Gardening Practices That Make a Difference
As the seasons transition and the chill of winter approaches, our gardens undergo their own transformation. While it may seem like a time of dormancy, it’s essential to remember that even in the quieter months, our outdoor spaces can serve as sanctuaries for wildlife. By embracing specific gardening practices, we can provide vital support for creatures seeking shelter, sustenance, and a safe haven during the winter months.
Look After The Soil…
And the plants will take care of themselves! Cultivating a thriving garden begins with nurturing healthy soil. Incorporating organic matter into the soil enhances its structure, creating a nutrient-rich haven for plant growth and supporting essential soil organisms like earthworms and microorganisms. The insulating properties of mulch provide a protective layer, creating cosy shelters for small mammals, insects, and amphibians seeking refuge from winter’s harsh conditions.
Here are two simple ways to add organic material to the soil:
- Composting: Composting kitchen scraps, garden waste, and other organic materials is a straightforward and eco-friendly method. Collect kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells. Combine them with garden waste like leaves and grass clippings in a compost bin. As these materials decompose, they transform into nutrient-rich compost, which can be mixed into the garden soil. Worm bins are a great rodent proof option for composting kitchen waste. It produces nutrient dense worm juice and worm casts that are both brilliant soil food.
- Mulching: Applying organic mulch is another effective technique. Covering the soil around plants with materials like brash, wood chips, or fallen leaves helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Over time, the mulch breaks down, contributing valuable organic matter to the soil. This method not only improves the soil structure but also provides a protective layer that benefits both plants and the broader ecosystem. An added benefit is that mulch protects soil from leaching by rain over winter.
Wild and Free
Resisting the urge to cut back wildflowers when they set seed can be a game-changer for wildlife going into winter. Leaving stems and seed heads intact offers essential food and shelter for birds and insects. Many bird species, such as finches and sparrows, rely on the seeds as a food source before the colder months. By keeping your garden “messy”, you’re essentially leaving a natural bird feeder that can sustain avian visitors. While we might prefer a tidy garden, allowing certain areas to remain messy is a gift to hibernating creatures. Piles of cuttings tucked away in quiet corners become cosy hideaways for animals seeking winter refuge. Hedgehogs, for example, are known to hibernate in piles of leaves and twigs, so providing these sanctuaries can contribute to their survival. These untidy areas also offer safe spots for other overwintering insects, amphibians, and other small mammals. When cutting a meadow, cut from the inside to the outside, allowing residents to escape.
Biodiverse by Design
Growing a range of wildflower species that bloom from early spring to late autumn helps sustain a wide variety of pollinators. By providing a continuous source of nectar and pollen, pollinators have access to essential nourishment throughout the year. We’ve also noticed that certain pollinators tend to be found on a particular plant species which suggest to us that a mix of wildflower species will support a wider variety of pollinators. In particular, there is a dearth of native flora in July. Growing July flowering plants such as Field Scabious, Self Heal and Tufted Vetch will provide pollinators food at this time.
When employed, these gardening practices, often perceived as unconventional or “messy,” are invaluable for wildlife survival over the winter. By utilising these methods we can transform our gardens into havens that sustain and nurture wildlife year-round. Embracing these practices benefits the creatures that rely on our green spaces and can enrich our connection to the natural world. Following nature reminds us of the intricate web of life that we are very much a part of.
Stay tuned for more exciting news and join the movement to conserve our native wildflowers for generations to come! Together, we can make a real difference.
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