Animals, Birds, Christmas, Megan, Wildlife

Welcome to our brand new blog series on garden birds! We start with robins, perhaps one of Britain’s favourite garden birds, especially at Christmas. In this post you will find everything you could possibly want to know about robins, as well as how to attract the angelic red breasted birds to your garden.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

Why Are Robins Associated With Christmas?

Especially at this time of year, you may wonder to yourself, why are robins a symbol of Christmas? The answer may date back to Victorian times in Britain. During this time postal workers were nicknamed robins because of their red uniforms. Robins on Christmas cards came to represent the postal workers who had delivered them.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

Others say the association dates back to the time of the bible. There is a fable that tells that when Jesus was born in the stable, there was a great fire that began to blaze out of control. A brown robin placed themselves between the fire and the manger and fluffed its feathers to protect baby Jesus, in turn setting his breast alight. The red breast of this robin was said to be passed down through generations of robins.

Are There Different Species of Robin?

There are ten different species of robin, but the European robin is the only one you will see in UK gardens. Juvenile European robins are brown in colour, and develop the robin’s signature red breast when they are around 6 months old.

All About Garden Birds: Robins
Juvenile Robin

Subspecies of the European robin migrate to the UK from scandinavia during the winter months to escape the harsh weather. These birds have a more dull red breast and are more grey in colour than your average UK robin. They are more likely to be seen in woodland areas than in your garden.

When is Robins Breeding Season?

Robin’s breeding season typically starts in march; however, if it has been a mild winter it can be as early as January. This is when you will start to hear bird song in the early morning – this is actually male birds ‘singing’ to attract a mate. Once partnered up, robins will stay together for the whole breeding season.

Nests can be found almost anywhere – in old plant pots, inside sheds, amongst bushes and even in teapots. The female will build the nest out of twigs, moss, leaves and grass, lining the nest with finer grass and feathers, ready for its first brood.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

Broods will usually be 5-7 eggs in size, and robins have several broods, often overlapping, during the breeding season. Whilst the female lays on its eggs to incubate them, the male will go off to find food and bring it back to the female. Eggs hatch after about 13 days, and fledge (develop wings for flying) 14 days after that. During this time the male and female will share parenting responsibilities; baby robins are completely reliant on their parents for food, shelter and warmth.

What Do Robins Eat?

Robins favourite foods are insects, especially beetles and worms. They are omnivorous birds and insects provide a good source of protein to aid muscle growth and fat for energy. Robins use all their senses to hunt for worms, and have a great vision for this reason. They can see the tiniest end of a worm poking out the soil, and spot the slightest disturbance which may be a sign of a worm wriggling underneath.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

You can help robins find their favourite treat by:

  • keeping your lawn tripped and of even length
  • watering your lawn early in the morning so worms are brought closer to the surface
  • leaving piles of leaves intact for robins to forage through

An alternative is to leave dried mealworms in open feeders out for robins. These can be soaked in water to help hydrate robins when water is scarce due to hot weather or frost.

Robins also feed on fruit, seeds, suet, crushed peanuts and sunflower hearts. Robins are natural ground feeders, so leaving straights or a robin seed mix out in a ground feeding tray is best. For an extra treat, you can mix in some grated mild cheese. Be sure to remove the food in ground feeders if it rains, as this will cause the food to grow mould and bacteria.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

You can also leave food out on bird tables. Covered bird tables will help keep food dry and protect feeding birds from any predators. Note that robins will only feed from hanging bird feeders if there is a perch, and even then they would prefer not to.

To find out more about the ins and outs of different bird food, take a look at our garden bird feeding guide.

Are Robins Endangered?

Robins are not endangered species, however they have a high mortality rate and just over half of young robins will survive the winter. Robins make up for this population loss by having multiple broods during breeding season.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

The greatest threats to robins is during the colder seasons. The birds will use around 10% of their body weight during one cold and icy night. This is why it is especially important to help out during the winter by leaving out high energy and fresh water to help them survive.

How Do I Attract Robins To My Garden?

It is pretty straightforward to attract robins to your garden. If not present in your garden already, leave out some food suited to robins, as we have mentioned previously. In the new year, pop up an open front nest box to encourage robins to nest in your garden. Provide fresh and clean water in a bird bath. As robins also enjoy feeding on fruits and berries in the wintertime, you could also consider planting a crabapple or rowan tree in your garden.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the most widely recognised garden bird in Britain. Keep and eye out for the next part of our garden bird series. The next bird we will take a look at is the blue tit.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Animals, Birds, Conservation, Gardening Year, Gary, Wildlife

garden changes in autumn

As the nights become colder and trees begin to shed their leaves on damp mornings, it becomes clear that the cycle of the seasons has once again turned. Whereas spring is the season of new life and growth, autumn is a time of preparation and winding down for both animal and plant life. The signs of the season are well known to all of us and are easily noticed whenever we go outside, but we can quite easily miss the small changes that take place in our gardens. So, what changes can the penultimate season of the year bring to the microhabitat that is your garden?

