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.

Amie, Animals, Current Issues, How To, Primrose.co.uk

Hedgehog awareness week runs from 1st – 7th May, so we’re giving you a heads up on everything you need to know to keep these animals alive in the British wild.

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Hedgehogs are one of our favourite mammals, noticeable from their small, spiky bodies, roaming freely in our gardens. However, according to a recent report from BBC Gardener’s World magazine, almost half of us have never seen the cute, prickly critter. Even more worrying, only 29% have seen a hedgehog in the last year. Their presence is in decline, and is happening for a number of reasons, including changing environmental habitats, intensive agriculture and built up urban areas.  It would be a great shame to lose one of our favourite animals from the wild, but there are a few simple things you can do to help.

Make it easy for hedgehogs to roam between gardens 
One of the best things you can do to help hedgehogs is to allow free movement between gardens. By doing this, you make it easier for them to obtain food (did you know they travel up to a mile a night in search of food?). If you haven’t a fence in your garden, or you’re debating replacing them, look at fencing with gaps underneath. Else cut a hole in your fence roughly 13cm x 13cm, giving plenty of room for them to pass through. If you’re worried about your fence looking aesthetically unpleasing, simply place shrubbery or foliage near the hole to cover it up.

Build a habitat in your garden
Hedgehogs love twigs, leaves, bushes and foliage, which feature in many gardens, so why not make your own ‘hogitat’? Ensure there are no obstacles around the shrubbery, and ideally locate this in a corner of your garden, keeping the habitat warm and dry. This will not only provide a good place for hedgehogs to hibernate and nest in, but it will also be a hotspot for hedgehog grub to shelter such as slugs (meaning they are less likely to wonder the streets, crossing busy roads looking for food). You could even make your own DIY hedgehog box (similar to a rabbit hutch, but much smaller). Hedgehogs breed between April and September so this is a good time to provide warmth and shelter for them.

Hedgehog, Garden, Spiny, Animals, Leaf

Check any obstacles in your garden
Many gardens have features which can pose a danger to hedgehogs, so you need to rectify this. It’s all about applying common sense here. If you have a steep pond, then this is an instant death trap. Although hedgehogs can swim for short distances, they have difficulty exiting steep sides, so look to create a slope or place a log to allow for easy access. Or another solution is to place a netting over ponds to avoid falling in. If you had a bonfire in your garden, ensure this is fully dismantled and extinguished so it’s not disguised as a hibernaculum.

Warn off any predators that enter your garden 
Whilst hedgehogs feature a clever defensive mechanism in the way of their sharp hairs (known as quills) utilised through curling into a ball, there is still a danger posed to them by larger animals. Birds of prey such as hawks or owls, foxes and weasels are some of the more well-known predators that lurk in British gardens, and whilst deterring foxes (without affecting hedgehogs) isn’t straightforward, it’s very simple and cheap to place a bird decoy in your garden. Likewise, if you own a pet, try and ensure they don’t pose a threat to hedgehogs, by warding them off their habitats where possible.

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Leave out extra food 
Whilst all the above gives the best possible chance of providing food and insects for hedgehogs, it’s useful to leave out supplementary food such as meat-based pet food, crushed peanuts, mealworms or raisins. Ensure any food you leave out is not only digestible, but is placed upon a pesticide free lawn (avoid slug killer, weedkiller etc).

Care for injured hedgehogs
If you see an injured hedgehog, then do what you can to assist. The safest way to pick up a hedgehog is underside first, to avoid being pricked. Bring the hedgehog inside, and place it in a box, wrapped up in a towel. This is less likely to frighten them, but will also allow them to keep warm. You can call your local hedgehog hospital or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who will be happy to help. Many rescued hedgehogs fortunately are released back into the wild once they’re recovered.

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Follow our tips, share with your friends, and become an advocate for hedgehog conservation. With your help, we can create safe, hedgehog friendly communities, not just single garden habitats, which will give hedgehogs less chance of disappearing from our gardens.

AmieAmie is a marketing enthusiast, having worked at Primrose since graduating from Reading University in 2014.

She enjoys all things sport. A keen football fan, Amie follows Tottenham Hotspur FC, and regularly plays for her local 5 a side football team.

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

Animals, Bird Baths, Garden Design, Garden Tools, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, Heated Clothing, How To, Planting, Plants

Gardening in Winter

When the cold winds blow and snow begins to settle on the lawn, it’s tempting to close the backdoor and spend the winter curled up by the fire. But if you’re an outdoorsy person then there’s no need to give up on the garden for a whole season every year. With our guide to gardening in winter you’ll find plenty of projects to crack on with before the spring, how to protect your plants against the cold and top tips for making the most out of your time outdoors.

