Spring is here and I am really looking forward to spending more time in my garden. One of the aims of all wildlife-lovers is to encourage wild creatures to come closer so that we can enjoy watching them nearer to hand. If you have a garden, a little patch left untidy is the best way to lure them in, and to get to see what’s out and about near you. To celebrate its fiftieth birthday, the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust has a scheme called “Pledge A Patch” which encourages people to dedicate specific areas, however small, in gardens, schools, community spaces or workplaces, that are kept just for wildlife. Is there one near you? See a map of the 200-odd pledged so far at www.worcswildlifetrust.co.uk/pledgeapatch. You, your school or your parish council might like to take part.
Whilst on the subject of patches, a patch of nettles is often cited as a wildlife-friendly thing for a garden to have. Nettles are great for butterfly caterpillars, but might be a step too far, particularly in a small plot, in my experience those fibrous yellow roots pretty soon reach out in all directions. It is easier to make room for a bit of long grass. Giving cover for reptiles, amphibians and small mammals, seeds for birds, food for insects, nest material for all sorts of characters, and a chance for a few wildflowers to creep in, this could do the trick.
Better still, if you have a hedge, leave some long grass at the base. This gives roosting birds extra cover and the potential for a quick fly-by meal. If your plot has hedge boundaries, don’t forget to leave your cutting so that you do not disturb birds when they are nesting. Hedge-trimming is now regulated by law, so leave those shears in the shed between March and August. You might think no-one will notice, but I know a farmer who was reminded of the law by a passing police officer when, just before the end of August, a short length of hedge was trimmed to give access to harvest vehicles.
There are many things you can do to help wildlife. Plant plenty of flowering plants for insects, avoid weed-killers, herbicides and metaldehyde-containing slug pellets , have a compost heap, cut the grass less often and less short, leave a few logs on the ground, keep some autumn leaves in a pile, go peat-free, dig a pond (even a tiny one will do good), put out food and water for the birds, make sure hedgehogs can get from your garden to the one next door, plant shrubs that have berries, grow snowdrops and ivy for early and late nectar – these are just a few of the options open to gardeners. It doesn’t require specialist knowledge, you don’t need a massive garden, and you don’t need to stick to native plants. Just think about food, water and shelter for wild creatures and you’re there.