Animals, Composting, Geoff, How To, Insects, Ponds, Spiders, Wildlife

wildlife friendly garden

Wildlife is often synonymous with countryside and rural areas but wherever you are situated, why not encourage some vibrant wildlife into your own garden? With spring now fully in motion, become one with Mother Nature and bring your garden to life with the following tips:

Long Grass
Although it is tempting to neaten up your lawn for the summer, by leaving sections of long grass in your garden you pave the way for butterflies and ladybirds to easily lay eggs and inhabit. Also, remember to allow dandelions to flower as these attract bees – just remember to cut them before they turn to seed heads or they will infest your entire garden!

Bird Boxes and Feeders
Bird boxes and feeders are a great way to attract different types of birds, some of which you may have never seen. Situate these in sheltered sites out of reach of predators, and be sure to put out protein-rich feed during the spring, while they are feeding their young and seed in the winter. Another good tip is to place your bird box or feeder near dense bushes allowing smaller birds such as blue tits to feed while providing cover from cats.

Insect Hotel
Most insects aren’t fancy; a pile of rocks or rotting wood will do just the job. A quiet space with plenty of leaves, twigs and anything they can hide under will be just the habitat for insects to thrive.  If you want to give them a luxurious safe haven, turn it into a project like our user Kingston has done with their fantastic bug garden! Alternatively, cutting bundles of drinking straws, hollow canes or plant stems and placing them in suitable areas works well when creating a living space for these critters.

Pond
All creatures in your garden need a source of water, so why not make a pond! If you need some tips on how to make one from scratch we suggest you take a read of our handy guide. For those of you without the space or time, you can simply bury a shallow bucket or stone basin, just be sure to leave some shrubs and twigs to allow frogs and similar creatures to get in and out. To be fully self-sufficient, you could even use rainwater collected in a water butt to fill up your pond.

Compost
It’s always good to keep a compost area or bin in your garden, not only for wildlife but also for the good of your plants. They are a great habitat for worms, woodlice, frogs and spiders which are all useful for the ecosystem in your garden – typically attracting larger animals such as birds and hedgehogs. Be sure to turn your compost every week to aerate your soil, a pitchfork or compost aerator will do the job. This gives your compost an influx of oxygen and speeds up the decomposition time.

Fruit Trees and Bushes
Fruit trees not only attract great wildlife but also provide you with fruit to grow and eat yourselves. During the spring time, fruit trees such as apple and pear trees flower, providing a sweet source of nutrients for many pollinating insects such as honeybees. Furthermore, once the fruit begins to fall in the autumn, this becomes great grub for birds and insects alike.

Weeds
Before you go and clear your entire garden, be mindful of long term benefits to some weeds. Plants such as buttercups, daisies and foxgloves flower over a long period of time and are a great source of pollen. These can grow in the harshest of growing conditions and attract many beneficial predators to your garden so consider leaving a section in your garden to keep pests such as aphids in check!

Like weeds, there may be some forms of wildlife that you’d prefer to keep out of your garden. Learn how to get rid of rats and other pests.

 

GeoffGeoff works within the Primrose marketing team, primarily on anything related to graphics and design.

He loves to keep up with the latest in music, film and technology whilst also creating his own original art and his ideal afternoon would be lounging in a sunny garden surrounded by good food, drink and company provided there is a football nearby.

While not an expert, his previous job involved landscaping so he’s got some limited experience when gardening.

See all of Geoff’s posts.

Animals, Charlie, How To, Ponds, Wildlife

Last week, we talked you through the building of a pond, from measuring out the area, to digging and laying down the pond liner and filling with water. This week, we’ve got a handy guide to making your pond come alive with aquatic plants and even fish.

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A Guide to Pond Plants

No pond would be complete without some aquatic plants, otherwise it would just be an oversized paddling pool! The good news is that most pond plants require little maintenance, but some thought must be put into what kind of plants you want for your pond, depending on its depth and surface area. Follow this guide and you’re sure to create a beautiful oasis of tranquility at all times of year.

Lillys and other floating plants are great for the ecosystem of any pond. They can prevent algae from forming over the top of your pond as it cuts down on the amount of sunlight entering the water.

As well as floating plants, there are two other key types of pond plant: submerged and marginal. As the name suggests submerged plants are submerged in the water – marginal plants live the the shallow areas on the shelf of your pond and protrude from the water.

It is important to have plenty of submerged plants in your pond as these help oxygenate your pond. Good choices include Callitriche Stagnalis, Marsilea Quadrifolia and Sagittaria Graminea if you want something that flowers. For a smaller pond, it is best not to include varieties that spread too vigorously, and keep the plants in containers rather than allowing them to root down in the sediment.
For marginal plants, Blue Irish, the Chameleon Plant and Brookline are all good choices. Many varieties of marginal and pondside plants are good at attracting wildlife as well as shading and protecting the edges of your pond. Be sure to read the specifications as to what kinds of plants are best for what depth of water.


