Monday, 19 May 2014

Nature in the garden

Nature in the garden

One of the things I notice about Permaculturists (if that's the correct term) is that many seem to concentrate on one particular area, whether it is energy, growing food or community, and I think they are often missing out on one of the most important areas which is nature and wildlife. Often quoted is "observing nature to create better systems" but nature tends not to create zone 0 to zone 5.

Most areas of nature connect to one another, blending from one to another.

Something I have been trying to do is to link food growing areas to wild zone 5 areas by creating corridors for wildlife as well as corridors for people to go into the wildlife areas.

Corridors of wilderness allow wildlife to travel throughout the garden under cover. 

The more rough and wild patches and the more long grass I have connecting one area to another the more wildlife I am seeing in the centre of the field and closer to the house. Birds are making small hops from the hedge to the pond using the wild area I made joining the hedge to the pond.  The Brimstone butterfly now makes a short detour away from the hedge line toward the pond. The wren which would never venture far from the hedge used a corridor and got to the pond. Frogs can be seen all over the field as they appear to be getting into the drainage channels, which have over hanging grass covering them, and travelling via them to all areas. The Goldfinches are slowly feeding in the middle of the field where as they wouldn't move far from the hedge before but leaving the Dandelions to go to seed has meant they have food everywhere now.

Not only have the frogs found the pond but we also have newts now and another "first" was a Leech found in the pond.

Bit by bit more and more wildlife in various forms are arriving in the field. Last year I had one Yellow wagtail sighting, this year I am now seeing it, or them, most days immediately after cutting grass.

Another first has just arrived over the last couple of weeks and that is the Tree Bee. We now have a nest in a bird box near the house. Tree Bees weren't heard of in this country until 2001 or 2002 and gradually they are moving up the country having arrived from Europe. Having Bees close to the house may be seen by many as a worrying thing but for me it is more evidence that wildlife is spreading all over our plot.

Tree Bees
It's fascinating watching these little creatures as they build their nest and forage for nectar. Some bees appear to be building up the entrance to the nest while others circle the hole and fan the others to keep them cool, at least that is what it looks like. One by one a bee will leave and go looking for food and what is nice is that they appear to be making a "Bee" line straight to my strawberry patch which is nice because strawberries need a lot of pollination. Since the strawberries are composite fruits (many seeds clustered to make up the fruit) each bit of the fruit needs pollinating and if they don't get pollinated enough you can end up with small odd shaped fruits so I have a fair few flowers around the strawberry area to attract bees. Whether it is luck or by design that the bees have nested right next to my fruit garden area doesn't matter, having bees right there must surely help all the fruit bushes. 

Another nesting box within a few feet of the bees has Blue Tits in. The birds a delivering insects and caterpillars every minute or 2 to the young and both the pond and hedge are providing most of their food. The Blue Tits head off to the hedge constantly to get the food but will often visit the pond where there are loads of Gnats and flies hovering above the pond.

With the amount of frogs I am seeing across the garden I estimate that there must easily be 100 of them scattered through out and with all the insects and slugs that I have in the wild areas throughout the field I am beginning to see that the field is not only home to many different species but these different species also have their food source right on their doorstep.

It appears, and is logical, that the more species that set up home in the field, and the more food there is for them so that they stay, the more other species are attracted. 

While all the frogs and newts that are around do not seem to be denting my slug population one possible thing that I have observed is that the young wild flowers, specifically the Corn Cockles, haven't been eaten next to the pond and there are less slugs in that immediate area. The Corn Cockles in most other areas of the garden have been totally eaten by slugs but next to the pond they haven't been touched. I have also allowed grass to grow tall around my veg patches in a deliberate attempt to allow frogs to have a cool dark place to hide next to the vegetables in the hope that they will eat and control slugs there. So far no joy but fingers are crossed.

I also have what appears to be a Bank Vole next to the pond although as yet I haven't managed to get a good photo to identify it / them because they won't leave the cover for more than a few inches.

A species that I have targeted is the Hedgehog. Along the bottom of my hedge I have laid a load of sticks on the ground as well as rocks. The stick pile is about 30ft long and 2 feet high and 2 feet wide which looks like a perfect place for them. Hopefully at some stage in the future I may get lucky and attract one of these little creatures.

What started as a blank field with nothing in 16 months ago is slowly becoming a very interesting place to be and bit by bit I am finding that nature is coming to my back door. My kids won't need to go on school visits to do pond dipping and bug hunting and visit nature reserves as they will have everything in their own garden to learn about nature and many aspects of wildlife.


  1. I agree that one of the most fascinating things is to watch the wild life and diversity increasing. I really like your multi faceted approach to getting lots of different creatures in. Well done for getting a wren to leave the cover of the hedge! Good luck re the slugs.

  2. Part of the lifestyle is about learning to enjoy what's free in life and it doesn't get much cheaper than watching nature which is nice because there is an awful lot of it about :)

    It's also amazing just how little life their is in a garden with nothing but a mono crop lawn cut short. Let the grass grow, dig a few holes and leave a few sticks laying around and it all changes!

    Diversity in micro habitats, diversity in plants, diversity in temperatures and moisture levels within a garden and in no time at all you have a diversity of wildlife to fill every little place. Wonderful!