Your very own Spring Watch

Thank you to those who supported the record breaking 2015 Open Farm Sunday. Around 400 farms opened their doors to over 250,000 visitors!

or those who visited one of the farms or nurseries I am sure you saw first-hand the emphasis on environmental awareness during production.

We are so very fortunate to have large areas of protected countryside in the UK with many organisations involved in protecting these spaces. TV’s Spring Watch (and later Autumn Watch) brings wildlife into our homes as never before. Yes, it is ‘stage managed’ to make a Suffolk Stickleback look as exciting as an African Lion – but why not! This is our country and our wildlife. We can all be involved in this and we can go to places to see it happening – and much of it we could even make happen in our own gardens!

We are ALL custodians of our land, however small our plot!

Making your garden sustainable, and encouraging wild-life does not mean you cannot have a nice garden. Ivy, nettles and brambles are not obligatory! But there may be a few small changes you could make to the way you manage your garden that can bring major benefits for the creatures that call it home.

Top of my list is to add water! A pond is ideal, but even a small shallow container, such as a dustbin lid, is the one dead-cert to encourage wildlife. Birds will both drink and bathe in it; bees and other insects also need to drink. Amphibians such as newts and frogs actually like quite shallow water and are so wonderful to watch – it was the ‘baby newt’ found by the pond dippers that caused the most excitement at our Open Day.

Think about your choice of plants. Wildlife does not need native plants, but a good mixture of species. Flowers to provide both pollen and nectar from spring flowering crocus and mahonia through to late autumn sedum and asters. Trees and shrubs can provide blossom, but also berries for birds in winter. Hedges are so very important for the shelter they provide. If you do have fences, allow a space for hedgehogs to get underneath so they can come into your garden and help control your slug problem!

Grass is a very important habitat – do you have to cut it quite as short? Even a small patch of longer grass will support a range of invertebrates and small mammals such as voles and shrews. And these are all part of the all-so-important food chain.

Spoil yourself with an outdoor wildlife camera and you can have your own personal ‘Spring Watch’ all year. We have a couple of quite basic cameras here and you never know what you will find when you look at the images. Yes, we get our fair share of cats and pigeons being recorded daily, but we can also see what has upset the dogs at night – the foxes, the muntjac with her new fawn, the hedgehogs… It would be great to have live video cameras around the site, but that will have to wait. Apart from anything else, it would be far too distracting!

n Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre)

RHS Courses taught at all levels. Applications being taken for September.

www.maneaschoolofgardening.org

msog@btinternet.com