Reflections and Resolutions
New Year is a time to make resolutions and attempt to
stick to them. And what better pledge to make than to
be more wildlife friendly in 2001? Michaela Strachan's
got some handy reminders of the issues she's covered
in her Greenfingers' column over the past nine months
to spur us on.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
We've all survived Christmas. The Christmas pudding
is still being microwaved, turkey sandwiches are still
being forced on you, there are still a few crackers
lying about and I'm still sword fighting and flying
through the air. (No I haven't had too much sherry.
It's still panto season for me, I'm playing Peter Pan
in Bristol being deafened every night by Brian Blessed!
He's playing Hook).
I've got to be honest,
the garden has recently taken second place to Christmas
shopping, parties, entertaining the relatives and doing
two shows a day!! But frankly it doesn't really matter.
As I've said before, the great thing about being a wildlife
gardener is you can be a little bit neglectful every
so often. It doesn't matter if the leaves aren't swept,
it's actually great for your wee garden beasties. One
thing you should check though is the garden pond if
you have one. The leaves should be cleared from the
water to prevent the water from stagnating and it's
really important for wildlife to make sure the pond
doesn't freeze over. The simplest and cheapest thing
to do is to put a tennis ball into the water. It happily
floats around preventing the big freeze.
So, as you all put
your feet up and sip the last bit of mulled wine, I
thought it would be a good time to reflect on what we
have attempted to achieve so far over the last eight
Firstly I hope I've
encouraged you all to think a little bit about making
your gardens wildlife friendly. Even if you don't want
to turn your garden over completely into a wildlife
haven, every little helps.
Hopefully we're all
looking after our feathered garden visitors. I've gone
on about them enough!! If you've followed my tips your
garden should be cluttered with nesting boxes, bird
tables and plenty of swinging bird feeders. If any of
your family took a hint from last month's article, you
might even have a nice bird book too, so you can sit
there watching your visitors, twitching away as you
tick off your bird list!!
Another very easy
and obvious environmentally friendly garden addition
is a compost
bin, and if you set one up at the beginning of the
year it should by now be decaying into some jolly useable
One of the most beneficial
things to have in your garden for wildlife, as I suggested
back in the summer, is a garden pond. Remember, size
isn't important, anything is better than nothing.
The basic things
to think about and add if you haven't got them already,
are entry and exit points for wildlife, if you haven't
got sloping sides to your pond make a little ramp especially
for hedgehogs. You don't want to wake up to find your
good intentions have made you into a hedgehog murderer!!
Your pond should have as much diversity as possible,
a variation of depths, and plants. And no goldfish!!
They're not native!! For a true wildlife pond try to
keep it as natural and native as possible.
Another very important
thing to remember is ALIEN INVADERS. It was an attention
grabbing title in the spring but a very important subject
to address. I used a quote from Plantlife, 'Invasive
species are likely to be the biggest threat facing our
biodiversity this century'. My article was particularly
about pond oxygenators such as New Zealand pigmy weed,
parrots feather and floating pennywort; these three
in particular have wreaked absolute havoc through some
of our British waterways. They may not be a complete
disaster in your ponds where you may be able to control
them, but it is much easier than you may think for them
to escape out of your gardens and into the wild. If
you care about native flora and fauna the simple answer
is not to use them, use native plants instead.
Now the meadow I
suggested planting in the autumn won't be in its full
glory at this time of the year. Patience is a virtue
and it'll give you something to look forward to in the
spring and summer when your meadow flowers will be blooming
and you should have plenty of insects such as butterflies,
bees and grasshoppers showing you gratitude.
Finally, if you followed
my advice about helping your hibernating beasties by
not being too tidy over the winter months or even by
making or buying a few hibernating boxes, you may well
have a few hedgehogs, ladybirds, frogs or even bats
snoozing happily amongst your debris. Don't forget to
check before you set that bonfire alight!
So that's hopefully
what we've all tried to achieve. Now for the honesty
bit. I always feel that the start of a new year is a
good time to be honest!! So what have we all managed
to do, and what haven't we quite got around to yet?
Well, I'll start by putting my hand in the air. Whilst
I have got plenty of nest boxes, masses of bird feeders,
lots of piles of leaves, two great compost bins, no
alien invaders, and, although our garden isn't big enough
for a meadow, we have planted lots of poppies. But I
have to confess that we haven't quite got around to
building a pond yet. We have got as far as discussing
ideas and even drawing a couple of plans, but the practicality
is still on the 'to do' list. It's now moved to the
New Year's resolution list!!
So now I've owned
up it's time for you to do the same. Just as you sip
the last few drops of mulled wine, grab a pen and write
your 2001 to do list!
we are responsible for what could be described as 'Britain's
largest nature reserve'.
Have a fab 2001 and
stay gardening wild!
Want to read more?
Take a look at these other articles by Michaela Strachan:
Our Peat Bogs
Pond © Michael W Richards, Oxford Scientific Films;
Compost Heaps © Scott Camazine, Oxford Scientific Films;
Hedgehog © Norbert Wu, Oxford Scientific Films
with premission from Greenfingers.com