Alice, Animals, Birds, Conservation, Wildlife

Many species of wild animals are on the decline, including hedgehogs, sparrows, and song thrushes. With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK, these outdoor spaces have huge potential to nurture an array of creatures. Here are some simple solutions for how to help wildlife in your garden.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Go natural

An immaculate garden with with a tidy lawn, perfectly pruned hedges and every fallen leaf disposed of will impress your neighbours, but isn’t the best way to welcome wildlife. Leaves, weeds, and overgrown shrubs provide shelter for insects, birds, and small mammals. Long grass in particular is a great habitat, so make sure to leave at least a patch of your lawn unmown. Weeds are also a food source for many insects, including butterflies and moths.

Avoid pesticides

Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides will destroy unwanted pests, however chemicals are not selective: they will also destroy other insects including beneficial pollinators. Even insects such as aphids and slugs can be beneficial in maintaining the food chain. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using a cloche or fleece, companion planting, and using grease bands for trees.

Just add water

A pond is a great way of attracting an array of wildlife into your garden, including frogs, newts, birds, and insects. Make sure to incorporate a sloping bank area so animals can easily step in and out, and avoid adding fish as they eat tadpoles. If you don’t have space for a full-blown pond, a birdbath is a great way of providing drinking and bathing water to wild birds, and make sure to leave a bowl of water for thirsty wildlife on hot days.

Feed the birds

Food supplies for wild birds can run short, particularly in the winter, so it’s a great idea to offer nutrition for our feathered friends. It’s important to stick to a regular feeding schedule as irregular feeding could cause birds to expend energy flying to your garden then find there is no food. Make sure food is kept out of the reach of cats, and some of it is protected to allow small birds to feed in safety. Our range of bird feeders has a range of styles to suit various species and garden styles.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Bee-friendly flowers

Bees are highly beneficial pollinators, however due to the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their population is declining. Make your garden a rich food source for these creatures by planting open flowers such as daisies; flowering trees (including fruit trees); and legumes such as beans, peas, sweet peas. Sowing multiple plants in succession rather than occasional plants dotted around your garden works best. You can find out more about bee conservation in this article.

Diversity

A garden full of the same flower species creates a bold display, but isn’t great for wildlife. Growing a range of flowers provides a strong supply of nectar and helps create a healthy ecosystem with a wide range of insects, birds, and mammals.

Animal habitats

Bird nest boxes are a great way of providing shelter for wild birds and protecting them from predators. Our collection includes a variety of models to accommodate various species of bird; from small round-holed boxes for tits to more open styles for robins. There are now more habitat options available for other creatures. Our Hedgehog House Care Pack provides a great hibernation haven, and our Ladybird Tower is perfect for housing beneficial insects. Piles of logs and sticks can also provide shelter for various critters.

Compost

In addition to recycling kitchen waste and enriching the soil, compost can also enhance the bacterial and fungal life in your garden, which provides a base for other wildlife. A compost heap can also provide a home for creatures such as woodlice, worms, and frogs. Check out our guide on how to compost here!

A gap in the fence

Make sure animals such as hedgehogs and frogs can benefit the new wildlife-friendly additions to your garden by making sure your fences have some gaps at the bottom to allow wildlife to move through. This will also help link habitats together. However, if you or one of your neighbours have a dog, ensure that the gap is small enough that the dog cannot escape!

Let us know which adorable creatures have been visiting your garden on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

 

Conservation, Current Issues, Organic, Scott, Sustainable Living

world soil dayWe’re experiencing a climate emergency. This message has finally found a voice in society and awareness of the issues facing our planet are beginning to be discussed with the attention they deserve. One of the most pressing but unreported of these is the condition of the Earth’s soil. You’ll know how important soil is to the health of your garden; the same is true for our nations soil and the soil of our planet. The 5th of December marks World Soil Day, an international project started by the United Nations to promote awareness and action over soil erosion. 

So what is soil erosion?

world soil day

When we think of the climate emergency we may think of large blocks of ice falling into the sea or freak weather showing on the news but soil erosion is an issue that is just as catastrophic whilst remaining widely unknown. Soil erosion is a wearing down of the most fertile layer of soil. This is the layer of soil that contains all the best nutrients and organic matter that’s suited for growing everything from forests to garden plants and vital crops. 

Isn’t soil erosion natural?

world soil day

Soil erosion is a natural process but it’s normally a slow one. As is so often the case in these stories, it’s the actions of humanity that have accelerated the issue to near breaking point. Intense farming, singular crop use, deforestation and expansive building of disruptive infrastructure are all things that have caused this process to accelerate. Dealing with the natural causes involved a shift in the way farms operate, due to human action, these shifts in behaviour need to happen on a global scale to help mitigate the damage.

