30 Days Wild: Idea 20-Logpile house

Today looking at another quick project to attract more nature to your garden. Building a log pile house. Log piles attract a whole host of insects and depending on the size they can home mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Deadwood brings in many beetles, woodlice and worms in the soil underneath. From there you get networks of spiders hunting over the pile. Over winter the pile can provide hibernation space for a number of pollinators. If there are gaps at the bottom frogs will rest in the cool shade of your pile. If you can manage larger woodpiles it may attract hedgehogs coming to eat the beetles and other treats or to find a hibernation spot.

Mine is only a small pile made from a bought bag of logs. Alternatively, you can gradually gather wood from your own prunings or gathering some on walks.

For teachers with school gardens, a log pile proves useful when you come to do your minibeast hunting as it almost guarantees you will find something. Even just a few logs left out a couple of days will attract life. Then when you pick it up and look under the kids can enjoy seeing the bugs scatter. Then you don’t spend a fruitless hour with a class spotting nothing.

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Building a bug hotel

Now seems to be the time to get out with kids and build a bug hotel. I’ve heard Skinny Jean Gardener talking about them on the podcast and then had the Wildlife Trusts guide pop up on social media. I built one when I first moved into my house. But, I don’t think I’ve talked about it on the blog before.

My bug hotel was made with bricks and decking squares. These cost 2 for £5. You can decide how tall you want to build, but 4 to 6 layers seems a good height. The bricks were free from facebook market place and the tiles I already had. So it probably cost less than most commercially bought bug houses for something much bigger that makes a not unpleasant feature in the garden.

Each layer is filled with different materials for wildlife to make homes in. Straw, rubble, sticks, bamboo canes were all stuffed into fill the layers. Upturned pots fill spaces. This variety provides potential homes and hibernation spots for a variety of life. Alice likes to pull bits out though and rearrange, so it often needs restocking as fir cones disappear to other parts of the garden.

I had some spare tiles I placed on the top for a bit of waterproofing. They do crack in the cold from time to time but as they weren’t being used for anything else I don’t mind. Living roofs are popular options for the top of bug hotels as well.

I went for a bird bath on the top. I find this smaller bath get used by the sparrows while the seagulls dominate the bigger one in Summer. It’s in need of a clean out. Important to clean baths to prevent the spread of bird disease.

The bug hotel has a few extensions. A commercially bought frogilo. Then a cracked pot half buried provides some shade for frogs.

At work, there is lots of building work going on meaning I should get a steady supply of pallets. I have claimed on for the base of a bug hotel in my school garden. I started filling it with straw we had left from our farm role play and pushing bricks around the edges. Hopefully, we can build it up to a reasonable height and then maybe create a green roof on the top.

A bug hotel is a nice project for the garden and ideal for working on with kids. It can be as quick as half an hour or be an ongoing project like my school one. But by making it with the kids they are getting outside and talking more about what might make homes inside. Great for science and their imaginations as they decide on furniture for the insects.  We want children who care for their environment and this a great way to build that love of nature.

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Further reading

RSPB-Home for nature bug hotel

Woodland trust guide

Wildlife Trust guide

Wildlife gardening-teasel

I’ve had quite a few comments from my six on Saturday talking about the teasel. It is a plant that divides opinions. The teasel has featured a number of times over the year in my six on Saturday and now seems a good time to look closer at it.

Wildlife benefits

The original reason I planted teasel was to benefit wildlife through the year. Through the Summer they have attracted in all manner of pollinators.

The bees and hoverflies have swarmed over them.

Some of the butterflies have been visiting too. The holly blues have been visiting in greater numbers this year and seem to like the teasel.

One of the main reasons for planting teasel was to attract birds. Goldfinches love it. They favour lowland woodland and hedges, but are increasingly found on our bird feeders with people putting out nyger seed.

Architectural plant

Teasel is undeniably a striking shape. It has large leaves followed by the tall seed heads. Mine has grown to a very high height this year, much larger than I generally see when it’s growing wild. It stands out in the border and is lovely for bringing inside. I’ve taken a few cuttings and allowed it to dry out.

The disadvantages

 

“Vicious
You want me to hit you with a stick
But all I’ve got is a guitar pick
Huh, baby, you’re so vicious”
Lou Reed

Teasel is incredibly spikey. The leaves are spikey, the stems are spikey, the flowers are spikey. My gold leaf gloves have come in use again and again dealing with them. I wouldn’t be suprised to find spikey roots if I dug it out. It is vicious.

It also takes up a lot of space. The leaves initially are very large maybe 30-50cm long. This means it takes up a lot of space in the border with a big footprint on the ground and it is tall and not very neat in it’s growth unless carefully tied, which I haven’t done. As I’ve mentioned it is vicious so it was tied up where I could reach through without risking body and limb.

It self seeds quite freely. So if you decide you don’t want it anymore it can be a pain. I haven’t this an issue yet, but have a sneaking feeling that my neighbours may have it growing in future as I think the wind will take it that way.

Conclusion

All in all I’ve enjoyed having this in the garden this year, but not sure I’d allow it again due to space restrictions. It has been a pleasure seeing the goldfinches on it though.

 

 

Garden Update

I’ve had a bit of time in the garden today and yesterday. Yesterday I started work on cutting back the climbing rose covering the shed. The shed needs re-felting so sadly it needed cutting back. It was lovely in bloom last Summer, but a good number of years of neglect has led to it getting out of hand. It was preventing me from getting to the shed roof and was destroying the fence. So sadly made the decision to cut it right back. The pollen beetles loved it, so will have to look at planting something else to make up for it. Looks a bit empty now.

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Today I’ve had my mum and one of the nephews helping dig over the flower bed I’ve not touched much yet. The other flower bed has been dug over and barked and is starting to take shape. The over is still a bit of a wilderness. While I want a wildlife friendly garden, in its current state it isn’t providing much variety for species. So once it’s dug over I can look at planting a greater variety of flowers to attract in ore diversity. But the soil is rich in worms, centipedes and earwigs, so doing something right.So far I’ve planted quite a lot the bees like, so would like to look at some more butterfly friendly flowers.

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While my mum and nephew worked on that I’ve repositioned some of the flowers I’d put in to put them in height order. My mum has given me some pansies which I’ve put in at the front. Of no great value to wildlife, but adds a bit of colour at a glum time of year. So put those in front of the viburnum.

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Along the back I’ve added two variety of foxgloves and a hollyhock, both good for bees. Then I’ve put in some gladioli bulbs to grow up the fence. Hopefully come Summer have a better variety of colours. Last year it was very pink with the hydrangeas, so I’d like a few other colours. My mum had bought me a lupin, which I’ve placed just in front as the shorter growing plant.

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So got one border coming along nicely. Gradually plugging all the spaces. The hydrangeas are trimmed back, the clematis are set to add some cover to the fence. Hopefully all be looking good come Summer.

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The first crocus are flowering at the back. I’m thinking I should of grouped them more, but maybe next year.

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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.

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

 

Flowers to the people

A while back I signed up for some free wild flower seeds courtesy of Kew Gardens through growwilduk.com 

They arrived today. Each set has been made up for the UK country of destination. Contents are on the back of the pack. I think I’m going to use these for container planting rather than in the bed. Should add a few treats for the pollinators.