This time of year many of us start to feed the birds. But what else should we do to encourage them to flourish in the garden? We know they need help – even sparrows’ numbers are decreasing – and we love to look at them. This post shows you 3 main things to consider.

1. Nesting

Site your nestboxes where they will use them. Now’s the time to put them up, as they start looking for nesting sites in late winter/early spring.

CJ Wildlife says that birds need a clear flight path in and out of the box, but also shelter from wind and rain, and some shade from hot sun. And of course, make them high enough to prevent cats accessing them. You may not have cats but your neighbours’ will quickly find out where the nests are!

Birdboxes photo © CJ Wildlife

‘Organic Gardening’ (RHS series, Stickland and Pears) [out of print but Pears has a similar book here] says different birds prefer different types of box. Robins and spotted flycatchers use an open box with sides and a roof. Bluetits need boxes with a small hole 2.8cm in diameter. Great tits will use ones with holes 3cm in diameter – any wider and the sparrows will take over.

2. Shelter and food

‘Organic Gardening’ also says to provide different layers of vegetation in your garden. A tall tree (if you can) will be a ‘song post’ where they perch and proclaim their territory. Lucky you if you can get a thrush to sing there! Thick shrubs, hedges, undergrowth and climbers will provide natural nesting sites, and their berries will feed hungry birds in autumn and winter. Flowers that attract insects will give birds their food as well, and seedheads. The sight of a group of goldfinches eating cow parsley seeds, and a bluetit holding on to a stem of opium poppy to poke a hole in the seedhead and extract the tiny seeds can have you fascinated.

Pyracantha shrub photo © CJ Wildlife

When you site a bird feeder, it’s best to have some shelter there or nearby so birds can retreat quickly eg if a sparrowhawk’s attention is drawn to the feeder. Cats can lurk underneath, so take care here as well. My cat would crouch under an arching grass and I had to straighten it up during the breeding season!

3. Water

Birdbath photo © CJ Wildlife

Give them a source of drinking water and water for bathing. They will use ponds and bird baths, and some birds like running water: a bubble fountain will provide this. Put a small ball on the pond surface in winter to keep the water aerated for underwater plants and animals, and to provide access for birds; break the ice on bird baths.

Other gardening autumn tasks for now include planting garlic and other bulbs, enriching the soil with a layer of compost or well-rotted manure, and collecting leaves to make leaf mould with. Put them in a chicken wire enclosure or into black plastic bags with some drainage holes in the bottom.

Leave food like cat or dog food out for hedgehogs, who are preparing to hibernate (move bonfire materials just before you light them to check they’re not in there, too.) And make sure you have that hole in the fence to allow hedgehogs to come and go – see my previous blog post here.

That’s it for now! Sorry if you missed me, I have been busy. Hope to update you on my summer projects soon, there’s been quite a variety.

Jane


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5 Steps to Successful Organic Lawn Care

by Jane on April 22, 2020

I hope you are all keeping well during this strange time of lockdown against the corona virus. It seems everyone wants to tackle their gardens at the moment, and in the UK it’s been perfect weather to get out there to do that. A favourite project is improving the lawn, and here’s a post to help you do that.

This contribution is by Laurence Bennet, who has a useful website on which he evaluates garden equipment and writes about everything to do with your lawn. See http://lawnmowerlarry.co.uk/   

5 Steps to Successful Organic Lawn Care

Have you considered that the greenest part of your home — your lawn — may be the least green of all?

More and more people around the country are doing their part to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, but keeping a lawn looking lush, green and healthy can involve loads of synthetic fertilizers and chemical herbicides.

These harmful products may make your lawn look great, but they destroy the environment by degrading the soil. The chemicals pollute water they leak into and are a health hazard to humans, pets and wildlife.

Creating a beautiful and organic lawn is easy and rewarding. It also saves money in the long term.

Autumn is the best time to start, but spring is the second best time — simply follow these 5 easy steps:

1 – Mow Correctly

Mow the lawn only when it is dry to prevent fungal spores or other diseases from spreading across the garden.

Lift up your mower a little, to a height of around 3.5” — The higher length helps to create shade, slows the growth of weeds, prevent dry patches and keep your lawn looking green.

Have your mower checked by your service provider to ensure that the blades are sharp and clean. Blunt blades make your grass look uneven and create clumps that can block drainage.

