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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Nettles

You may disagree with this statement but Nettles are valuable plants to have in the garden so read on…

Nettles are a good soil indicator

It may seem like nettles grow everywhere but they are quite fussy about the soil that they grow in and prefer a soil rich in phosphates and nitrogen, which indicates a fertile soil.

Use Nettles to feed your plants

To make a nitrogen rich liquid Nettle feed, cut nettle leaves/stalks into small pieces and place in a large container, weigh down with stones/bricks and cover with water, store the container somewhere out of the way as it will start to smell, leave for 3 to 4 weeks, to use dilute one part mixture with 10 parts water.

Nettles make compost quicker

Adding chopped up nettles (excluding the roots) to your Compost Bin will speed up the decomposition process, for best results mix them in thoroughly with different materials (wet, dry, soft and woody).

Peacock Butterfly Caterpillar on Nettles

Nettles are good for Butterflies and Moths

Many of our beautiful butterflies (Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell) and Moths (Burnished Brass, The Spectacle and Beautiful Golden Y) need Nettles; they lay their eggs on the underside of their leaves and are the food plant of their larvae (caterpillars).

Aphids love Nettles

This doesn’t sound beneficial but aphids are a valuable food source for many beneficial insects and birds, grow a clump to attract this nuisance pest away from your valuable plants/crops.

Nettles attract Ladybirds

Nettles are the first choice plant for Ladybirds to lay their eggs on, their Larvae will devour the aphids as well as Whitefly and Red Spider Mite, adult Ladybirds can eat 5,000 aphids in their year-long lifespan no wonder they are loved by gardeners.

Always wear gloves when handling Nettles, if you are unfortunate to get stung:

Can Dock leaves treat Nettle stings?

They do seem to grow near each other but does rubbing a nettle sting with a dock leaf actually work? Stinging nettles are covered by tiny hairs, when we brush against them the tips break off and pierce the skin releasing acids which cause inflammation and pain, it is said that the sap in a dock leaf is alkaline and by rubbing one on the affected area it will alleviate the symptoms, this does tend to work with me but if you google this there there are lots of articles for and against this method and as such very little medical evidence to back it up, it is recommended that you apply an antihistamine cream on the sting.

So when you are about to dig up that clump of Nettles pause and think if they could benefit your garden.

Love your environment

Gill

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We may take trees for granted as they have just always been there, but the truth is we couldn’t live without them, trees:

Produce oxygen and clean the air

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, removing and storing the carbon whilst releasing the oxygen back into the air, in one year an acre of trees will absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive a car 26,000 miles; an acre of trees will also produce enough oxygen for 18 people. Trees also absorb and filter odour and pollutant gas particles from the air (nitrogen oxide, ammonia) by trapping them on their leaves and bark.

Produce and conserve water and prevent flooding and erosion

There would be no rain without trees, trees absorb water from the soil and release it through evapotranspiration back into the air, trees can be used to prevent flooding as they hold vast amounts of water which would otherwise run down hills and surge into rivers and towns, they reduce soil erosion as they break the force of the wind and rain on the earth and their roots hold the soil together.

Provide food and habit

Trees produce food (fruit, nuts) not just for ourselves but for birds and wildlife too, as well as offering an invaluable habitat to shelter, breed and nest, even the smallest tree can make a big difference.

Make us feel better

Studies have shown that hospital patients with views of trees from their windows get better faster and with less complications, children with ADHD have less symptoms when they are exposed to trees and nature aiding concentration and reducing mental fatigue and a walk in the woods works wonders improving our physical and mental health.

Bring communities together

Tree planting brings communities of all ages, cultures, genders and abilities together creating an enhanced environment in which to live and improving our quality of life.

 

If you are interested in planting trees to help wildlife or to enhance your local area The Woodland Trust are currently offering Schools and Community Groups the chance to apply for free trees for delivery in November 2016.

Communities and Schools can apply for free tree packs twice a year which will be sent out in March and November when the trees are dormant and ready to plant.

There is always a high demand for their tree packs, if you are interested in planting this Autumn apply early to avoid disappointment.

The closing date for Autumn applications is 7th September or upon full subscription.

If you are a School I would strongly advise that you apply asap before the end of this term, it would make a great Autumn project which all the children could get involved in.

For more information and how to apply click here.

