made another contribution to the wildlife in my garden planting the free wild flower seeds I got from Kew’s flowers to the people. As I’m not sure I want all of the varieties across the garden I have planted them in a container, then can collect seeds of ones I want for next year.

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I’ve also made a start on digging over what was previously designated as a vegetable patch. However it has become overgrown while the house was rented and is in need of clearing. It gets sun for part of the day and then shade as the day goes on, so I’m not going to remake it as a vegetable patch.

As it was:

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I’ve dug out the weeds. And turned over the soil today.

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I’m going to leave it a week to see if anything starts growing back, turn it again and then I’ve got some ox-eye daisies and poppies to plant into it. Amy requested daisies and I like poppies. I’ve got a number of insect attracting flowers doing well in the front garden, time to get more in the back.

Meet the parents

Yesterday mine and Amy’s parents met for the first time. We went up to Amy’s sides house up at Robin Hood’s Bay up on the North Yorkshire coast. The house is up on the cliff edge with spectacular views. Their garden is beautifully kept and still has a good number of flowers still blooming into Autumn. Our parents got on well happy discussing mutual loves of folk music and craft skills.

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Amy in the garden.

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After dinner we took a walk down to the sea front.

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A view of the stream running down to the sea.

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Robin Hood’s Bay forms the end (or start of Wainwright’s coast to coast meaning there are always a handful of walkers around.

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Down at the bottom.

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Our little family together.

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For traversing the steep path of the bay I was trying out the mama and papa’s baby sling, which I have to say has been very good. It supports well across my back and I can put Alice in and out by myself which has been an improvement on other types we’ve tried and looked at. So far I’d just tried it round the flat areas of Hornsea, so it was good to try it over some more difficult ground.

Back at the house Grandad Foster and Alice and our dads talking in the garden.

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We had a lovely day out, a good meal, a nice walk and our parents got on. I’m sure Alice will love visiting the bay as she gets older and can enjoy getting out and about in the waves and rock pools.

Ivy

 

Walking around Hornsea today I was struck by the number of surfaces covered by ivy. As a seaside town with an elderly population there are many houses and gardens with ivy that have been allowed to dominate areas. I’m rather fond of ivy, but it has become a plant many avoid as it can take over a garden and then need regular maintenance. My partner won’t allow me to plant any in our own garden for that reason, but behind us is a jungle of ivy allowing moths, caterpillars, spiders to multiply.

However ivy has many benefits. It provides all year round habitats for many creatures. It is an excellent source of nectar late in the year for insects. Despite popular opinion it doesn’t necessarily kill trees or harm buildings. In some cases it can protect.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141008-why-should-i-love-ivy

 

But apart from anything else around Hornsea it is providing a burst of green as the other leaves disappear.

In the closest park to our house it is providing some ground cover as well as adding to the habitats on the trees.

 

In the Hornsea memorial garden it is providing a breeding ground for ladybirds.

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In Hall Garth park it is adding the coat to the trees, providing pollen for insects, providing a home for a multitude of spiders and as a result feeding many birds.

 

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So all in all a very useful plant.

Oh roses for the flush of youth,
And laurel for the perfect prime;
But pluck an ivy branch for me
Grown old before my time.

Christina Rossetti

 

Further homes for nature

I have been trying to add further to my gardens homes for nature the last week with a log pile and trying to get the border filled to keep the weeds in check. Still plenty of empty space, but it is gradually getting filled. I’m aiming to get a greater seasonal spread across the garden. There are a lot of Summer flowering plants, but I think it will be a bit bare across over seasons. I’ve already got some daffodils in pots on the patio. I’ve gone for some blue bells and snow drops for some native Spring flowers. I’ve spread them under the shade of the tree down by the shed. Hopefully come Spring there will be a nice spread of blue and white.

I’ve built a small log pile in a bad area of weeds to hopefully suppress some of them and provide another good habitat for beetles and other creatures.

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I’ve planted a couple of Christmas Rose (helleborus niger) to give the garden some Winter flowers. This lovely little plants have beautiful little white flowers that can last through December when little else will be showing.

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A small patch of heather as I like having the colour through Autumn.

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And a rose campion (Lychnis coronaria), which I’d grown in the last garden and loved the mass abundance of the little pink flowers in Summer. Hopefully it will do as well in the new garden.

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I took a walk down to the mere today. Saw two swans standing apart from the throng of birds around the corner. Two proud to mingle. The mere is packed currently with a lot of birds possibly getting ready to migrate.

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Earlier in the week Alice visited a friends house and showed a bit more interest in horses than our previous encounter.

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Ladybird, ladybird fly away home.

Last week I reported finding a number of ladybird pupa on the leaves in my garden. I’ve been keeping an eye on them and yesterday I found several had emerged. 

The empty pupa

As I had suspected from the pupa they have all been harlequin ladybirds. Harlequins come in a variety of forms with spots and colours varying.

Harlequin’s are an invasive species out competing our native species of ladybird. They have a bigger apetite and can eat more aphids in a sitting than most UK native varieties. They also eat eggs of other ladybird species of moths and butterflies. 

