Wildlife Friendly Gardening - Horsham Resident Tony's Story

09 November 2021 | Posted in Wilder Horsham District
Wildlife Friendly Gardening - Horsham Resident Tony's Story
Frogs in the water feature, Tony Cook

By Tony Cook, a local Horsham District resident.

We live in a semi-detached house in a residential area of Horsham, with a modest front and rear garden. The front garden is approximately 35m2 and the rear garden is approximately 90m2.

Like many people, I was frustrated by the loss of wildlife-friendly habitat in the countryside and decided I’d like to see what could be achieved in our garden. In January 2020 I started to modify both areas in an attempt to attract wildlife. I’ve only spent a modest amount on seeds and plants and many materials have been collected from neighbours or gathered free through social media such as Facebook Marketplace. The greatest single outlay was for the liner for the water feature, though a sunken container would have done equally well. I’ve gradually learnt to leave what might otherwise be considered a ‘mess’ in the borders for the benefit of wildlife.

Front Garden

I started by planting a native hedge along the edge of our lawn in January 2020 which was comprised of Hawthorn and Blackthorn bare-rooted whips which were only about 80p each! These are now about a metre tall and blossomed in the Spring.

Initially, I left the lawn un-mown, but in August 2020 I took the plunge and stripped the turf and seeded the area with a meadow mix. This grew well and attracted a good variety of insects.

Rear Garden

I’ve gradually added wildlife-friendly features to our rear garden; many were low cost using scrap materials. I’ve left most of the back lawn untouched to allow us to sit out in the garden in the summer, but it's mown less frequently to encourage wildflowers to grow. The changes I’ve made include;

· An underground hibernaculum comprised of old bricks and pallets with old rainwater downpipe entrance tubes. I’ve planted over this so it’s barely noticeable. Hopefully, reptiles will use it over winter.

· A bug hotel made from recycled pallets, and a log pyramid, partly buried in the hope it might attract Stag Beetles.

· A bee hotel with cardboard nest tubes, the tubes were bought, but lengths of bamboo cane would equally work well.

· A water feature approx 1.0m x 1.0m x 0.3m which has attracted newts and up to eight frogs! This includes an escape ramp for adventurous Hedgehogs.

· A small bog garden using the leftover liner.

· Several log piles.

· A rock pile created from a neighbour’s redundant rockery.

· A ‘dead hedge’ built from woody garden prunings positioned against the fence at the bottom of our garden.

· A Hedgehog house built from old pallets, (look for chemical-free, heat-treated pallets) which is now occupied.

· A hedgehog feeding station

· Gaps under our fences and gate for Hedgehogs and larger gaps for Foxes.

· An un-mown patch on our rear lawn in which Vetch appeared which the bees and hoverflies loved.

· Native nectar-rich wildflowers in the borders.

· I’ve left areas intentionally unkempt to provide cover for frogs, newts and small mammals.

· Nestboxes and feeders for birds

I’ve enjoyed making our garden more wildlife friendly and would encourage anyone to try the same, particularly as it can be achieved with little cost. The results are obvious in some cases, like the use of the water feature by frogs and newts and occupancy of the Hedgehog house, but I’ll probably never know if the hibernaculum gets used.

Our front lawn was a wasted space that needed regular mowing, the seed mix to convert it to a meadow was cheap, and it now only needs to be cut a couple of times a year!

The native hedging was also cheap and attracts insects, and the Sparrows and Ladybirds eat any aphids which appear.

We would like to extend a big thank you to Tony for taking the time to write this piece and for taking all the photos to go with it. Tony's garden is a beautiful example of a garden that works for wildlife and for people, and how much can be achieved in such a short space of time with few expenses. Whatever the needs of your garden or your interests, there is likely an idea in Tony's garden that can be applied to yours too if you are looking to introduce a wildlife-friendly element. 

If you enjoyed this blog, we think you'll also love Pier's garden transformation, another Horsham resident who has transformed his garden for wildlife.

Inspired by what you've seen, or done something similar yourself? If so, we would love to hear from you! Send us your thoughts, ideas, photos, even a blog if you fancy, and let's keep up the incredible momentum and desire in the Horsham District for wildlife-friendly gardening. Who knows who your story could inspire...

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