Water in a plant pot

After filling my planters with wildflowers last year I realised that I had one small trough planter left.  I thought of all the beautiful plants I could put in it and was going to go to the local garden centre for more inspiration when I came up with another idea.

I decided that this planter was going to be a tiny pond, but I wasn’t sure how well it would work being only small.  Where would I put it,  should I keep it above ground or sink into the soil and would it attract any wildlife were several questions I asked myself.  I noticed a bare patch in the soil next to my heathers so I decided to dig a hole and sink it in the ground there.  It did look rather odd just plonked into the ground but after the trouble of digging a hole I decided it was staying there regardless.

After weeks of boring old water and nothing else I started to see birds standing on the edge and drinking the water, then I saw how it seemed to be attracting bees and hoverflies.  I then peered into the trough and saw it was teaming with little creatures wriggling about in the water, the most fascinating to watch were the red tailed maggots, (Hoverfly larvae) which I captured on video here

Early autumn last year I then saw a toad walking towards the pond, which was amazing to see.

Now spring is here, this tiny pond looks like it has always been here.  Bluebell leaves cascade over the waters edge and I have seen quite a few newts and baby toads near by too.

It may have started life as a flower planter but I’m so glad I put this little trough in the ground and made it into a pond. I can’t wait to see what wildlife it attract this year.

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A rainy gardening day

All the miserable cold rainy weather last week gave me a good excuse to start sowing some seeds.  I cleared the greenhouse and windowsills got out my propagator and seedling trays and opened up my tin of seeds.  I love routing through my tin of seeds wondering which ones to start sowing first.  This year I have bought some specific seeds especially for my garden wildlife.

First to be sown was birds foot trefoil and red clover.  I was amazed how quickly they have both grown this week and it looks like I’ll have to transplant them before the end of the week. These lovely little plants will be grown in any bare patches of soil around the garden and especially near my bug/bee hotels.

I have also sown some agastache and echinops to attracts bees and other beneficial insects too.

Around the lawn and cracks in the pavement I’m going to grow creeping thyme as well as patches of chamomile lawn.  These tiny seeds will be sown straight in the garden when it gets a bit warmer but I’m also starting a few of the seeds off in trays first to give them a better chance especially against the slugs and pigeons.

Finally for the moths and other night time pollinator I have sown some night scented stock.  It so lovely to come out into the garden at dusk and watch as the moths dance about them and my honeysuckle enjoying their heavenly night time scent as much I do. 

If you want more information on the best plants to grow to attract bumblebee then check out the wildlife trust page here.

Of course I still have much more to sow and I have 2 trough planters ready to sow some wildflower seeds in as well.  Hopefully the bees, hoverflies, butterflies moths and other pollinators will benefit greatly from these plants and they will hopefully be a welcome addition to my wildlife garden.

Garden birds

I didn’t write a blog yesterday as I was so busy with gardening, diy and job hunting.  At least I got to still spend some time outdoors though and enjoy the flowers.

Today I had a relaxing day in the garden and watched the birds.  I bought a nyjer seed feeder on Monday and already have a pair of goldfinches visiting it.  I feel so sorry for the wildlife at the moment as everywhere is so dry due to lack of rain.  I always have water dishes and bird baths out for them and they are being well used at the moment.  I have also noticed how tame birds are becoming.  I have had birds a foot away from me and not be bothered by me and some even come to me when they want more suet pellets putting on the feeder tray.sparrows

It’s amazing how many different birds visit a bird table in just half an hour. I even captures some footage of birds on the bird table here.

In just 30 mins I saw blackbirds and a song thrush under the shrubs scratting for grubs and worms and a little gold crest and wren flittering between the branches . On the fat feeder I saw a rook, young squabbling starlings, a magpie and some sparrows.  Blue tit, coal tit and great tit fledglings tweet loudly from the climbing honeysuckle waiting to be fed, sometimes fluttering to the ground clumsily because they’ve missed their perch. 10530952_10204577539542327_2874282285086763644_n

It doesn’t take long for birds to find food and water in the garden and they really need both at the moment, with their growing families to feed and the hot weather causing worms to go deeper into the earth and puddles to dry up.blackbird june16

Even if you can’t put a bird feeder in your garden it’s important to try and put a bowl of water out for them like in a plant pot saucer perhaps.  It will be a great help to the birds as not only can they cool down and have a bath in it but they can have a much needed drink too.fledgling sparrow

A bee hunt

Last year when I took part in the big garden bee count the lavenders were all out in flower but even though the bees absolutely favourite flower isn’t quite out yet, there are still lots of bee friendly flowers for them to get lots of nectar from.

The exquisite scent of the mock orange (Philidelphius) flowers waffs about the garden enticing the bees with it’s scent that smells like pear drop sweets.  

Geraniums, campanula and million bells also entice the bees and other insects.  

Wildflowers such as; red campion, horehound and foxglove are always a big favourite with the bees. Their absolute favourite at the moment is the cotonester bush they pries the little tight flower buds open to reach in and grab the yummy nectar and carder bees have even got their nest right next to it for convenience.

Its lovely to sit and watch the bees busily buzzing about the garden.  I’ve tried to follow them as they dart quickly from flower to flower but it’s so hard to keep up with them; and even harder to capture them on camera.  It’s truly amazing how quickly they move about the flowers.

An hours bee count for today

Common carder bee  19

wool carder bee  1

Shrill carder bee  5

Brown carder bee  5

Red mason bee  1

Willoughby leafcutter bee  3

Red tailed bumble bee  2

Garden bumble bee  1

Buff tailed bumble bee  2

I may do another bee count at the end of June when more flowers are out but to be honest I don’t need much of an excuse to follow bees around the garden.

