Your Very Own Mini Nature Reserve….. On Your Doorstep!

 

Now this is one to get excited about! What if we told you that you could:

• Do your bit and make a real difference in helping solve the biodiversity crisis we are in.
• Improve your wellbeing physically and mentally.
• Get to enjoy hours of fascinating natural activity in your own immediate outdoor space.

 

Well, you can and with as much or as little input and effort as suits you to get started. Every action to help Biodiversity, no matter how small, makes a real difference!Why not ge t started restoring biodiversity, a wonderful experience which will enrich your life and that of your loved ones. You can achieve this by taking some small steps to reconnect with nature and helping our precious wildlife recover, in the face of the sustained and relentless onslaught it is being subjected to.

Six spot Burnet day flying moth

Six Spot Burnet Moth – Zygaena fillipendula at Wildacres.

 

The enjoyment and reduction in stress to be got from allowing nature some space to flourish in your immediate surroundings is invaluable and happens almost instantaneously. So, what size outdoor space do you need to do this? Well, the great thing is, no matter what size your outdoor space size is, there are lots of actions you can take to bring in wildlife that will amaze, fascinate and enthral you for many months and years ahead. So let the exciting journey of discovery begin!

Where to start and what to do?

The following is a list of actions you can choose from to transform your outdoor space into your very own mini nature reserve.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker & Great Tit on Peanut Feeder

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker & Great Tit on Peanut Feeder at Wildacres.

 

• Ponds /Bog Garden
• Wildflower Patch
• Pollinator Bed/Butterfly Border
• Hedgerow
• Stand of Trees
• Log piles
• Wild Corner

 

Ponds/Bog Garden

Creating a Garden Pond for wildlife

Small Garden Pond

 

 

A wildlife pond of any size is an instant way to bring wildlife into your outdoor space. From re-using an upcycled Belfast sink or large garden trug, to a Garden Pond dug out shallowly and lined with a special pond liner, a pond will provide you with endless entertainment and wonder. From birds bathing and drinking to frogs or newts spawning, to dragonflies and damselflies in dazzling flight. Not to mention the vast array of fascinating life beneath the surface that ponds host. You can additionally, easily create a small bog garden, beside the pond, by using left over pond liner or another suitable liner to bury, backfill with soil and wet. This will hold water draining very slowly, ideal conditions for a wealth of fascinating specialist plants and animals that love such conditions.

Why not open a whole new world of fascination, wonder and joy by creating your own wildlife pond habitat. At Wildacres we have an extremely popular and regularly sold-out workshop on Creating A Wildlife Pond

 

Wildflower Patches

Naturally regenerated wildflower meadow at Wildacres

Stunning Native Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis in the Wildflower Meadow at Wildacres.

 

Why not create your very open Wildflower patch or Wildflower Mini-Meadow? If you have some lawn, why not let the native wildflowers shine through and flower and then go on to set seed? They are present in every lawn but often do not get the chance to grow and flower due to continuous cutting.

Beautiful native Dandelion, providing food for so many pollinators such as this Ladybird at Wildacres.

 

A mini wildflower patch or wildflower lawn is so much more fascinating, decorative and rich in biodiversity, than a boring sterile close cropped lawn!

 

Wildflowers flourishing on left versus closely cut lawn on right

 

To create a stunning wildflower mini-meadow, the way to start is to decrease the nutrients in the soil so the vigorous grasses, which normally swamp the more delicate wildflowers, are denied the nutrients they need to grow strongly. One of the ways to get started is, in the first season, you cut the lawn every three to four weeks removing the cuttings, this will encourage the wildflowers, that are present in every lawn, to grow a stronger root system. Then from June on, let the new meadow grow without cutting with a limited bloom of wildflowers in this first year. Later in Autumn, during September, you can but only if you want to tidy it up, give the newly created meadow a final cut, and again as always, remove the cuttings having allowed the cut hay to dry out and any wildflowers to have dropped their seed for the next season.

Or alternatively leave that final cut until the following early Spring thus allowing any pupating caterpillars and other insects to overwinter in the longer grass. In year two then, you can let your meadow grow uncut all season and cut again in September, or leave uncut until the following early spring as outlined previously. This meadow will attract lot of insects which in turn will attract in birds and, maybe a hedgehog or two.

A point worth noting is a true wildflower meadow is not necessarily a riot of colour but understated, with subtle colours and beautifully flowering delicate native wildflowers that will attract numerous pollinators and finishing in autumn, with a golden display of swaying grasses and wildflower seed heads.

So you have a balcony or courtyard…. No problem, grow your wildflowers in pots or troughs for a beautiful wildflower display.

It is worth noting that it is not recommended to buy the pre prepared wildflower seed mixes now available everywhere. These are often not suited to our climate having been imported and these packs can contain non-native “Wildflowers” as well as potential invasive species and diseases. Collect or source local native wildflower seed.

 

Pollinator Bed/Butterfly Border

 

Campanuala with Marmalade Hoverfly in the showcase Pollinator bed at Wildacres.

 

Dahlia with Painted Lady Butterfly in the showcase Pollinator bed at Wildacres

 

Why not plant in pots on a balcony, a courtyard or patio, or in a border/flower bed, an array of plants that are fantastic for our threatened pollinators. A time that they are really under pressure to find enough food is early spring and into autumn. This list is by no means exhaustive but a good starting point of plants to put in. Then sit back on those warm summer evenings with your favourite tipple, relaxing listening to the gentle hum of the bees and the delightful sight of butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.