Fish

Once you’ve filled your pond with vegetation it‘s time to fill the pond with fish. Now fish aren’t necessary for a beautiful pond, in fact for smaller ponds and the miniature pond in a pot it is advisable NOT to stock with fish as the space may be too small, and for larger fish such as coy or carp quite a large pond is required if they are to lead a healthy life. In addition it is best to wait around a month to allow the vegetation to settle before adding your fish. When you do add fish, ensure they’re given enough room to grow and move about – for pond with a surface area of 10m squared, for example, you should really be adding no more than around twenty fish. Obviously, with smaller fish you will be able to add more and with larger fish, less.

In the next installment, we’ll cover the basics of caring for your pond and its inhabitants once it’s set up.

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

To see the rest of Charlie’s posts, click here.

 

Animals, Bird Baths, Charlie, How To, Water Features, Wildlife

Winter can ruffle a few feathers for birds.
Winter can ruffle a few feathers for birds.

For wild birds in particular, winter can be a harsh time of year. As they are unable to hibernate like many other species, the ones that don’t migrate to warmer climes have to fend for themselves during the cold winter days and nights. As the temperature plummets, the sparsity of food can lead to their fat reserves being depleted, and ice can freeze over bird baths, leaving even water hard to find. For these reasons quite a few birds will disappear from your garden completely during the winter – these include house martins, swallows and varieties of warbler. Conversely, such are the patterns of migrating birds, that some will make an appearance only for winter – coming from colder climates such as Scandinavia. These include waxwings, bramblings and redwings. But whether the species of bird in your garden are winter visitors or year-round residents, there are things you can do to ensure that they survive the cold.

Bird Baths

Winter bird bath.
Note: Do not let this happen to your birdbath!

One thing you can do is set up a bird bath in your garden, if you haven’t already. Primrose has a huge range of bird baths, from simple bowls to elaborate fountains. Bird baths not only provide water for birds, but also give you a chance to see your feathered friends in all their glory, as they provides a natural gathering point for birds. Remember to break any ice and clear away any snow that forms over the birdbath during cold snaps, as this happening will leave birds unable to drink. Alternatively, you could place a small, light float in the water to prevent your bird bath from freezing over completely should the cold strike, or pour warm water over the birdbath. Whatever you do, it is important never to add any chemicals, even something as innocuous as salt could have adverse effects on the birds themselves. However, in both summer and winter it is a good idea to clean out and replace the water in your birdbath regularly to prevent disease.

Feeding Stations

Bird Cakes, as shown in this feeding station, are a great idea for birds in the winter.
Bird Cakes, as shown in this feeding station, are a great idea for birds in the winter.

As well as water, another thing birds need is food – this is especially true during the winter months as there is less natural food is available. This is where a good bird table or feeder can come in handy! It is best to locate them at an altitude, so groundlings cannot steal the bird food, and to keep the birds’ feeding area out of reach of predators. Stock it up with high protein seeds, but more importantly many birds’ fat reserves get depleted during winter so using fat cuttings or lard from the kitchen to create a “bird cake”, by cooking the fat or lard and then mixing it in with the seeds. This will create a fattening snack for birds to peck at, which can then be hung on trees or placed on a feeding station, or perhaps both. It is actually quite important to vary the way in which you distribute the food around the garden, as some birds are more comfortable using a hanging bird feeder, while others much prefer a flat surface upon which to graze. Like with birdbaths, hygiene can be important with your feeding stations too. Make sure that food stayed in the feeder, and clean up any crumbs or droppings that pile up at the bottom, as these can attract pests. Also be sure to clean up uneaten food, as this can create disease.

Shelter and Safety

Shelter from the elements and protection from predators are also important components of bird care in the winter. Having a prickly bush near your birdbaths or bird feeder will give your birds not only shelter from the elements but also somewhere to hide in case of predators, have too many shrubs, however, and this could provide a spot to predators to stalk their prey – for this reason it might be best to place these items out in the open. You might also want to invest in, or perhaps build, a roosting station for your birds to provide an especially safe place for them. To help ward off the birds’ most common predator, you could also invest in a cat scarer, to help keep your bird baths and feeding stations safe and clear from these animals. Or if you own a cat – put a bell on it. Birds will only settle into a routine of feeding at a particular spot once they are sure that spot is safe, so its important to try and keep it clear of predators.

Follow this advice and you’re sure to give our feathered friends a helping hand in making it through to the spring.

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

To see the rest of Charlie’s posts, click here.

Animals, Geoff, How To, Infographics, Insects, Mice & Rats, Pest Advice, Pest Control, Slugs & Snails, Spiders, Wildlife

Having trouble with keeping pests at bay? Ever wondered what sort of creepy crawlies could be lurking in your home? If you would like to minimize the chance of ever meeting them, our simple infographic guide can help you understand where to look, and how to prevent these pests from infesting your home.

How to Deal With Household Pests Infographic

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GeoffGeoff works within the Primrose marketing team, primarily on anything related to graphics and design.

He loves to keep up with the latest in music, film and technology whilst also creating his own original art and his ideal afternoon would be lounging in a sunny garden surrounded by good food, drink and company provided there is a football nearby.

While not an expert, his previous job involved landscaping so he’s got some limited experience when gardening.

See all of Geoff’s posts.

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