Anybody interested in wildlife and nature conservation in the UK should be well aware that we are living in some serious times. The loss of our habitats and species is being well publicised and some of the statistics are truly worrying. With this in mind the creation of new habitats will always help to try and reverse this trend and I am aware of ways many of us could help and offer some sanctuary for our dwindling wildlife.
Some of us are lucky to have gardens from window boxes in high rise flats to large country gardens. The areas that people’s gardens cover in the UK is many times larger than all of the UKs Nature reserves put together. Their importance for wildlife becomes obvious when you realise this. And then six weeks ago…
I live in a small block of 10 flats with the front looking at the road but at the back was a sloped area of rough ground leading up to the woodland. Since I moved here the only thing that ever been done to it was that it was cut once a year when the vegetation got really high. I have often dreamed of a flower meadow as I look out of my kitchen or bedroom window and seeing it full of bees and butterflies. I saw my neighbour and asked him about the ‘ garden ‘, he told me it was a community garden and I could do what I want as it needed a damn good tidy up. My plan was immediately put into action and the habitat creation began.
In my years working in nature conservation I found it ironic how often I was killing various plant life in order to ‘make a better home for nature ‘. The point is that you have to have the right vegetation to encourage more wildlife and the new garden was full of bindweed, dock, hedge woundwort with bramble creeping in from the surrounding woods. Large areas of pendulous sedge dominated large parts of the garden. With my dream of butterfly and bees in the back garden still firmly placed in my brain I began to clear the rank vegetation. It should be noted that all the work was being carried out at the wrong time of year, the middle of the growing season but in my mind the sooner I started to clear the area the sooner I could be able improve the area. I had grown some wildflower seedlings in my flat and they would soon need to be planted. I spent a good few hours cutting, raking, trimming and chopping down the problem vegetation leaving one quarter of the garden relatively weed free ready for the wildflower seedlings
There was a sense of excitement when I planted the first seedlings into the cleared ground. I had an assortment of native wildflowers ready to plant including, Cornflower, Borage, Field Poppy, Black Knapweed and a few more, all insect friendly species. I marked all the seedings with little canes next to them and began the wait. During the wait I continued to improve other areas of the garden by digging over the ground and removing deep roots of docks and other problem species. The root systems on some of the dock and bramble were so extensive and deep rooted that they took a good 20 minutes to remove. It is important to remove these roots as they will only regrow and it can ruin all the work you have done. This job will continue into the winter as there is still a large area to prepare for the ground to be ready for wildflowers.
I monitored the progress of the seedlings and some were well established very quickly and by the fourth week a Cornflower came into flower, hooray, and in the fifth week I observed a white tailed bumblebee taking nectar, bliss!