Like many people these days, we do all we can to attract wildlife to our garden growing many herbs and native wildflowers for bees birds and bugs. You don't have to spend a fortune on a beautifully crafted bug home, a pile of twigs and old hollow flower stems will make excellent homes for all sorts of insects.
The berries and fruit most of our plants produce are also used by many types of birds and small mammals (whether we want them to or not) and because we like to have something producing flowers as well as fruit the year round, the bees benefit as well, with nectar being available early and late in the season.
We love putting food out for the birds and watching what they get up to, and lots of our plants help feed those who prefer berries and seeds. Having an Elder or Rowan tree in your orchard will help keep them off your apples too!
Even in the cold snow of January there were still berries on the willow-leaved sea buckthorn, providing some welcome food for many birds.
Making life a little easier for our most frequent four legged visitors is not hard either, leaving a small gap in your fence will help the hedgehogs move around and they'll pay you by eating your slugs. A pile of old leaves and logs can be a home for many a small beast...but don't forget to check your bonfire before lighting it! Keeping the squirrel off our hazelnuts can be tricky but usually there's enough for all.
As we become more aware of habitats being under pressure with many of our native species of wildlife struggling it becomes increasingly urgent for those of us who can do something to help. Providing an area dedicated to their needs isn't as hard as it seems though, and doesn't have to be a chore, it can also be a pleasure and an asset. A pond, no matter how tiny, a patch of grassland left unmown, even just a corner set aside and left untidy where the weeds are actually allowed to grow!
Our own wild space is an area set aside, having been cleared of some out grown conifers, and just left to get on with it. It's been interesting to see what comes up, though the odd nettle and bramble have been pulled out to allow space for other things. A few native trees and shrubs have been planted on the eastern side which will gradually take over, leaving a small sunny area where the grass is cut annually giving us a mini woodland and meadow.
Since creating our wildlife garden, amongst the benefits we have noticed are fewer problems with slugs, most likely down to there being an increase in predators, and improved fruit set due to better pollination with the increase in bees. On the downside, we have not to mind sharing more of our harvest with the birds…a price for the moment we feel well worth paying.
For those of you who are lucky enough to have the room and are looking to plant up an area of your garden for your local wildlife, no matter how large or small, it's good to use native species where possible, as your bugs, butterflies and birds will all benefit. Please take a look at the selection of native plants we have on offer on our 'Native' page to help out.
We are so lucky living in the beautiful Wye Valley, all around us are species rich wildflower meadows which even at this time of year are full of colour and surprises in the form of unusual fungi!