This is my 7th garden. Some north, some south, some big, some small, and one that was basically tundra with a wall around it.
My current one is tiny.
There are advantages to this – mowing the lawn takes no time at all, and I can sit down in the garden on a glorious sunny day without feeling guilty that there’s something that needs to be done.
But, sadly – I get no birds. I don’t think this has anything in particular to do with the size of the garden, or the proximity to the road, or the fact that I have a cat: I’ve had small gardens, gardens near roads and cats before, and still had lots of birds. When I’m outside, I can hear the little blighters tweeting their hearts out all around – they just don’t come into the garden.
We used to have a huge hedge, and people suggested that might be the reason – we got rid of the hedge but the birds still didn’t come. People suggested that they didn’t like the open space with nowhere to perch. We put up some railings, and trained climbing plants around and over them.
Still. No. Blinkin’. Birds.
Lord knows I’ve tried to encourage them – fat balls, sunflower seeds, nuts, you name it. In three years all I got was one blue tit – and it didn’t stay long.
So, having thrown out yet another container of mouldy nuts, I decided to try a different tack.
I’ll attract insects to the garden. This could be interesting in its own right, and might, in the long run, also attract the birds. We know that insect populations, particularly bees, are struggling for a variety of reasons – so all the more reason to give the bugs/insects/mini-beasts/invertebrates, a helping hand in my little corner of planet Earth.
I did a bit of research – found out which plants would be attractive to them, and discovered that a tidy garden isn’t an insect-friendly garden. Yay!!
As you know, I’m husbanding my resources – so I can’t go out and buy loads of plants with insect-attracting qualities. There are some flowering plants in the garden already – so those will have to do.
But I discovered there’s a lot more that I can do, for next-to-nothing –
- Let some of the grass grow longer – some insects lay their eggs in long grass – and I’ve also scattered some wildflower seeds in amongst.
- Make a mini wood-pile, great for wood lice and spiders. (I love spiders, they’re fascinating. If you really can’t stand them, please escort them off the premises carefully. Please, please don’t kill them.)
- Provide water – I had an old shallow plant pot that was at a bit of a loose end, it’s now filled with rain water (which is better than tap water).
- I bought a compost bin. Now, yes, it did cost actual money. Cheated a bit with this, as there was money in my PayPal account, which almost perfectly covered the cost, so I felt like I hadn’t really spent real money at all. All of my kitchen waste is going in there – and that makes me feel good too – plus sensible quantities of grass clippings and all the weedings and prunings. Will it make compost? Who knows – compost-making takes time and works better with bigger heaps, apparently. But that’s not my main reason for doing it – I’m doing it to attract insects.
- And I’ve got a bug hotel – that was a gift. I originally kept it on the patio, but it was attracting so many bees (are these solitary bees??) that I had to move it. Success!!
- I discovered that there’s a thing called ‘No Mow May’ – you don’t mow your lawn in May, which gives the bees a chance to gather the pollen from plants like buttercups, dandelions and clover. Sadly, I didn’t find out about it until May 29th…
- Stop weeding!! Well, stop pulling up the flowering ones at least. This was a biggie. Major re-think required, but really, why not? They’re native species, they do well (so well that they appear as if by magic, without me having to do anything at all!), they’re pretty, they cost nothing, and the insects need them.
- Make shelters for bugs to take cover when it’s cold or wet – I had some old slates, and I’ve leant a few of them against the garden wall at the back of the border to provide a dry spot for bugs on cold wet days.
I know very little about insects, but it’s going to be interesting finding out about them. I know I’ve got loads of aphids on my clematis – but I’ve also got loads of ladybirds eating the aphids. That’s got to be a Good Thing. I’ve got some strange orange eggs (?) on the underside of the rhubarb leaves, which presumably will hatch into something that will eat the rhubarb leaves – and that’s OK. But I really would like to know the names of all these critters – and who eats what, or whom.
The unexpected upside of insect-friendly gardening is that it’s much less work than normal gardening – less mowing, less weeding, less tidying (I’ll be leaving the leaves, come autumn). I think I might be on to something here!!
But I don’t want my front garden to look a mess either. Someone much older and wiser than me once told me to always make sure the edges of the grass are trimmed, even if you don’t have time to do anything else. If the edges are trimmed, everyone will just assume that the whole garden is neat and tidy, and they won’t notice the weeds in the border. Simple but effective.
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