Our wildlife wild ride

, 19 August 2014

Author Sue Curnock

Nature Tots Officer

peacock / Nigel Symington peacock / Nigel Symington

It’s working! We’ve been turning our garden wildlife-friendly, riding the success/failure roller coaster for three summers with white knuckles and dirty fingernails.

Early efforts involved ludicrously expensive purchases from the garden centre, sketchy knowledge and a cavalier lack of preparation. Unsurprisingly, our first attempt at a wild flower meadow (fondly imagined picnics among the bobbing poppy and cornflower heads) was a dismal failure. A bucket full of attractively packaged seed strewn on hastily mown sward yielded only reinvigorated grass, docks and a solitary but much-admired white campion. Hmm, could we be doing something wrong?

Bent but not broken, we started asking questions and taking advice, and it turns out the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife gardening web pages are pretty useful too. This time we (well, mostly Mike to be fair) lifted the grass, dug a wide trench and raked it to a fine tilth before scattering the wild flower seeds. We’ve watered them regularly and hey presto they are growing! So is the grass, but it’s a more equal battle now.

We’ve had a go at all sorts of wildlife friendly schemes and it’s a huge thrill to discover a creature has moved in. Last year we invested in bee houses and dutifully placed them in shady spots with artfully arranged bowls of sugar-water and moss – not a sausage. We read a tip about putting an old mouse nest inside (‘luckily’ we found one when clearing out the wood store) so this year’s des res was suitably smelly and some very busy bumblebees moved in before the ‘for sale’ sign was down.

Now we’ve got slow worms in the compost heap, a hedgehog has taken up residence in the stick jumble and there’s an abandoned mound of logs rotting down at the bottom of the garden; perhaps they will tempt some interesting beetles in a year or so. We’ve left the nettles and brambles alone in the far corner and were very excited to see a silken tent full of caterpillars chomping away on the tender nettle tips in May. I like to think the peacock butterfly I saw later on came from there, but may be kidding myself.

There’s a rainwater butt on the patio and a food digester in the flower bed leaking its fetid fertile gloop among the never-looked-so-good roses. It’s a mystery how something so eye-wateringly unpleasant can produce blooms so fragrant they make you want to weep with joy.

We’re so pleased to have blue tits in our nest box again – I love watching them fly back and forth with beaks stuffed full of juicy treats while we dine ‘al fresco’ at a respectful distance. I’d really recommend taking a look at our wildlife advice pages if you would like to have a go at making your own garden a little more wildlife-friendly.

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