Every garden is unique and the changes that occur throughout autumn will be different to each one, but no matter where you are there are some things that you will always be able to see. Around the start of September, you will start noticing the obvious signs of autumn: the leaves will start turning from green to gold and you will see flocks of birds leaving for warmer climates. But if you pay slightly more attention, both plant and animal life will be making subtle changes that betray a natural world in flux.

New Birds

If you have a bird-friendly garden, the start of the season will seem to be a bit of a dead zone as the skies fill with flocks of birds migrating to warmer climates for the winter. It can be tempting to pack away the bird feeders and seeds when you start seeing less activity in your garden. But if you keep up with your normal routine you will start to see some new friends in your garden as those bird species that come to the UK for winter start to appear. By late September you will start to see new species outside your kitchen window. Look out for :

  • Knots
  • Fieldfares
  • Short eared owls
  • Redwings
  • Waxwings

As these newcomers fill your garden, look out for new behaviours in both the new and native species.

Open Chestnut

Fruits and Nuts

Spring is the season we most associate with new life, but for the plants in your garden, mid-August is when the prep stats. It is around this time of the year that you will start to see fruits, nuts and berries ripening just as animal species are starting to collect food for the winter. This timing is not coincidental, by providing food, the plants give the animal species the ability to survive through the winter, and in return, the hard work of dispersing seeds is taken care of by the animals as they continue to search for food.

Fungal Life

Fungi thrive when the warmth of summer and the damp of autumn come together around September. Just as your brambles and trees start to produce fruit, so does the fungal life in your garden. The majority of a fungal organism exists below the ground, however, when the time comes to spore, you will begin to see the fruit of the fungus (the mushroom) begin to sprout. These growths will appear in damp shaded areas. The colours and shapes of these mushrooms are interesting to look at and if you have a guidebook there is a lot to be learned. Just be careful not to touch them without identifying them first, of the over 3,000 species native to the UK only about 50 are non-poisonous.

Mushroom

Increased Animal Activity

Many species hibernate through the winter. To prepare for the long sleep, hibernating species gorge themselves on insects, berries and nuts in the months before the frosts start. As trees begin to fruit, you will inevitably begin to notice an increase in squirrel activity in your garden. You will either see them raiding your garden for everything you have or you will start finding acorns and nuts in weird places around your garden as it becomes a storehouse for the winter.

Hedgehogs may also become a more common sight as they prepare to hibernate, unlike squirrels and dormice these spiky creatures may need a little extra help when it comes to getting prepped. There are a few ways that you can help like putting out dog food and water or putting a Hogitat in your garden

For those of you with rural gardens, you may start to see a whole range of new and interesting behaviours as some animals will start looking for mates at this time of year and you may see deers rutting or birds courting. Keep an eye out, you might be surprised at what you see.

Hedgehog

There is a lot more to be discovered in the autumn than you may think. This list is not exhaustive, but it will give you some idea of what to look out for. Keep your eyes open, the changes are subtle, but they will be happening all around you.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.

Birds, Conservation, Current Issues, Gardening, Guest Posts, Organic, Sustainable Living

In today’s fragile natural world, where we’re constantly facing the negative impact of previous and ongoing environmental damage, building and maintaining a sustainable garden simply makes sense.

Whether you’re looking to add one or two sustainable features into your small backyard, or you’re thinking of starting a large-scale project to make your garden an eco-friendly, bio-diverse habitat, there are plenty of features and elements you can incorporate into your outdoor space to make it more earth-friendly – no matter your budget or the size of your space.

In today’s post, we’re considering everything from bird feeders and vegetable patches to ‘green roofs’ and the materials you can use to create your summer decking, to help you discover different ways you can maximise the sustainability of your garden space.

sustainable garden design

Build sustainably

If you’re thinking of building your sustainable garden from scratch, then there are a whole host of things to consider before you do. Firstly, think about new, innovative and long-term ways that your outside area could help the environment and those living in it, such as by installing a ‘green roof’.

A green roof can either be built on top of your home or a shed at the bottom of your garden, or to liven up your bland and boring garage roof. Partially or completely covered with shrubbery, not only do green roofs attract an assortment of wildlife to them, but, because of their ability to absorb large amounts of rainwater, they also provide an eco-friendly insulating element to the interior they are installed on top of.

If you’re looking to build a structure from scratch, make use of innately sustainable building methods, such as modular construction – as this way, you’ll reduce the environmental impact from the offset and can benefit from in-built features like grey water recycling and renewable energy systems.

Cultivate your own vegetables

There’s nothing better than being at one with nature – and particularly within the comfort of your own home and garden. A vegetable patch makes this possible, while remaining sustainable and adding an element of fun in the process.

Growing your own food is a guaranteed way to reduce your carbon footprint, as the distance your food travels to the shop – which you then drive to to buy – is all reduced by the simple act of you stepping out your back door, and pulling out a homegrown vegetable, fruit or herb from your self-built patch. With so many different types of plant beds to choose from, regardless of the size of your space, you are sure to find a way to incorporate a vegetable patch into your garden that suits both the needs of your family and the environment you’re working with.

Create a biodiverse haven

Another vital ingredient when it comes to creating a sustainable garden is creating a space that attracts and provides resources for the wildlife that inhabits it.