How serious is the problem?

Time is running out to make such changes with the UN claiming we have less than 60 years before the planet runs out of fertile topsoil; a disaster considering this is where 95% of the world’s food is grown. Soil erosion is a silent symptom of the climate emergency but it can make its effects known via food shortages, lack of crop diversity, higher carbon levels in the atmosphere and accelerated climate catastrophe…  

What’s being done?

Word is beginning to spread and actions are being taken. The formation of Groundswell in 2015, the UK’s leading agricultural conservation event, is a sign of farmers recognising the problem and vowing to make a change in how they work that will benefit everyone. 

There are lots of practices that farms can introduce to regenerate their soil. Dropping the use of chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides, turning away from tilling machinery, planting more diverse crops and changing grazing practises can ALL contribute to healthier soil. The end result can be more nutrient-rich, varied and organic produce for us as consumers, farms that are more likely to stand the test of time and a healthier planet.  

organic produce

What can I do to help?

The best thing you can do to support the soil crisis is to be informed. Arm yourself with the know-how of what’s going on with our world’s soil and spread the word! This basic step will help you make more informed choices about where your food comes but also lend you a voice when it comes to communicating these ideas to those with the power to change them and stop bad practices causing soil erosion.  

soil

See our quick list below for ideas on how you can celebrate:

  1. Get out in the garden and test your own soil.
  2. Get a local school involved with a soil health workshop.
  3. Shop your local area for organic farms to try and locate fresh produce.
  4. Plan a sponsored run or walk to raise awareness of soil erosion and wider climate issues.
  5. Share this blog post and spread the word!

For more information on World Soil Day see this handy infographic from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations: Click here 

 

Scott at Primrose

Scott is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.

See all of Scott’s posts.

Conservation, Current Issues, Dakota Murphey, Grow Your Own, How To

living off grid

If you hanker after a simple, sustainable life, you will love the idea of living the off-grid dream. Living without household utilities, the internet, fast food and all of the trappings of modern living may seem unimaginable to some, but to others it is a vision of the ideal lifestyle.

Going off-grid is a growing trend. Are you ready to take the leap? Read on to find out more.

What exactly is living off-grid?

The term off-grid actually means disconnected from the main national transmission grid of electricity. For some, off-grid living simply means disconnected from the electrical grid, for others the concept extends to a completely self-sufficient existence without reliance on any public utilities, including gas and water supply.

Why live off-grid?

There are many reasons people choose to live off-grid. Here are some of them:

  • Freedom from utility bills
  • A desire to live more in tune with the environment
  • A desire to be more environmentally responsible
  • Location (remote and beautiful)
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Healthier lifestyle
  • Educating future generations
  • To opt out of consumerism
  • To achieve complete independence

How to live off-grid

If you have pondered the idea of a more sustainable lifestyle, but don’t know where to start, here are 7 steps to get you living the off-grid dream. Just how far off the grid you go is up to you.

1. Land

Off-grid means different things to different people. If you are serious about going off-grid completely, you may be considering the purchase of a piece of land on which to start your smallholding and/or new eco-friendly life. Finding suitable, affordable land is one of the biggest hurdles to people looking to go completely off-grid in the UK.

However, while living completely off-grid in the UK is actually quite difficult, it’s not impossible. There are ways to live legally on cheap land in the UK, but you will have to negotiate local planning restrictions before constructing any dwelling.

forest

2. Power

There are many homeowners in the UK who have taken their first step to off-grid living simply by installing solar panels. Wind and water power are also being used to generate electricity for some homes. One of the biggest commitments required when going off-grid is to cut down and minimise the use of power as a resource.

There are many options on the market for home owners interested in self-sufficient renewable energy sources. Examples are biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps, and solar water heating.

Renewable electricity generated by acceptable installations, including off-grid systems, is currently eligible for payments under the Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) scheme. This is a government programme designed to promote the uptake of renewable and low-carbon electricity generation. However, the government have announced plans to axe the scheme from April next year.

3. Heating

Heat pumps are the most efficient way to heat an off-grid home and are currently considered one of the best off-grid heating options. Ground source heat pumps harvest heat from below the ground. Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air.

Other options are biomass (burning wood and other organic matter) and solar thermal collectors.

4. Water

Truly living off-grid requires you to harness the invaluable resource that is water. Rainwater and borewater are clean sources of water, but may be contaminated and will therefore require sterilisation through a filter system before consumption.

Rainwater can be harvested, but realistically will need an underground tank that collects water from the guttering on your house, as well as a filter system. This can be costly (over £10,000). A borehole will require a geological survey. There are companies in the UK that can arrange the survey and drill the borehole for you. Find out more about the process here.