Gill

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This year Moth Night takes place over 3 nights 9th-11th June, if you missed it last night you can still take part tonight or tomorrow night. Moth Night is organised by Atropos and Butterfly Conservation and is an annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain and Ireland by enthusiasts with local events being held to raise awareness of moths.

Every year Moth Night has a theme, although recorders are always welcome and encouraged to do their own thing, this year’s theme is Hawk-moths.

Hawk-moths are spectacular, their name reflects their size and their powerful flight, in Britain there are 17 species of Hawk-moths, 9 are residents and 8 are migrants which fly from as far away as North Africa and the Canary Islands, not all of these moths fly at night the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk, the Broad-bordered Bee Hawk (which both resemble Bees) and the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (which hovers to feed from nectar plants and looks and sounds like a humming-bird) fly during the day.

Hawk-moth caterpillars are just as spectacular as the moths, you might even call them slightly frightening, with spots, stripes and a spike like a tail at the back, they vary in size from 4.5cm (Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk) to an alarming 12cm (Death’s head Hawk-moth) they overwinter as pupae in the ground below their food plant.

This picture shows an Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar that we found in our garden in July 2014.

Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar July 14

This is what the caterpillar transformed into – a tropical looking Elephant Hawk-moth.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Last night we caught this Poplar Hawk-moth in our trap.

Poplar Hawk 10.6.16

This stunning Lime Hawk-moth was caught in the trap on Tuesday night it is a new species for us and we were very excited.

Lime Hawk 2 8.6.16 crop

If you want to read more on the Gardening With Children website about the moths that we have caught in our garden and how to make a simple moth trap click here.

You can take part in Moth Night in any way you choose, this might involve having a moth-trap in your garden or in the countryside, looking for moths at your kitchen window or at blossom, attending a public event, or travelling further afield to search for unusual species. You can still record a variety of species at light without a moth-trap by leaving outside and porch lights on after dark, check lighted windows and lit walls and fences for moths during the first two hours of darkness and again in the morning. Moth Night is a great opportunity to raise awareness about moths, so why not get family and friends involved in whatever you do?

Weather permitting let’s hope its a good weekend for Moths.

Gill

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Snail

Snails can be a real problem in the garden eating plants and crops but believe it or not they can be fun too, why not have your own Snail Races?

What you will need

  • Some willing Snails
  • Large piece of cardboard
  • Marker Pen
  • Round containers e.g. plant pots
  • Small labels

What you need to do

  1. In the centre of your piece of cardboard, mark out a series of different sized circles radiating outwards, the smallest centre circle is the starting point where your snails will begin their race, the largest outer circle will be the finishing line.
  2. Find and collect your snails, snails are more active at night and during damp weather, during the day they like to rest somewhere dark and damp, try looking underneath or behind your plant pots.
  3. Carefully stick a label on each snails shell with their number so that you can identify them.
  4. Place all your snails in the centre circle and watch them go!
  5. The snail that crosses the outer circle first is the winner, it make take longer than you think snails do not always move in straight lines.
  6. After your races place your snails back where you found them or in another suitable place away from your plants.

Interesting Snail Facts:

  • In the World there are around 50,000 different types of land snails.
  • During very dry weather and in winter snails retreat into their shells, they seal the entrance to form a hard cap.
  • Snails can see but can’t hear, most land snails have two sets of tentacles, the upper ones carry the eyes, while the lower one has the olfactory organs.
  • Garden snails have a top speed of 45 metres per hour, this is about 1.3 cm per second, they are one of the slowest creatures on Earth.
  • The largest land snail recorded was 12 inches long and weighed nearly 2 pounds, it was a Giant African Land Snail.
  • Depending on the species snails can live 5 – 25 years.

Have fun

Gill

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Spring Plants – Pussy Willow, Apple/Crab Apple Trees, Lungwort, Crocus, Redcurrant, Kale

Late Spring Plants – Cotoneaster, Hawthorn, Comfrey, Phacelia, Chives, Strawberry

Summer Plants – Lavender, Honeysuckle, Monarda ‘Bee balm’, Foxglove, Sunflower, Runner/Broad Bean, Sage

Autumn Plants – Abelia ‘Bee bush’, Strawberry Tree, Sedum, Perennial Wallflower, Marjoram, Raspberry

Winter Plants – Mahonia, Ivy, Winter Aconite, Snowdrop

For more information and ideas how to help Bees in our gardens and our communities click here.