Invite bugs and birds into your garden by choosing plants aimed at encouraging biodiversity, installing water baths and hanging up bird feeders from trees and sheds. Choose a range of plant climbers and shrubs that consist of a healthy mix of fruit, pollen and nectar to encourage bees and birds to feed alongside each other. In addition, consider putting up ivy either around a shed or across the corners of your outdoor area, to give a variety of wildlife – such as bugs and even small mammals – a place to shelter from the elements.

Use what you’ve got

One of the most important things to remember when creating a sustainable garden – either from scratch or when incorporating a few eco-friendly features into your space – is to make sure that the materials you’re using are as environmentally friendly as possible.

Recycled wood can allow you to create beautiful outdoor decking that lets you enjoy the wildlife in your garden – and natural resources such as collected rainwater will allow you to harvest crops from your new vegetable patch. Additionally, don’t let your food waste go to waste. Create an area in your garden where your leftover dinners can be put to good use by composting them so they can be used in the future, to fertilise your new and flourishing sustainable garden.

sustainable gardens

Complying to, and encouraging, the general practice of sustainable living isn’t a hard task. From adding small-scale features into your existing garden that encourage wildlife to thrive, to building a sustainable garden from the ground up (literally), an eco-friendly exterior will not only reduce your carbon footprint but, because of its lush greenery and abundant wildlife, will look undeniably stunning, too.

Alex Jones is a content creator for Elements Europe, an industry-leading offsite construction company specialising in sustainable modular building systems, and part of the Pickstock Group.

Animals, Bird Baths, Birds, Conservation, Current Issues, Gardens, How To, Megan, Organic, Sustainable Living, Wildlife

Rewilding Your Garden - Wild Flowers

What Is Rewilding?

Rewilding, simply put, is allowing your garden to be restored to its natural state. This in turn encourages more wildlife and wild plants to reside in your garden. Rewilding involves sitting back and letting your garden undergo natural processes it’s yearning for you to allow. Those who keep their gardens prim and proper may be baffled by this thought, but there is something beautiful in watching nature run its course and the outcome is something you will be sure to embrace.

Rewilding Your Garden - Butterflies

Why You Should Consider Rewilding Your Garden

There are many benefits to rewilding your garden. In a world that is constantly developing, rewilding will help nature recover from the destruction it is experiencing in the wider community. Experiencing a pocket of wild nature can do wonders for the mind and can improve health and wellbeing. Rewilding also encourages wildlife, from wild birds to rare insects, and allows them to flourish. More than half of wild species in the UK are in decline and 15% are threatened with extinction. Leaving nature to run wild in your garden will provide a space for biodiversity to blossom right in front of your eyes.

How to Start Rewilding Your Garden

Ditch the Chemicals

Many of the chemical pesticides, weed killers, slug pellets and fertilisers are incredibly harmful to the wildlife in the garden, especially insects. Bees for example, which human life depends on, are killed by contact pesticides. Ditching chemicals can do wonders for your health, the health of your garden and ultimately the wildlife population in the vicinity of your garden.

Weeds aren’t actually all that bad; stinging nettles, for example, provide a home for moths and butterflies. Many weeds protect and restore exposed or degraded soils. If you feel weeds are taking over and you can’t resist getting your hands dirty weeding, opt for a homemade, natural, organic weed killer.

For more tips on ditching chemicals in your garden, check out our post on organic gardening.

Rewilding Your Garden - Fish In Pond

Add Water

One of the best things you can do to increase biodiversity whilst rewilding your garden is to add water. It is after all what sustains life on earth, so it can do wonders for encouraging wildlife in your garden. You can go all out and add a pond to your garden if you wish, which offer a self-sustaining cycle of hydration. This in turn saves water – by building a pond you are allowing that part of your garden to self-water, alleviating the need to use more water. Over time your pond will be abundant with pond life such as frogs, newts, pond snails and damselflies.

If a pond is a bit ambitious for you, or you have a smaller garden, provide a smaller source of water such as a water fountain or bird bath. Running water attracts wildlife such as birds, rabbits & squirrels.

Rewilding Your Garden - Flower Meadow

Leave Your Lawn Be

Put that lawnmower away! Leaving your lawn to grow in abundance will encourage a diversity of grass and herb species. Many of these will flower – the dream of having a wildflower meadow right in your back garden is possible! Borders and paths can be kept neat by mowing and trimming, but be sure to keep the main bulk of your lawn to grow as wild as you dare. Leave cutting your meadows to late in the year. Goldfinches like to munch on the late seeds and meadow brown caterpillars feed on the long grass and hibernate underneath it.

Don’t Over-Plant

You may be tempted to aid in rewilding your garden by planting native plants, but it is best to be patient and wait until they start growing themselves. Seeing what species of flowers and trees pop up is much more exciting and will save you lots of money too. Species that naturally grow in your garden will also be a lot better suited to your soil than any plants you try to introduce yourself.

In conclusion, rewilding your garden can be an exciting and rewarding experience. We hope we’ve inspired you and left you wondering what could grow in your garden if you let it just be!

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

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