There is even the option of an off-grid box!

5. Food

You’re not truly off-grid until you grow your own food. Here are several good reasons why you should grow your own grub. For more tips on growing your own food, see here.

basket of food

6. Drainage

A simple soakaway is required to drain shower, washing machine and sink water (known as grey water) away. A soakaway is a hole dug in the ground approximately 1 metre deep. The hole is 80 per cent filled with broken bricks and rubble.

7. Sewage

Sewage wastewater from toilets and dishwashers is known as blackwater. When you live off-grid and you disconnect yourself from the municipal sewage system you’ll need to consider how you manage your wastewater and sewage.
The main options are a septic tank system or a more sophisticated miniaturised sewage treatment plant system. With a septic tank, you will need the tank de-sludged regularly. You may want to consider a composting toilet. See more information about off mains drainage here.

If you are looking for a challenge, a different pace of life and care about the planet, then off-grid living is worth considering. With battery storage and other eco-friendly technologies developing, living off-grid is likely to become easier and more popular in the future.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Animals, Conservation, George, Pest Advice, Wildlife

Badgers are one of the most iconic and well loved wild animals of Britain, though for some they can be seen as a garden pest. So whether you’re keen to spot more or you’re fed up with them digging up your lawn, we have everything you need to know about badgers in the garden.

Badgers in the garden

Signs of badgers

Badgers can be a little more destructive than most wildlife on their travels through your garden, leaving notable signs behind. They’re creatures of habit, following the same routes from their setts (underground tunnel complexes where they live in families) through local gardens in the search for food. You may see tunnels dug under your fences or chunks clawed out of the lawn. These are caused by the badgers digging for larvae below the turf, most common in spring time. You may also find they’ve burrowed into vegetable patches or flowerbeds – hunting for bulbs – when food is scarce. They are strong animals, so can also break into bins and compost heaps.

Like a lot of territorial creatures, badgers mark their area with urine and faeces, for which they’ll often dig latrines. You may spot one of these in your garden – it’ll be a trench about 15cm deep and 15cm wide.

Badgers rarely build their setts close to humans as they’re generally scared of us. But if you think they may be digging one in your garden – look out for tunnels of about 25cm diameter – then contact the Badger Trust immediately for advice.

Badger sett
A badger sett

Legal protections for badgers

It’s worth noting that badgers are the most protected of all British wildlife under strict laws, specifically the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. This makes it illegal to trap, harm or kill a badger, or to interfere with its sett. You could face up to 6 months in prison and an unlimited fine if you do so.

How to prevent badger damage in the garden

Given that badgers are so protected, you must be careful about any measures you take to control them on your property. You can try to make your garden less attractive to them or, in some cases, restrict their access.

The main reason badgers come into your garden is in search of food. So to discourage them, make sure any tasty treats like spilled birdseed (especially peanuts) or fallen fruit are cleared up each night. If you have a compost bin, ensure it’s sealed against pests.

Badgers dig up your lawn in search of insect larvae, but a well-drained and moss-free lawn is best for reducing insects laying larvae there. You can also embed a wire mesh over the lawn to make it harder for badgers to dig up.

If your garden is on a badger path, it’s common to find they dig under fences. They’re also strong – and determined – enough to climb over or tear down a weak fence. You can restrict their access by using electric fencing (including a timer to only turn it on at night) or reinforcing your fence with a strong wire mesh underground as illustrated below:

Securing fence against badgers

You must be careful with these methods though, as blocking up an entry point into your garden could be an offense if it prevents a badger getting to its sett. You may be better off putting a two-way hatch in the fence to allow badgers to pass through without digging or damage.

Lastly, no chemical deterrents for badgers are legally approved and the effects of ultrasonic repellers are unknown on them (although they are audible and used as a deterrent for a wide range of other pests).

Benefits of badgers

Badgers aren’t all bad in the garden. In fact, if you take the steps above to minimise their damage, they can be beneficial. Occasionally badgers will eat other pests like rats and mice. Plus, they are fascinating to watch and great for educating young children about wildlife and nature.

Group of badgers

Tips for spotting badgers

Badgers are beautiful creatures and – at up to 1m long – some of the largest wildlife to visit your garden. If you’re keen to catch sight of one outside, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances.

Try putting out some of their favourite food like peanuts, raisins, bread or soft fruit on your patio – but no milk or meat. Of course, if they learn that your garden is a source of food, they’ll come back determined to find more whether you put it out or not! And this may attract unwanted pests to your garden too.

As badgers are nocturnal, you’re going to look out for them at nighttime. They have poor eyesight but good hearing, so if you sit quietly you may be able to watch them up close. Or if you don’t fancy staying up, you could invest in a wildlife camera instead.

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.