Bumble Bee

Bees play a huge part in our lives, much of the food that we eat, the plants and flowers that we love and the crops that we grow wouldn’t be possible without them. There are around 250 species of Bee in the UK which include 24 species of Bumblebees, around 225 species of Solitary Bees and one species of Honeybee. Bumblebees are easy to identify as they are usually larger and covered with dense hair but do you know which species it is? Identifying Solitary Bees is even trickier with a choice of 225 species, help is at hand – download the FREE Great British Bee Count App this will enable you to identify the Bees that you see and submit your sightings.

Last year over 100,000 individual sightings of Bees were submitted, this year an amazing 18,200 have been recorded already, it is a great way to learn how to recognise our British Bees as well as the different species that we have, so join the Great British Bee Count, download the App today and get outdoors: at home, at School, in the park or on a walk and get spotting.

Have fun

Gill

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The warm weather has really made a big difference to our gardens, with lots of things emerging; buds, leaves, flowers, seedlings, butterflies, ladybirds, creatures and unfortunately ‘pests’ including:

Lily Beetles

Lily beetleThese are hard to miss they are like bright red jewels with a black head and legs and appear on your Fritillaries and Lilies, the adult beetles munch away at the flowers, leaves, stems and buds and their larvae, which are reddish brown with black heads, eat the leaves. Heavy infestations can be treated with organic pesticides, smaller populations can be picked off by hand ‘carefully’ as they soon drop off the plants and disappear into the undergrowth, you can report sightings of Lily Beetles on the RHS website, they are monitoring the spread of this pest. These two were spotted in my garden and quickly removed.

Ants

Ant Control - Nemasys No Ants

Ants are now becoming increasingly active, the ‘family’ that live under the flags in my greenhouse are becoming rather busy there are not a lot of them and they are not a problem, in summer when the flying young emerge I open the greenhouse doors and the Sparrows go in and feast on them. Large populations of ants can be a problem especially in the lawn or the garden borders creating mounds of earth and root disturbance.

Treat the affected areas with Nemasys No Ants which contains nematodes, it is safe for you, your children, pets, wildlife and for using near food crops, we had an enquiry this week regarding the Nemasys No Ants the customer was having problems with ants in their lawn, they were removing the newly sown grass seed.

Vine Weevils

Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer

It is at this time of the year that the adult beetles emerge and nibble the leaves of your plants, the beetles then lay their eggs on the plant root ball, these eggs hatch into grubs which feast on the roots and cause permanent damage or even death to your prized and often expensive container plants. Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer contains nematodes which attack the grubs before they attack your plants it is safe to use on indoor and outdoor containers as well as on food crops such as herbs and strawberries it is safe for you, your children, pets and wildlife.

Slugs

Nemaslug Slug Killer - Nematodes

It has been reported in the news recently that this year we can expect an invasion of larger than normal slugs (it sounds like a horror story), this is because of the mild winters and wetter summers, Slugs are active above 5C so have been reproducing through the winter when normally they are dormant, Slugs not only munch your prized flowers and your tasty vegetable crops they can also contain Lungworms which may infect dogs and be fatal to them. Nemaslug Slug Killer contains nematodes which invade the slug and kill it, it is safe to you, your children, pets and wildlife including birds, hedgehogs, frogs, toads and ground beetles who love to feed on slugs and their eggs.

slugAnother increasingly popular safe Slug control are Slug Gone which is natural pure organic wool pellets, spread a layer around your plants, once wet they swell and form a barrier which irritates the slugs foot so it looks for food elsewhere, they are ideal for organic gardening and can be used in pots, flower beds, borders, allotments, herb gardens, nurseries, garden centres, green houses and vegetable plots. Copper Slug and Snail Protection Tape is another method of Slug prevention, place the tape around the top of your pots, containers and Raised Beds, it does not kill slugs but gives them a small electrical shock which deters them from crossing over.

Be vigilant and act now before your pests become a problem

Gill

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The RSPB has launched the results of their 2016 Big Garden Birdwatch, during which a staggering 8,262,662 birds were counted, the top ten birds were:

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Starling
  3. Blue Tit
  4. Blackbird
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Chaffinch
  8. Great Tit
  9. Robin
  10. Long-Tailed Tit

The House Sparrow remained at number one, around 4 House Sparrows were spotted in each garden, the Blackbird was the most widespread garden bird appearing in 88% of gardens, the Long-Tailed Tit was a new entry in tenth place, the RSPB commented that ‘January’s mild weather meant more smaller birds had survived the winter, and although natural food sources were plentiful, it’s clear these birds still rely on the food we put out in our gardens’.

