Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Can You Attract Wildlife If You Only Have A Patio Garden or Window Box?

Some people may say that its all very well talking about gardening and attracting wildlife if you have a large garden with many different areas but what if you have a patio area or a window box, is it still possible to be a wildlife gardener? 

To this I would say Yes absolutely! Every person in every type of garden can attract wildlife  and can grow something that some kind of wildlife will see as a great food source or shelter.

If you have a patio garden, no grass, no shrubs or trees literally all paved over, you can still have a wildlife haven.

Bird Bath. A bird bath on the patio will provide water for birds and a place for them to bathe and keep their feathers clean which is incredibly important. People often talk about feeding the birds but a bird bath is just as important if not more so and less people have them in gardens. So yes even in a tiny space you can have a bird bath, there are many different designs and sizes. 

A Bird In The Bath Greeting Card
A Bird In The Bath Greeting Card by RaintreeDesigns
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Bird feeder. If you can have a feeder attached to a window or a nail in to a wall or fence then you can have a bird feeder. Again there are so many different styles and if it is going to be on a small patio then you will want it to be decorative or stylish,  nice to look at and you have so many choices. A beautiful one is considered here Gift Of A Gorgeous Decorative Wooden Bird Feeder   

Bug house. If you want to be able to have a place that bugs, lacewings, beetles etc can overwinter and make a home in, you can buy commercial bug houses and some of them look very pretty indeed. You can also make your own it all depends on your wish to do it and simple bug house design knowledge.  

Pots Of Flowers. Pots Of Herbs. If you have space for three of four pots then you can make space for flowers the wildlife butterflies and bees will love. I routinely grow Lavender in pots. 

I try to buy terracotta pots but I do use plastic ones as well. We have heavy clay soil and while I do grow Lavender in the soil it does not last as long as if I grow it in a pot,as it really likes light, well drained soil,  so I do both. So you can grow Lavender. Equally you can grow Rosemary in a large pot and free well draining soil. Other herbs like thyme, curry plant, chives,mint and sage can also be grown. Most herbs like a sunny spot.

I would advise keeping mint in a separate pot as it can be a thug and outgrow other plants. Do not let mint get into the soil of a garden or you may find it everywhere! In a pot it is great and contained.  

You have a large choice of flowers and most can be grown in a pot so marigolds, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, cornflowers, poppies, whatever you like really can be grown in pots including may wildflowers from seed. I would say though that the bigger the pot the more impact the flowers will have and the easier it will be on you regarding care and watering needs. Three large pots in my opinion are better than six small ones. 

You can easily have a large pot planted up with daffodil bulbs, snowdrop bulbs, a lavender and wildflower seeds sown on the top. There are so many seeds to choose from The Promise Of Seeds A Thoughtful Gift has ideas. I often grow seeds in pots again due to our very heavy soil seeds often struggle, so containers are an easy solution. 

Large Planters With Climbers. If you have room for a very large planter and a wall you could even grow honeysuckle or jasmine up the wall. In fact we did that for several years and one year when the plant was mature a blackbird made her nest about eight or nine feet up in the honeysuckle! 

If you are using planters you will just need to be careful about the needs of the plant. Most herbs do quite well in planters as long as its free draining. It is best to read up the needs of other flowers and to understand their feeding and watering needs and check on them every day especially for water in the summer as they rely on you for all their needs. 

If you have a balcony or window box equally you can grow whatever flowers and herbs you want within the space and if it suits their needs. Just make sure that the planter does not become too heavy and you may want to use lightweight soil and a tray for drainage spills.

Hanging baskets can be amazing in summer and can be adapted for nearly all round use as well so be creative and use every inch of space you have. The wildlife will find you if you provide some food, water and shelter. 

Butterfly On Flowers Postcard
Butterfly On Flowers Postcard by RaintreeDesigns
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Pond. If you like you can even have a water feature. A half barrel or plastic container that is waterproof can be mae in to a little pond for wildlife. You need t add oxygenating plants, a few tall reeds, a small waterlily is always lovely. Then you need a means of escape for small critters like large stones and a plank. Fill it with rainwater , not tapwater. I will be talking more abot ponds later but do bear it in mind if you do not have one, it is possible in a small patio.

