Animals, Guest Posts

There are many advantages to encouraging wildlife to thrive in your garden. Not only is it fascinating to witness nature up close (especially if you have children), but encouraging certain types of creatures to take up residence in your garden will act as a natural deterrent for many common pests.

Hedgehog Eating food in the garden
For example:

Birds make a valuable addition to any garden as they will eat most insects, with certain kinds of birds mercifully enjoying snacking on slugs and snails. Pest-eating birds include: robins, magpies, wrens, song thrushes, blackbirds and fieldfares.

While insects are amongst the pests you want to eradicate, there are some insects that are actually useful to have in your garden.

Ladybirds, lacewings, parasitic species of wasps, hoverflies and beetles are among the good kinds of insects who like to eat other pests common to UK gardens.

Other creatures to encourage are hedgehogs, frogs, toads, bats and newts, all of which enjoy eating the pests you hate as part of their daily diet.

So if you want to attract (the right kind of) wildlife to your garden, try incorporating some of these useful features:

Garden pond – Ponds are loved by many creatures, such as frogs, dragonflies and newts, which all need water to breed; birds which use them to drink and bathe, and water boatmen, which live on the bottom of ponds and consume algae and plant debris.

Compost heap – A compost heap provides a place for hedgehogs to hibernate and for slowworms to breed; it will also supply valuable compost that will naturally fertilise your garden’s soil.

Long grass and nettles – Long grassy areas will attract insects, provide shelter for animals, and food for predators.

Thick hedge – A hedge gives nesting areas and cover for birds, while berries provide food during the winter.

Logs – Logs provide an excellent hiding place for all sorts of amphibians, frogs and ground beetles.

Food for Wildlife

Providing food doesn’t have to just mean hanging a bird feeder or throwing out some nuts for the squirrels. In the autumn and winter months, berries and seeds are in plentiful supply, providing food for birds and many other insects.

The garden plant Pyracantha provides berries as well as shelter for birds and support for insects; it can also be trained against a wall.

Pyracantha plant provides tasty berries for garden wildlife
Pyracantha

Summer provides you with many options for food. Plants that are rich in nectar can encourage predators such as wasps and hoverflies. Fennel, Dill and Aster plants provide food for many insects, as well as flowers such as Candytuft, Aubrieta and Wallflower, and shrubs such as Viburnum and Buddleia. You should try and include at least one nectar-rich plant for bumblebees.

Shelter

For a wildlife friendly garden, shelter is vital to protect the creatures from predators, give a place to nest, and somewhere to hibernate. Trees and plants such as Evergreen provide all-year round cover.

Rose, Pyracantha and Mahonia shrubs are an excellent choice for nesting and provide berries and hips to eat. Climbers provide much needed protection, camouflage and nesting spots for birds. Bats and hedgehogs can be lured into the garden with a compost heap or piles of leaves, though if you’ve got the cash to spend you can buy a special box shaped house where hedgehogs can hibernate and bats can sleep.

Image Credits: Sids 1 and Muffet

This is a guest post written by Amy Fowler for Garden Topsoil Direct; specialists in compost delivery across the UK. Find out more on their Facebook page or find out more about Amy on Twitter.

Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Jackie

While I’m happy growing all sorts of flowers and shrubs, I’ve never really gotten into growing vegetables, until this year – apart from tomatoes that is.
Jackie's potato patch
What triggered me off was my new greenhouse. OK, I just got that for tomatoes (I must be psychic as I’ve a feeling outdoor toms will be struggling a bit this year), but there was a £50 voucher with the greenhouse kit and having spent some on a water butt, there was a bit left over for a plastic 3-tier potato planter.

I ordered seed potatoes from my favourite supplier and, following the instructions, planted 5 into the bottom tier. It was early and frosts were still hovering around the Kent countryside, so we started in the greenhouse. In next to no time leaves were peeping out. So, time for the next tier and more compost. Once the leaves were above the final tier, it was mid May and the planter was moved outside.
Potato plants in flower
The potatoes did splendidly, although a few wayward shoots forced themselves in between the tiers – I think I’d better cut these off next time. Last week, I harvested the crop as the flowers were over and the haulms were flopping every which way. Harvesting was easy: I chopped the stalks off, removed the top tier and scraped the compost into one bucket and the potatoes into another, taking just enough for our supper. I went back over the next few days, garnering the crop as I needed it.
Homegrown potatoes in bowl
The potatoes were small and quite delicious, but I think if/when I do it again, I’ll make sure I use some fertiliser. I’m planning to get a crop in for Christmas. I might try a couple of the more unusual varieties – which means I’ll have to get another planter. The Victorian Potato Barrel looks interesting.
Potato plant growing in potato planter
But, of course, I’d purchased more than 5 seed potatoes – there were another 15, beautifully chitted and wanting attention. These went into the ground – I’d created a new vegetable bed near the greenhouse on almost pure clay at the start of winter. We’d had a weeping willow pollarded a couple of years ago and the resultant bark had been rotting down. Some of this I dug into the new bed together with soot from the chimney. The bed had wintered well and took the remaining potatoes in May in two, fairly close rows – just wide enough to weed and earth up (at least in the early stages). I also gave them a good covering with some of last year’s compost heap and are good, healthy looking plants.
Potatoes from potato planter
This morning I lifted one plant – and they are fine, large, potatoes about 1kg in total. A better crop than from the potato planter, but I’d not used any fertiliser in the planter. (Note to self: add Growmore to the compost in the planter next time.)

But it’s not just potatoes that I’m growing – there are runner beans, courgettes, garlic, and peppers – but that’s another story…

Jackie

Charlotte, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Strawberry Delight

Strawberry plants in blossomMy strawberry plants have produced a bumper crop this year: first treating me to a pretty display of blossoms, followed by masses of plump juicy fruit. The berries, however, never make it to the table, or even further than the patio for that matter! They disappear immediately upon ripening and it doesn’t take Inspector Clouseau to discover the culprits; the trails of red juice dribbling down my son’s chin are a dead giveaway.
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Cat, Events

Lorna’s torch relay
Lorna McArdle Olympic Torch Relay Support U
Some of the Primrose Team at Lorna’s torch party.

On Tuesday the Primrose team lined the rainy streets in Reading to see Lorna run (jog? walk?) with the Olympic torch as the first torchbearer in our town. Avid readers of this blog of course already know that we were preparing for it last week and Lorna was even featured in the local paper with us.

She was chosen to be a torchbearer for the fantastic work she had been doing in the local LGBT community by supporting Reading Pride for ten years with six of those years as the chair. In March 2011 she was one of the founders of the charity Support U.

We had a great time and it was fantastic to support Lorna, as well as see the torch. What a brilliant experience!

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.