We were fortunate to spend the Easter Weekend at Silverdale, whenever we go on holiday we always do our own Bird Species Count, the Silverdale area is ideal for birds with mixed habitats including, woodland, meadows, reedbeds, freshwater pools and on the coast saltwater lagoons and mud flats, we counted 67 different species in total which was amazing despite the mixed weather.

One of the highlights was seeing the first Sand Martin of the year, Sand Martins are just one of over 50 species of Summer migrants that come to our shores every year to breed, others include Swallows, House Martins, Swifts, Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Yellow Wagtail, Cuckoo and Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, they are lured back by the warm spring weather, longer days and our insects! Millions of birds visit each year usually arriving on the south coast first, then moving northwards, they have flown thousands of miles from as far away as Africa where they spent the Winter, and will return there in Autumn with their young.

During the Easter holidays if you want to help the birds in your garden why not:

Put out some bird feeders and a bird bath/water dish – different types of feeders and food will attract a wider range of species, birds need a source of fresh water to drink and to bathe in to keep their feathers in tip top condition.

Square Ground Bird Table

Square Ground Bird Table

Wildlife World Coniston Bird Bath

Coniston Bird Bath

Put up some nest boxes around your garden – nest boxes come in varying sizes and styles to suit different species of birds, put up a selection of boxes to encourage birds to nest in your garden.

CJ Wildlife Robin & Wren Nest Box

Robin & Wren Nest Box

CJ Wildlife House Martin Nest Box - Double Chamber

Double House Martin Nest Box

Finally, relax, watch and record the different species of birds that you see in your garden, on the park, during a walk, day out or on holiday – keep an eye out for our Summer migrants.

Have fun.

Gill

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This Sunday is Mother’s Day, it’s a day when we show our mums and grandmothers just how special they are and how much we love and appreciate them often by giving them a gift, bunch of flowers and a card.

I always think that home-made is much more special, here is a quick and easy idea for a bright and colourful card that you can make at home or at school with children of all ages.

Mothers Day Card 2016

What you will need

  • White or coloured card
  • Brown wrapping paper
  • Different coloured paints
  • Paper plates
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Felt Tip

What you need to do

  1. Place each colour of paint onto a separate paper plate.
  2. Fold your card in half.
  3. Dip your hand into the green paint so that your palm and fingers are evenly covered.
  4. Press your hand onto your folded card to leave a hand print this will be the stems of your flower, then wash your hands.
  5. Dip your thumb into your chosen colour of paint and make a round thumb print at the top of your green finger prints this is the centre of your flower.
  6. Dip the tips of your fingers in a different colour of paint and make finger prints around your thumb print to form petals then wash your hands and allow the paint to dry.
  7. Using coloured card or brown paper cut out a plant pot shape and fold over the top to form the rim of the pot, write on your message and stick your pot onto your card.

If your mum or grandma love gardening and wildlife, here are my favourite ideas for the perfect Mother’s Day gift:

 

Wooden Swing Seat Bird Feeder

A Wooden Swing Seat Bird Feeder

 

Marylebone Station Clock and Thermometer

 

Hard & Soft Cheese Making Kit - Extra

Cheese Making Kit

Stewart 52cm Premium Thermostatic Electric Propagator

Stewart Electric Propagator

 

Free Standing Wooden Plant or Vegetable Manger

Free Standing Wooden Plant or Vegetable Manger

 

I would like to wish all the Mums and Grandmas who are reading this a very happy Mother’s Day

Gill

 

 

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Here are 3 activities to get the kids outdoors and away from the television, games console or their phone:

DIY Build Your Own Bird Nest Box Kit

Build a nest box for your garden

This week is National Nest Box Week (14-21 February) and it’s the perfect time to put up nest boxes in your garden as many birds are now paired up and looking for a nest site. There are lots of different types of nest boxes available which are suitable for different species of birds, if you want to attract a good variety of birds why not put up a few different boxes, some species of birds like to build their nests near to each or in a colony these include House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, House Martins and Swifts so put up 3 boxes together. If you want to get hands why not make your own Nest Box with a Build Your Own Nest Box Kit, it contains everything you need to make a nest box that is suitable for House Sparrows, Great Tits or Nuthatches, who will be first to make their home in your Nest Box?

