Hooray for the Spring! Everything is starting to come to life now in your wildlife garden, and there are plenty of jobs to be getting on with!
What to plant
Spring in finally here, but don’t forget we could still get a few frosts this month so beware of this if you plant out any delicate plants.
Image by aussiegall via Flickr
- Plant herbaceous plants such as Arnica, Geranium and Hollyhock. For colder or shady areas, a more suitable hardy early-flowering evergreen is Mahonia aquifolium, which produces blue-black berries in the summer, these can be planted in April.
- Plant Buddleia to attract butterflies in the summer, maybe near the patio as you will get to see hoards of butterflies gorging themselves in the summer and get wafts of summer scent as you sit in the garden.
- Sew or plant coriander in the veggie patch if you want to keep hungry insects out of the veggies without using chemical sprays. Insects such as Hoverflies, Ladybirds and Lacewings love the coriander’s umbrella-shaped clusters and gobble up any vegetable-eating aphids. The smell of coriander also helps deter carrot fly too!
- Bees, Wasps, hoverflies and Butterflies will all be swinging into action in the next few months and spending the majority of their time foraging so plant a nectar-rich bee station to give them a helping hand!
- Plant climbers such a clematis and honeysuckle: butterflies and moths love their scent!
- You can start sowing annuals, sunflowers, and some wildflowers but you'll need to prepare the ground before hand. Most wildflowers don't need a lot of nutrients so don't add anything to the ground but you will need to scrape off the top layer of grass so that it doesn't out compete the wildflowers. Try species such as Bell Flower and Lady’s mock, delicate plants, which produce lovely, nectar rich flowers.
- If there are any snowdrops that have flowered and finished then you can split and re-plant, leaving the leaves on.
The birds have notched up on the singing and nesting now, so if you absolutely have do to some pruning or scrub clearing then don’t do it without checking for signs of birds nesting first. If there are birds nesting then make sure you leave them well alone!
Habitats and Hiding Places
- Have a go at making a bat box out of recycled wood; they will love you for it! Find out more about bats here.
- If you have room put a wee bit of corrugated iron or old roof felt down on the grass: it will give slow worms and grass snakes somewhere to hide!
- You could also start making bug houses and putting them around the garden in sunny spots and near dead plant material.
The Bird Feeder
Bird breeding season is April to September and birds will need plenty of food whilst they are building nests and getting ready to lay eggs. Keep the bird feeder well stocked up: try some crushed egg shells and live food as they get more from this than the dry food.
- Remember not to feed whole peanuts on bird tables as these may get stuck in the chick’s throats if taken back to the nest.
- Carry out regular cleaning of bird feeders and feeding stations.
- See our Bird Feeder video for more ideas!
- It’s best to leave the pond alone as much as possible from April as the frogs will be starting to spawn. If there are lots of weeds choking the pond then remove some, but don’t forget to leave it by the side of the pond so any creatures such as newts and creepy crawlies can crawl back in.
- You can still introduce new water plants to your pond this month, such as Hornwort, Water Starwort and Curled Pondweed, or floating plants like frogbit or Broad – leaved Pondweed.
- Don’t forget to keep rocky outlets and sloped sides for frogs and toads to get in and out of your pond easily.
- Mow the lawn on a high cut incase frogs or toads or hedgehogs are around.
- Begin a programme of weed control, but avoid chemical weedkillers as they can make their way up the food chain and have ill effects on many creatures. Try cutting back your weeds and removing the leaves and flowers, and eventually your weeds will run out of energy and be unable to spread seed. Don’t be too keen to get rid of everything you haven’t planted, many weeds, such as dandelions, are fabulous for wildlife, so as you keep it under control they could be very beneficial!
- April is a good time to concentrate on improving the organic content of the soil around established trees, shrubs and perennials by spreading mulch. Mulch can be shredded bark or cocoa shells (readily available in shops), or you could use your own homemade compost. If you don’t already own a compost bin now could be a good time to do so, or you could easily create an open compost heap out of old wooden pallets. An open compost heap is preferable to a plastic one if you are wanting to attract wildlife as you may be lucky enough to have grass snakes lay their eggs in there.
- If you have spare bit of pocket money, invest in a wormery for the kitchen compost and make a bunch of worms very happy!
- Leave foliage on daffodils and tulips for a few weeks after they have flowered and let it die back naturally, this means nutrients can be fed back into the bulbs, regular dead- heading also helps keep nutrients in the bulb.
Many thanks to Emma Fraser, Sharon Roberts and Gemma Thomson for their contributions to this article.