Creating A Wildlife Area
I’ve always loved nature so a big draw for me when we came to move house was to have a reasonable sized garden with lots of ‘green’. We found the house, and the size of garden. At the time of moving it was beautiful but not quite as green as we would have liked. After unpacking one of our top priorities was to make a start on creating an outdoor space that reflected who we are. This included having a dedicated wildlife area that the boys could help to create too.
Gardens take time. You can put down turf and buy fairly mature shrubs for a price, but to get it right takes a great deal of planning and consideration. The aspect is key and, if my A Level biology project taught me anything, so is the soil type.
Our garden faces East. The sun rises at the foot of it in the morning and sets in the front of the house. Fortunately the garden is long enough that we get sunshine (when it appears!) all through the day. This isn’t quite so good for some things though. For example bird boxes must be installed on a north facing wall or fence so that you don’t accidentally bake the hatchlings.
Last summer we set about making a start.
First on the list were heaps of stones. I think I dreamt in stones for a few weeks last year, and I still find the odd one now.
When we moved in our garden was beautiful, but full of decorative stones which were not really to our taste. They weren’t entirely young child friendly either, so we decided that they’d have to go. I counted two dozen rockery rocks which were rehomed, along with easily a ton or two of small stones. They were rehomed too. This was across our entire garden but during this process we decided where we would have a designated wildflower area. We chose an existing corner which was mostly covered with stones and had a couple of heathers in it. In a northern spot the sunlight does reach this corner but there is shade too. Perfect. Taking the stones up whilst carefully retaining the heathers took much longer than expected, but finally we felt that the ground could breath again.
Soil. To help it on its way we turned over the top layer of soil, to about a foot in depth. We broke it up and let it rest. I must confess here that I did not test the soil type. You can get kits to do this, but I wanted to see what took, and leave it almost entirely up to nature to select what grew here. Before long, little green shoots emerged. Some would call them weeds, but that’s what wildflowers are. The dandelions came through first, and as they were growing we added seeds in.
Wildflower mix. You can get this premixed, or get individual types of seeds, or do a bit of both. We used a wildflower mix, and added forget-me-nots, honesty, poppies, marigolds and cornflowers among a few others.
Tree. We made an exciting discovery on the other side of the garden during the removal of the stones, that in the middle of an overcrowded border was a small fruit tree. It was carefully removed and repositioned in the centre of the wildflower area where it is flourishing!
Wildlife. The aim of this corner was partly to let the boys go wild with planting seeds and think about the stages of a plant’s life and why we should plant flowers. It was also intended to attract insects. In particular I had visions of butterflies and bees paying us a visit and it wasn’t long before that became a reality. This was when we realised that this part of the garden was much more important than just planting wildflowers and seeing what happened. This corner was also an area dedicated to the local wildlife. We had already made a start on a bug hotel. I confess we made a fundamental error with this in positioning it too close to the bird table. From an educational point of view seeing a food chain in action is great, but not what we had intended!
Results. With the exception of the bug hotel error, the wildlife area has been a huge success. We have added a small wooden house for shelter for passing creatures along with a shallow water dish. We retained the existing wooden bird table but added hanging feeders too. These have proved to be very popular, especially with the tits. We have a nesting box on one of our fence posts and have kept that. For the second year running we are delighted to have Blue Tits using it. The flowers are growing through very nicely, and we are spotting a wide variety of wildlife not just in this corner but throughout the garden. We have come across some of the biggest worms that I have ever seen!
Backing onto woodland we always anticipated that nature would be very much a part of our garden, but we didn’t realise the extent that it would become a part of our daily routine. The birds are fed and and given fresh water, and we check in on other parts of the wildlife area and our garden in general to see what is growing and what is living there. From time to time flowers pop up in unexpected and sometimes unwanted areas (a dandelion growing into the brickwork for example) but wherever possible nothing is lost. Instead it is carefully moved to the wildlife area or a suitable border and continues its life there.
I am always looking for tips to increase the wild traffic in our garden! What do you do to encourage nature?
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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to take a look at our tree bee encounter.
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