Originally an Asian native they were introduced to the US to control aphid numbers. They spread quickly dominating similar species. It is thought they were accidently spread to the UK either transported within produce or blown across from mainland  Europe. Once here in 2004 they spread rapidly.

More info here: http://www.harlequin-survey.org

So it always comes with mixed feelings when I sight a harlequin. On the one hand, as a beetle lover, it’s good to see a variety of ladybird do well when many are not. I know they’ll eat many of the aphids in the garden. But on the other they may be doing well at the expense of other insects I like.

If sighted you can report them here so the spread can be monitored.

Some scientists have pushed that invasive species can be positive bringing variety that may be able to survive as mankind destroys our world. The theory had faults but worth considering.

Article here
A few more photos of the harlequins. Whether they are destructive or not they certainly have a beauty. 

Mimics

Today in the garden spotted this lovely striped hoverfly (Helophilus trivittatus I think). A wasp mimic that is common to gardens.

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The birds in the garden are starting to come back to the feeder after fledging. Still not a massive variety mainly pigeons and blackbirds coming in along with some doves, starlings. Then the occasional robin and blue tits.

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Hedgehog feeding

As part of my RSPB home for nature plan I was set the task of opening a hedgehog cafe.

 

Details of here: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/givenatureahomeinyourgarden/gardenactivities/openahedgehogcafe/

I haven’t set up the box station yet, but got a feeding tray and water tray ready next to the hedgehog home.

 

For those who have been following the blog you’ll of seen my highways and byways have had some success getting a hedgehogs into the garden.

Last night I had some of the busiest activity from my hedgehog visitor. I got some of the best footage on the trail cam. Then with Alice rising early for a morning feed at 4 I actually got to see the hedgehog this morning shuffling around the garden rather than just on the trail cam.

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Home for nature-Hedgehog home

I wanted to see if it anything had come into through the new highway before I move into the new house properly. So I set up the trail cam to run over Thursday night. I’m glad to report the trail cam met success.

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I had been concerned about what birdlife I might get in the garden with the seagulls dominating the rooftops. Yesterday I saw a few starting to come into the feeder. Pigeons have settled in and a swarm of starlings.

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Start a wildflower meadow

Continuing my RSPB home for nature plan I have set aside an area in the front garden for a wildflower meadow. Wildflowers creates a feast for bees, butterflies and other insects. From that it gives the birds another supply of food. There also very attractive looking.

RSPB link

The patch chosen is a little strip alongside the front path. It had nothing growing of any major use. A couple of dandelions, but no great variety for attracting insect life.

I started by turning over the soil and taking out the couple of dandelions.

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I broke up the soil to make it finer. Wildflower mix will generally find a way to grow, but might as well make it easier to take.

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I added a thin layer of compost from the heap to give the soil a layer of fresh nutrients. The soil in my garden is mainly clay, so the compost will hopefully help the flowers a little further.

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Then scattered a box of wildflower mix, a bag of seeds from the friends of the earth bee pack then a few poppy seeds and other seed packs.

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Lastly walked over to step it in and watered.

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I was concerned that it was too late in the year but watching a gardeners world episode it encouraged setting up an area pretty much any time except late Autumn and early Winter, so we’ll see what happens.

Currently we have not moved into the house so took across one bird feeder from the current house to see what comes in. So far just pigeons, but at this point of the year most birds will find their own food while insects are plentiful. We are by the sea, so slightly concerned that the seagulls will scare away some of my favourite garden birds, but will have to wait and see.

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I’ve potted some lavender. I like lavender as an insect attracting flower and cat repentant (don’t want the birds eaten), but it does badly in clay soil, so I’ll see if it can manage in pots.

I’ve added a insect home and butterfly home ticking off another home for nature activity.

Build a bee B&B

The garden is currently pretty wild, which I’m in favour of, but mainly just for slugs and snails. So I’ve worked on clearing the dandelion forest to claim a flower bed back. A good afternoons work digging and turning over.

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I’ve got some ivy ready to continue adding to the  on the fence. Very important for many moth species, spiders and giving some further cover.

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And a butterfly enjoying the garden.

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Highways and byways

I made a start on my RSPB nature plan yesterday. Currently I’m decorating the new house before moving in. Over the day I took a couple of breaks from painting to do a few gardening jobs.

I took the saw to the back gate to make a gap for hedgehogs and frogs as part of the highways and byways activity. This will give smaller animals a chance to get in and out of the garden past an otherwise impenetrable fence for many animals.The garden is currently pretty wild with overgrown grass and weeds filling the borders, so no issue with ground cover currently. We got some ivy giving cover along the back fence. Next year I think I’ll try and get some climbers maybe honeysuckle along the side fences.

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A hole for hedgehogs.

While I’m decorating I put up a few quick coconut bird feeders and a jar feeder before I move house properly and bring the bird feeders across. The new house is by the sea, so seen lots of gulls, but few garden birds so far. A few pigeons, but nothing else, so be interested to see if I get much else coming in.

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And a bird house above the compost heap where it’s got a bit of cover from a bush.

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Not much, but it’s a start.