Winter Gardening Jobs

  • Pruning. Some plants are best cut back and pruned over winter, such as roses, shrubs, fruit trees and deciduous hedges. This will encourage healthy new shoots to grow when the weather warms up again.
  • Cleaning. While the life in your garden is less demanding, it’s a good opportunity to sort out a bit of general maintenance. Hosing down your paths and patios will not only spruce them up, but also ensure they’re free of grime which could become slippery in the cold, damp conditions.
  • Checking for structural damage. If you have a greenhouse, conservatory or shed then winter is the best time of year to give them a good inspection. Most of the surrounding foliage will have died back, leaving a clear path to see any cracks in the frames or broken window panes. Fixing these now is crucial for protecting any plants inside from freezing draughts.
  • Ordering seed catalogues. Get prepared for the sowing season by choosing seeds and plants to buy. It’s a good time to sit back and plan how you might like to redesign your planting or reflect on which flowers grow best in your garden.
  • Cutting the lawn. You won’t need to mow the grass anywhere near as frequently as in the summer, but if the weather is mild it will need doing every now and then. The grass won’t grow as fast, so you can leave it longer than normal.

Winter Gardening Tips

  • Don’t compact the soil. During wintertime, the ground will likely be saturated from excess rain and freeze due to the plummeting temperatures. It’s best to avoid treading on the earth too much as you will compact the already dense soil, making it even more difficult to work in the spring. So try to step lightly when you need to go over it.
  • Maintain tools. There won’t be many labour intensive jobs to do in the garden over winter so it’s a good opportunity to show your tools some TLC. Oil any machinery that requires it and sharpen the blades of your trimmers and secateurs. Then you’ll be all set for cracking on when the frost thaws.
  • Keep watering. It’s easy to overlook watering your garden when the weather’s so rubbish this time of year. But it’s still important to go outside and give your plants a quick water every now and then, particularly if it hasn’t rained in a while. And don’t forget to water your indoor flowers too!
  • Plan ahead. Winter is a great time to plan your garden design for the coming year. Most of the plants and trees have died back, leaving the core layout of your plot clear. Take advantage of this by mapping out new paths or patios, or deciding where to put that new shed or greenhouse.

Trees in Winter

Winter Planting

  • Winter loving plants. Surprisingly, there are a few plants that defy nature and come into their own in the chilly months. Besides evergreen trees, these include witch hazel, winter jasmine, winter honeysuckle and viburnum. Add a few of these for a colourful flowerbed all year round.
  • Winter vegetables. If you have an allotment or kitchen garden, then there are plenty of hardy vegetables that will keep you going over winter. In early summer you can sow broccoli, leeks, winter cabbage and brussel sprouts, which are all capable of enduring the frost – and perfect for a Christmas dinner!
  • Frost protection. As any gardener will no doubt be aware, most plants don’t take well to frosty nights and freezing temperatures. There are many methods to protect your plants against frost, from cloches and fleece blankets to careful watering and layering mulch.
  • Indoor gardening. Perhaps the simplest way to get your gardening fix without having the brace yourself against the chill is by planting inside. Not all plants will grow well indoors, so make sure you do your research. Most plants will grow best in rooms full of light and insulated against draughts. For the most effective indoor growing, it may be worth investing in specialist lights and a grow room.

Winter Wildlife in the Garden

Wintertime can be harsh for animals in the wild. Food is scarce, conditions are icy cold and shelter is hard to come by. You can help out the creatures that come to your garden by providing a little assistance. For the birds, leave out extra food in your birdfeeder and keep your birdbath topped up with water – though make sure it doesn’t freeze. A tennis ball in there should do the trick. You can also plant berry bushes, which will provide a source of winter food and a place to shelter.
For other creatures, make sure there’s somewhere for them to bunker down and sit out the winter months. Simply leave out a pile of leaves or uncut grass for groundlings to nest in.

Bird in Winter

What to Wear Outside

Obviously the priority when gardening outside from November to February is keeping warm. Wrap up as much as you can with hats, gloves, scarves and coats, while allowing enough ease of movement to be able to get on with your digging and pruning. A great way to cut back on the layers while retaining the warmth is with heated clothing. You can use heat pads for your hands or even battery heated socks and gloves for long-lasting toastiness. Just make sure that you don’t spend too long outside at a time, especially if you’re feeling unwell. There’s nothing like a regular tea break to warm yourself up!

One Year Ends, Another Begins

So don’t let the cold weather and long nights dishearten you too much – there’s still plenty of opportunity to get outside and enjoy your garden in winter. From protecting the plants you’ve tended all year to planning new features for the next, winter is the perfect time for reflection and inspiration. Take a brisk walk through the grass before huddling up inside with a hot drink and admiring your garden through the window. Treat someone special to a book full of gardening ideas for Christmas. And most of all get ready, for spring will soon begin!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

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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