Of course if you like you can have all these features, or maybe you are thinking it is going to be a little too crowded!

If you know your neighbours maybe you can discuss sharing with them, one having a bird feeder and another a bird bath, different wildflowers in pots , one a water feature. The wildlife do not see boundaries like we do and will happily move between gardens for their food, water, shelter. So if you speak to your neighbours and they appreciate wildlife like you do, it may be worth a try!

So just a few ideas about how to attract wildlife into a small patio area or balcony. I will go into more detail on several of these ideas in future posts.

How do you like to attract wildlife to your garden?   

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Do You Ever Stop, Look And Listen in Your Garden?

I went out this morning to fill up the bird feeders and to add a new one. It has been so cold here lately and we have had hard frosts and snow and high winds I am concerned for the birds. It was really cold so I did not intend to stay out long, although I was well wrapped up. 

However, I walked back up to the house I was struck by the most beautiful bird song. I saw the robin high up on one of the shrubs clearly and proudly singing his little heart out. No doubt starting to re establish his territory.

I heard other birds, sparrows I think, a blackbird, a coo of a wood pigeon. As I stood still and silent I began to hear more and it was the most wonderful orchestra of birdsong. I thought people would pay to go sit in theatres to hear this most stunning of music and here it is all around me. 

As I stood there silent and perfectly still I noticed a large male blackbird nearby. He was intent of kicking up the leaves and searching for food underneath. He looked at me but was not afraid. He walked and hopped and continued in his search for food, gradually getting closer and closer to me. I could feel my heart break quicken, how close was he going to come to me?

 He ended up literally inches from my feet, no sign of nervousness, just going about his day. I often wonder when I see a blackbird in our garden if it is one of the descendants of the blackbird nest that hatched four chicks several years ago. We watched them from the building of the nest to eggs and fledglings and young adults. If you are interested I wrote about it here Our Nesting Blackbirds.

 My husband and I often joke that it is not really our garden at all, it is theirs, we just get to be guests in it now and again ! Today that felt true and wonderful!

Friendly Blackbird Mug
Friendly Blackbird Mug by RaintreeDesigns
More Birds Mugs

If you are in UK please use this link to purchase Friendly Blackbird Mug by Raintree Designs 

I watched the blue tits and all manner of little birds squabble for a place on the feeder, the big woodpigeon looking perplexed that he could not actually fit on the feeder and eventually taking his place underneath to catch all the spilled seed instead.

 The brave blue tit who was first to do a fly by and then land on the new feeder- just for a second- to test it out no doubt, then came back and rewarded with fresh delicious seed. 

Then as I started to not be able to feel my feet through the cold I noticed a bird fly down and hop up into the bird bath. It was about to brave the cold to take a bath to preen and clean the feathers and get into good condition. It must have been so icy cold and it started somewhat tentatively dipping the beak, then a foot, then the chest and then plunged in!

Then it was flapping and washing itself all over, it looked a lot of fun! It was over quickly. Then preened the feathers out carefully using the beak and with a bit of last minute fluffing out off it flew. 

Back into the house for a warm coffee and warm feet! Made me realise that you really do not have to go far to see the beauty of nature.

 However what you do need to do is to rest to be still, to be quiet, to appreciate it all...  I am often guilty of being very busy in the garden. There is always pruning, digging, planting, weeding etc to do. 

However, maybe this year I will take more time to be still, be quiet, to look, to listen. 

How about you do you take time to be still and look and listen in your garden?  

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Monday, 12 January 2015

Reflections on Winter Blues to Spring Equinox

Is anyone else feeling the winter blues...?

 I don't mind January too much really. Maybe it is because we have had days of grey cloudy skies, gales and winds and hard driving cold rain. In reality the weather is not as severe as we might get at all and we have had much more severe conditions.

