1. Build a pond
Probably the best thing you can do is building a pond (have a look here how I built mine). It creates a whole new world for animals and plants to colonise, many of these cannot live anywhere else. Frogs, toads and newts need a pond to breed, as well as quite a lot of insects such as dragonflies, damselflies and stone flies. There are also lots of small animals which life in the pond all their life such as water fleas and water snails. The pond also provides a convenient opportunity for terrestrial animals such as foxes, hedgehogs and birds to drink, the latter also like to clean their feathers in shallow water. The pond does not have to be large, small ponds will attract wildlife as well. But in my opinion, larger ponds are easier to maintain and don`t loose water through evaporation in summer as rapidly as small ponds do. It is also easier to create lots of shallow areas and a deeper part in the middle which would be ideal.
|Small ponds attract a lot of wildlife as well|
|Frogs will soon find newly-built ponds|
2. Don`t use pesticides
|7-spot ladybird larva|
Slugs are eaten by numerous frogs which live in and near the pond (another reason to build a pond) and also the hedgehog, who comes for frequent visits.
|Without caterpillars there are no butterflies and moths|
|Spiders thrive in wildlife-friendly gardens and do some useful pest-control|
|Hoverflies are good pollinators, many larvae also eat aphids|
|Weeds cleared from the allotment are rotting down under the weed fabric|
3. Don`t be too tidy
|Ladybirds often overwinter in leaf litter|
It is also a good idea to create a log pile with any left-over logs and prunings from shrubs and trees instead of burning them which unfortunately seems to be commonplace on my allotment site.
4. Plant a tree (or two)
|Fruit trees have beautiful blossom in spring|
Fruit trees are especially good as they are full of flowers in spring and yummy fruit in summer or autumn. Don`t harvest every single fruit but leave some behind for the birds and other wildlife to eat. I have planted a lot of fruit trees now, the earliest such as cherry plum and nectarine flowering in March and the latest ones such as quince and medlar flowering in May. Apple and plum trees are somewhere in between.
|A good crop of Morello cherries|
5. Leave seed heads standing
|Monarda fistulosa has pretty seed heads|
|Seed heads add structure to a garden in autumn and winter|
6. Make your own compost
|This composting area even includes a small wildflower meadow|
7. Plant as many plants as you can
Fill every space available with plants, as greater the diversity of different plants as better for wildlife the garden will be. Plant a mix of native and non-native plants to give a long flowering season and provide food for a wide range of insects. Many herbivorous insects are very specialised and would not touch any non-native plants so to cater for them you need native plants. There are many very pretty native plants such as ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), red campion (Silene dioica) and black knapweed Centaurea nigra). Try to have something in flower all year, starting with snowdrops and crocuses in January and February, ending with Mahonia and Christmas box (Sarcococca) in December. There are also some late-flowering perennials such as Aster tataricus, flowering until early December, which are good for late pollinators.
|Crocus provides pollen and nectar in early spring|
|Horehound (Marrubium) is a great plant for bumblebees|
8. Create a wildflower meadow
At its simplest you could just leave some grass to grow long, cutting it twice a year in August and late winter. You will be surprised what flowers will be coming up. I have created my two little wildflower meadows from scratch by sowing a perennial wildflower seed mix on bare ground. I have also added yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) so keep the grass in check. So far it has worked very well and the meadows look beautiful in late spring and summer. Apart from cutting everything down in August and another cut in late winter there is no other maintenance required. It is important to sow a native perennial seed mix, not annual cornfield flowers, which are also offered as wildflower meadow seeds.
9. Keep bare ground covered
|Nearly every inch is covered with plants|
10. Provide food and shelter for wildlife
|A mason bee (Osmia bicornis)|
|The hole on the bottom right was used by a leaf-cutter bee|
To provide nest boxes and additional food for birds are other options. I have put up a nest box on the allotment shed wall but which has not been used so far. Fingers crossed I get some guests next spring. From autumn to early spring I am feeding the birds as well which provides not only a life-line for many birds in a cold winter but also a lot of joy to me. Sometimes in winter, when there is not a lot to do on the allotment anymore, I will just go there to watch the birds. Another thing I added to the allotment is a hedgehog box which was used by my resident hedgehog most of the spring and summer.
|Feeding and watching birds in winter is fun|
|My hedgehog house|
|A robin is patiently waiting for the great tit to finish eating|
I hope I could give you some inspiration. If you have any more ideas to make our gardens and allotments more wildlife friendly I would love to hear about it.