Sowing wildflowers

A few weeks ago I sowed a variety of wildflower seeds in trays and today I decided to sow some more. 20180518_161144.jpg The little shoots of the first lot of seeds I sowed are already starting to poke through the soil and I can’t wait till they grow a bit bigger so I can then plant them in containers by my front steps.

20180531_141037.jpgThe wildflowers I have sown are:  a variety of poppy seed, chamomile, oxeye daisies, foxgloves, red campion, and mullein. (just to name a few)

I have also sown other flowers such as: night stocks, love-in-a-mist and corn flowers

A number of the plants will also be planted around the garden as well as in a wild garden patch I made.

I dug a wild patch last year and it self seeded this year with red campions, alkanet and foxgloves.20180519_140519.jpg

It doesn’t matter if you sow wild seed in your garden or a garden container, it wont take long for the bees, hoverflies and other insects to find them and they will enjoy them all summer.20170626_180620.jpg

Winter is a coming

As I went to bed last night I looked at my weather station which said the temperature was  -1 and as I peered out from the curtains I saw thick freezing fog coming in. Of course this is what happens at this time of year when there has been a clear sunny sky all day.

I snuggled down in my new hedgehog brushed cotton blanket which I had got for my birthday and wished I could hibernate just like the hedgehogs.

When I woke this morning I opened the curtains and there before me was a marvelous sight. The fog was starting to retreat and everywhere looked like it had been sprinkled in icing sugar.

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I  wrapped up warm and rushed out with my phone to take photos.

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I think its a magical experience to walk around and see the white covered cobwebs hanging from every tree, shrub and fence. it looks like the garden is covered with white tinsel.

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The garden looked like a winter wonderland with frost covering everything. The grass and moss sparkled and the shrubs looked like they were covered in tiny crystals.

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After taking photos, I made sure I walked around the garden checking all the water butts, ponds and bird baths for ice. Luckily most were ice free as I had placed a floating object in each to help prevent them freezing over as much. The bird baths, however were frozen solid with a 1cm thick ice cap, so I smashed the ice and put clean water in them. It’s so important to check these at this time of year as water is so precious to all the wildlife that visit and live in the garden. I know the diving beetle was happy it could get to the surface of the water butt it lives in.

After lunch I had another peek outside and things were just starting to thaw in places and the low lying sun scattered golden dashes of light across the bare tree branches. As the frosted leaves began to thaw, they delicately cascaded down through the branches like snowflakes. finally falling onto the crisp frosted ground below.

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Most of the leaves have fallen now but there are a few still hanging on. Once all the leaves are down, I can start clearing the ponds so they don’t become choked with muck and decaying leaf litter. Infact, there is still much to be done at this time of year in the garden. As well as pond maintenance and making sure there is clean water for wildlife; there are nest boxes to be put up, bird feed to put out and wildlife habitats to be made.

As long as you wrap up warm and stay dry, this time of year has lots of magic to offer.

 

Feeding hedgehogs

Hedgehogs need our help and we should encourage them into our gardens and cherish them.  Lots of people are now starting to realise this and are beginning to feed hedgehogs in their gardens.  Hedgehogs particularly need food and water in the Autumn to build up their weight ready for hibernation and in the Spring when they come out of hibernation; but they also need it during hot, dry spells in the summer when their natural prey is in short supply.

The first and most important thing to mention is:

Never give them bread or milk.

But what do you feed hedgehogs?  Is special hedgehog food a marketing gimmick or does it provide a perfect supplement to their natural diet?

Hedgehogs will happily munch their way through a variety of garden pests such as; slugs, snails, centipedes, beetles and other little creatures.  The garden is a great place for them to find natural food and in turn they are helping gardeners manage the slimy slug population. (Watch Grumpy the hedgehog looking for bugs here)

We are lucky to have a quite a few hedgehogs living in the garden as there are lots of wild areas, log piles, compost heaps, and hedges. – The perfect hoggy habitat.

I normally see the hedgehogs about 3 times a night on my wildlife camera and I try to guess which ones they are by subtle distinguishing features but its not always that easy.  They are hungry little hoggies and they munch their way through quite a bit of bought food.

grumpy hedgehog june16

Dried hedgehog food is a firm favourite in the garden.  The large bag we have contains; Rice, Poultry Meal, Maize, Poultry Fat, Vitamins and Minerals.  Our hedgehogs are spoilt though as they also have a variety of other food on their plate each night too. They like sunflower hearts and mealworms, nibbled nuts (not whole nuts as they can get stuck in their teeth) and sometimes dried bananas.

I have had my camera pointing at the plates of food a number of times and have found that the dried food gets mainly eaten by the hedgehogs. (only the mealworms and sunflowers we mix in attract the occasional cute wood mouse)  To be honest, no other creatures get a look in as the hedgehogs find it so tasty and don’t like sharing.  I have noted that Foxes will have a nibble of food if some is spilt on the floor, but they don’t like eating off the plate, and cats don’t seem interested in the dried food which is good.  By the end of the night every bit has been eaten so there is never any waste.

hedgehog eating

(Check out my video here to see what happens when 2 hedgehogs find the food in a small mammal tunnel I had put in the garden)

I would definitely recommend getting a bag of dried hedgehog food as it’s an easy way to feed your hedgehogs and provide them with a nutritious well balanced meal.  I am sure the crunchy consistency means it helps keep their teeth in good condition too, and is a nice supplement to slimy slugs. (You can see how much Prickles the hedgehog is enjoying the food here)

So what are you waiting for – Make your garden hedgehog friendly, place a CD sized hole at the bottom of your fence and encourage these beautiful creatures to visit your garden.  In return for your kindness, they will help get rid of your garden pests.

Important Reminder:

Always leave a basin of water out with the food as all that chewing is thirsty work. (As you can see in my video here)

hedgehog drinking