 In a way it is a quiet time,  welcome after the hectic time of December and a New Year is always a chance to adopt new habits, new hope for the future.

However it is still mid winter, cold, windy, rainy and I still cannot get out in my garden very much. Our heavy clay soil is sticky and difficult to walk on and ruins the grass and soil if walked on much so we keep it to a minimum. I watch from the patio eagerly looking for signs of new life and I know they are there. I generally feel more quiet, more sluggish, more in hibernation mode in January.

So just reflecting and looking forward. We are moving away now from the winter Solstice which was on December 21st . It is often called "Yule" or "mid winter". The night time reached its maximum zenith, it was the shortest  hours of daylight as possible. Each day after the Winter solstice the hours of daylight increase. If the day is cloudy and dark and grey, generally we may not notice it but it is there...

Even though the cold darkness is still with us, the hours of daylight are lengthening and there is a promise of brighter days to come. 

With the Spring Equinox the hours of darkness and the ours of daylight are equal in length and following this the hours of daylight increase and the hours of darkness decrease. 

The Spring equinox is a time for renewal. Often it is the best time to plant many seeds as the earth warms up and naturally comes to life.

At Easter time we decorate Eggs as in nature they are a symbol of hope, life and fertility.

I always feel a renewed energy at Springtime!  A renewed sense of life and a new gardening year. In many ways for me this time of year is the new natural year and I celebrate that. 

The start of the spring season sees cattle led out of barns if they have been kept there for shelter in the winter out to freedom in green pastures. Our hibernating wildlife starts to emerge again. Birds start to look for nest sites and mates. Lambs are born, an amazing feature of every Springtime that is a wonder and joy to see. Cute Lambs In Spring. 

Trees burst forth in to blossom and Spring flowers bloom often brilliant cheerful colours announcing the end of winter and beginning of warmer times. There is nothing more cheerful that a bright yellow daffodil! 

Magnolia blossom is a stunning sight all of its own and we love the delicate blooms on the bare branches. 

We start to smell fragrance in the garden again. Of course there are fragrant flowers in winter but we need to make the effort to go out and look for them. In spring and summer we are spoiled with gorgeous colour and fragrance to delight our senses.

For me Spring marks the new dawn, the new gardening season and a new joy...It is just around the corner  and I am looking forward to it.

What does Spring mean to you ? 

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Monday, 5 January 2015

What Do You Do With The Old Christmas Tree?

First of all Happy New Year ! I do hope you had a wonderful time over the holidays and are refreshed and ready for this year. 

Now that the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over for another year most of us have taken down our decorations and they are all packed away. 

The last to come down tends to be the Christmas tree. It has looked beautiful for the past few weeks, all decorated and glistening but now its time is over.  If it is a real tree what do you do with it? 

I have just come back from a walk and seen a few sad trees laid out on their sides in front gardens. I wonder if the owners are waiting for the council to take them away or if they will be loaded up in the car and taken down to the communal tip...  

However maybe there are uses for the old tree that wildlife can benefit from more. Here are some ideas.

Chop off the branches from the trunk. Lay them over some old logs and cuttings and they will provide a really protective and warm shelter for wildlife throughout the really cold months of January and February. You can site this in an out of the way place if you like. A corner of a garden behind a shrub or behind a shed or garage would do well.

With the trunk you could lay it out as it is full length somewhere again out of the way to rot down naturally and in turn provide a home for all manner of insects and woodlice and beetles.

If it is too large then you could chop it up into smaller logs and again stack them up in a corner to provide a home for insects and later when Hedgehogs and other mammals emerge for the spring they will enjoy foraging around the woodpile you created. 

Blackbirds will enjoy kicking up the leaves and branches to find dinner and Robins will come to investigate too.

If you own or can hire the equipment you could even shred and mulch the tree and use it for protecting certain plants and shrubs over the year. 

 Maybe it could even be the beginning of a small stumpery.

Just a few simple ideas. What do you do with your old Christmas tree? Let me know your uses and inventive ideas.

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