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 with climbing roses and pots aplenty, but not quite as green as we would have liked. 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, and would blend in with our location on the edge of the Warwickshire countryside.
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 does have its drawbacks. For example bird boxes must be installed on a north facing wall or fence so that you don’t accidentally bake the hatchlings, but we are lucky to have space to play with.
At the end of the garden, to one corner, was a square area which had once been filled with garden ornaments and decorative stones. This seemed like an ideal place to gently start our renovations.
First on the list were heaps of stones. I think I dreamt about stones for weeks when we were clearing them, and I still find the odd one now.
During the clearance phase I counted two dozen rockery rocks which were rehomed, along with bags and bags of the stones which also went to new homes (and some in the bottom of large plant pots to create drainage).
The corner that we had decided to concentrate on is positioned against the northern and eastern borders of our garden, but the sunlight does reach it too. Taking the stones up whilst carefully retaining a couple of heathers growing there took much longer than expected, but finally we felt that the ground could breath again.
Which led us on to looking at the 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 before sowing seeds. 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 more seeds in.
This included a store bought wildflower mix. You can get this premixed, or get individual types of seeds, or do a bit of both. We used a mix as our basis, and added forget-me-nots, honesty, poppies, marigolds and cornflowers among a few others.
Whilst we were working on this corner, we had made a start on removing stones from other parts of the garden too. We made an exciting discovery at one stage when sorting through an overcrowded border we came across a small fruit tree. It was carefully removed and repositioned in the centre of the wildflower area where it is flourishing!
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, along with flies and bugs and beetles of all shapes and sizes. Somewhere along the way this corner has become an area dedicated to the local wildlife. We made a start on building 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! So the two were separated but the bug hotel is still a feature, along with small log piles dotted through the borders, with small spaces around them to allow for creatures to squeeze through and fully access the area.
The wildlife area has been and continues to be a huge success. Along with the bug hide outs we have added a small wooden house for shelter for passing creatures and 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.