Choose an eco-friendly mower. The most ‘organic’ lawn mowers are manual push mowers.

– They don’t use fuel and cannot cause pollution by accidental spillage.

– You are not releasing and breathing in toxic fumes.

– You get a free workout in the fresh air!

2 – Aeration

Test how easy it is to poke a screwdriver into the ground. If it is difficult, you probably have soil that is compacted. This occurs when your soil is high in clay, filled with weeds or has many bare spots. Loosening up the earth with an aerator is vital for a successful organic lawn. Rent an aerator and run it over your lawn. Or if you are feeling fit, aerate your lawn with a garden fork!

Green trees and grass                        You can avoid bare patches like these; taken by Akabashi

 

The spikes create holes that aid water drainage. Eco-friendly worms and microflora flourish as they have fresh oxygen. Aerated soil allows grass roots to grow deeply, creating a vigorous lawn. Very soon, birds will be pecking for food and aerating your lawn for you!

3 – Fertilise organically with mulching

Fertilising is essential for a healthy lawn and the best way to do it is organically. Most chemical fertilizers contain Nitrogen, but grass clippings contain 50% of the Nitrogen you need. Leave them on the lawn and they will naturally fertilize your grass.

4 – Overseed

Overseeding is throwing grass seeds over an existing lawn to make it fuller and thicker. First, aerate your lawn. This allows the seeds to make contact with the soil for germination. Mow your lawn and then sprinkle the seeds evenly. You can use a rotary spreader or throw them by hand. Rake the lawn lightly to allow the seeds to settle. Finally, give your lawn a good watering.

5 – Learn about your lawn

Bee on white clover                                                               © Andy Murray on Flickr.

 

Understanding your garden is fun and rewarding. Buy a home kit and test your soil. The pH level should be between 6.5 and 7.0. Discover which weeds are growing. Not all weeds are bad – Clover, for example, takes free nitrogen from the air and distributes it to the grass.

Once you have a successful organic lawn, you will find that it costs very little to maintain. And you can enjoy it, knowing that you have done your part to save Mother Earth!

Top photo © Daniel Watson on Unsplash.

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When is a good time to start planning my garden redesign?

January 30, 2020

Here’s a great article on how to work with a designer and what to expect – including how long in advance to book them.  This is for the UK by the online house and garden magazine/forum ‘Houzz’.  Houzz also have another article here on Design Costs (not including landscaping or plants).

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Australian ‘back yard’ garden tips

January 15, 2020

Here’s an article from the ‘Houzz’ website on Australian gardening – with a photo from one of my designs in it, from Towcester in the UK! I enjoy looking at gardens from a different culture – The Australians always have a shaded space next to the house as the sun gets so hot. They practically […]

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Summer 2019 Open Gardens

October 18, 2019

It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog and I have some varied visits to blog about – the first ones in June. My village, Wappenham in south Northamptonshire, once again opened its gardens for the National Garden Scheme, and there were all sorts of gardens to see. I didn’t get round all of them […]

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Small garden ideas from Chelsea by Houzz

June 17, 2019

I thought this post from the home and gardens website ‘Houzz’ was worth including:

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How to make a compost heap and why

May 17, 2019

Now is the time to weed and tidy up in the garden, before the weeds get too big.  Composting is the easy way to get rid of the resulting piles of unwanted greenery.  If you haven’t done it before, here is the low-down. Why compost? You get a fabulous soil conditioner to help make your […]

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Building A Bee-autiful Garden

March 12, 2019

Here is a guest post from author and garden designer Karoline Gore, in time for the planting season. Building your own garden is one of the most soothing and enjoyable activities you can do, but why not make it beneficial for wildlife too? Bees account for ?400 million of the U.K. economy through pollination alone. Bees are […]

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A winter scent corner

February 1, 2019

Many of the shrubs that flower in winter and early spring have strongly-scented flowers, so they can attract any lone bee that is out there this time of year. And their scent also draws me outside to appreciate these hardy plants. I’ve planted 3 winter-flowering shrubs together near the house, together with a seat, so […]

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A visit to Tom Stuart Smith’s garden

October 17, 2018

In the hot days of summer, I was lucky enough to be one of 35 garden designers spending the day with Tom Stuart Smith. As a garden designer Tom has Chelsea Gold medals and Best in Show for his designs. The event was organised by Gillian Goodson in aid of Horatio’s Garden, which creates and […]

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