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Make a Den

Go for a walk in the woods, there should be lots of dead twigs and branches on the ground that have been blown off in the recent windy weather, first collect the larger branches, place them upright with the tops together to form a wig warm shape this can be freestanding or around the trunk of a tree, if you have some rope tie these together, next find medium sized branches and place onto your structure to fill in the gaps, then collect smaller twigs and them leaves to camouflage it. Use your den as a hide to watch birds and wildlife. If the weather is cold and wet why not make an indoor den with clothes maidens, tables, sheets and pegs – behind the sofa is always a favourite spot.

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Skim Stones

Skimming stones can be tricky at first but with a bit of practice it can be easily achieved, for best results you need a calm sea, still river or pond/lake then you have to find the ‘right’ stone it should be smooth, round and flat, the flatter the stone the better, throw your stone hard, low and horizontally and it should bounce across the surface of the water, large bounces at first getting smaller until finally it disappears into the water. Have a competition with family or friends to see who can get the most bounces.

Lets hope that the weather is kind to all of us this week

Have a great holiday

Gill

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In the Wildflower meadow

There are very few areas in Britain that still have traditional Wildflower meadows, many fields have been swallowed up for intensive food production, housing or industrial developments or treated to remove ‘weeds’ and maximize grass production for grazing. You often see wildflowers on the grass verges alongside our roads and motorways but unfortunately these are often cut by the local Council when they are in flower and before they have a chance to set seed, they are not in a safe place where you can enjoy, study and take photographs of them.

The Solution

Create your own Wildflower meadow in your garden, school garden, on your balcony or within your community, there may even be a small area in your housing estate, park, sports field or care home that could be used (ask the landowners permission first).

Where

Garden Soil is ideal for native Wildflowers, grow in an empty patch/border or for a natural feel you could rake an area of your lawn to remove the grass or cut out and remove the grass turfs completely to expose the soil, if you only have a balcony or back yard they can be grown in containers (with drainage holes) preferably in an open and sunny position. To protect Wild flowers growing in the countryside from cross-pollination with packet seeds, please make sure that you don’t sow seeds in or near open countryside or near nature reserves.

How

Choose a day when the ground is not too wet or dry, start by removing all of the weeds, from small ones to deep rooted perennial weeds, use a spade or fork to dig out any deep roots completely, weeds will compete with your wildflowers. Rake over the ground until its fine and crumbly, removing any large clumps or stones. Scatter your seeds finely a little at a time so that they are evenly spread over the ground. Break up into crumbs and sprinkle some of the surrounding soil over the seeds, they do not need to be totally covered some seeds will germinate better if they are not buried. Water very carefully with a fine spray so that you do not disturb the seeds. To protect the area from birds, animals or from being walked on you may want to place bright tape around and across it, push in twiggy sticks or even add a scarecrow. Check on your seeds regularly and water if the soil looks dry.

The Benefits

As well as a stunning colourful display to enjoy, wildflowers are beneficial to wildlife too:

Bees – Main pollinators of flowering plants and very important for wild flowers and growing food.

Butterflies – Their numbers are in decline, they feed on nectar using their long proboscises, in particular yellow and purple flowers.

Moths – Feed on nectar from flowers, most are nocturnal but not all are, you may see the Hummingbird Hawk Moth or the pink and green Elephant Hawk Moth on your wild flowers.

Wasps – Many are pollinators and will eat bugs such as aphids.

Hoverflies – Adult Hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen, their larvae eat aphids.

Ladybirds – Their grey larvae are voracious feeders of aphids.

Caterpillars – Butterflies and Moths lay their eggs on the food plant that their larvae will feed on, these include many species of wild flowers.

Birds – Feed on the seed heads as well as the insects on the plants

Bats – Feed on flying insects attracted to the wildflowers.

Hedgehogs – Feed on the bugs and insects within your wildflower patch.

HEDGEHOG

What you need to do

Grow Wild is giving away 100,000 free wildflower seed kits with the aim of transforming local spaces with wildflowers, each kit contains enough seed for 10sqm, if your area is smaller than this pass on and share your seeds to transform another space, the kits contain seeds native to your location; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Register online on behalf of your group or local groups, before the closing date of midnight on 14th February 2016, for more information and to register visit growwilduk.com

Don’t delay – register today!

Gill

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