Plants for Late Winter/Early Spring:
Mahonia, Berberis, Snowdrop, Crocus, Heathers(Winter Flowering), Pulmonaria, Grape Hyacinth, Hellebores and more.

Plants for Summer:
Field Scabious, Cuckoo Flower, Garlic Mustard, Ox-Eye Daisy, Yellow Rattle, Knapweed, Red & White Clover, Foxglove
Lavender, Allium, Catmint, Centaurea, Globe Thistle, Scabious, Verbena, Echinacea, Gerranium, Campanuala, Erysium(Bowles Mauve), Echium, single flowering Dahlias.

Plants for Autumn:
Ivy, late flowering Heathers(Calluna Vulgaris), Asters, Rudbeckia, Dahlias(Single Flowering), Salvia, Eupatorium

Hedgerow

 

Hawthorn in Flower with Ladybird at Wildacres.

 

Beautiful native Honeysuckle flower, Lonicera pericylmenum at Wildacres.

 

Honeysuckle turns on it’s gorgeous scent at dusk to attract night-time pollinators. Why not plant against a fence or as a border between spaces, some native stunning hedgerow instead of the often-used invasive Cherry laurel, or almost lifeless Grisselinia that will support minimal biodiversity. You could have a gorgeous spring and summer flowering hedge. A hedge that will go on to produce colourful berries and seeds, and perhaps nutritious nuts to feed our wildlife during the cold lean winter months. Coupled with the fact it will be a habitat for songbirds to nest in and insects to live and hibernate in. It’s a habitat that is incredible for wildlife and an endless source of interest.

 

Stand of Trees

 

Dappled sunlight from a native tree canopy providing cool shade in the hot summer sunshine at Wildacres.

 

If you have the space you could plant a tree or stand of trees.  In a large space some of our native larger trees, such as Oak and Scots Pine will look stunning and support a vast array of wildlife. For smaller gardens smaller trees can be planted such as Hazel, Hawthorn, Spindle, Guelder rose, Rowan and Holly to name but a few. If you have a Balcony or courtyard the smaller trees can be planted in pots.

A wonderful thing to do to help both wildlife and ourselves, in mopping up excess carbon and providing a wonderful habitat. Also, you couldn’t buy the feeling of satisfaction to be got knowing your tree might live on for hundreds of years providing so many benefits.

Trees provide so much for us in the way of ecosystem services, some of which include.

• Regulation of Temperature,
• Producing Oxygen
• Vital Habitat for Wildlife
• Removing Carbon from the Atmosphere
• Water Purification
• Amenity Value

 

Log piles

 

Delicate beautiful fungi growing on moss covered Deadwood at Wildacres.

 

A habitat that is often overlooked is deadwood, in the form of fallen and standing deadwood, and it supports a huge range of wildlife. It is a vitally important and is termed a Saproxylic Habitat. In Ireland alone we have 274 beetle species that breed in deadwood, the adults and their larvae go on in turn to form an important part of the diet of many birds and mammals. There is also the fascinating array of fungi that grow on and in it. Not to mention the fact that our newts and frogs will live in piles of fallen deadwood hunting for slugs and other invertebrates, and often then go on to hibernate in these log piles.
So why not, in a secluded shady damp corner of your outdoor space, make a wonderful habitat in the form of a log pile for wildlife.

 

Wild Corner

 

Wild Scrub (Biodiverse Rich Habitat) at Wildacres.

 

This is a haven for wildlife, an area let “Re-Wild”, that will quickly grow over with Nettles, Thistles, Bramble, Blackthorn, Ivy and much more.
All plants that we have been taught over the year to eradicate and exclude, but all of these native plants and lots more that grow wild in our hedges and open spaces, are hugely important for wildlife.

As an example, many of our stunning Butterflies rely on Nettles as their larval foodplant, butterflies such as our gorgeous, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma, will lay their eggs on the much-maligned nettle.

Or what about our stunning Holly Blue Butterfly, that lays its second batch of eggs on our native Ivy. Ivy also provides masses of nectar and pollen in autumn, and then follows with carbohydrate loaded berries in January and February. At a time when there is little or no food elsewhere for our hungry birds. Ivy is one of our most important plants here in Ireland in relation to the amount of Biodiversity it supports.

So hopefully this Blog has inspired you to create habitats for wildlife in any sized outdoor space, from apartment balconies, to gardens, right up to community spaces and beyond.

Once you get started and begin seeing nature arrive in your outdoor space you will realise, it is one of the most enjoyable, fun and rewarding things you could possibly do!

As we sit and write this in our small suburban back garden where we have a small garden pond outside our window, in the last two hours we have seen a selection of birds all in for a quick bath and drink including House Sparrows Great tits, Blue tits, a female Blackbird, a Dunnock and a Robin. So entertaining to watch!

For further inspiration and a great day out, why not book into our popular Gardening for Biodiversity Workshop and find out in more detail what you can do in your outdoor space to enjoy and help conserve our precious Biodiversity.

As part of the workshop, you will get to enjoy a fascinating tour of the Nature Reserve, a sit down indoor engaging visually colourful and informative presentation in the Big Green Barn and a chat, with a cuppa and tasty bikkies, overlooking our main wildlife pond.

So hopefully we will get the chance to meet and to welcome you to Wildacres Nature Reserve and Biodiversity Education centre.
We would love to hear and see how you get on with creating your own wildlife habitats and hopefully see you at Wildacres for one of our events.

Brian & Gilly.

 

common_frog_wildacres

Large Common ‘Happy’ Frog at Wildacres