All creatures great and small; Youdon'thavetobeaneco-warrior tobea goodwildlifegardener.Just leavethings a little untidytomakeyour "dinner guests"welcome.
When you''''ve been gardening for along time, there are few opportunities to try new things. Your garden takes on a momentum of its own with its own jobs in their own routine. An experiment of any kind is stimulating and opens up new perspectives.
We welcome wildlife into the garden at Glebe Cottage. It is shared by countless other creatures and their well-being is one of our most pressing considerations when choosing plants to clothe our beds and borders.
Extra rations and shelter are provided by many plants and the interests of birds, small mammals and insects has an influence on our gardening practice - and I don''''t just mean not using chemicals. If you cut everything back at the first opportunity, there won''''t be much to eat, nor places to shelter.
It''''s not an excuse for lazy gardening - everything will be tidied up eventually. It''''s a recognition of what a hugely important resource our gardens are for the creatures with whom we share them.
We leave seed heads on plants such as Rudbeckia, Echinacea, asters, Eupatorium and sea hollies. Amaranth is a favourite in the veggie garden, too, and spinach left to go to seed will also be consumed.
The idea of growing some seed that birds would find irresistible was a tempting one. One of the best bird seeds and the easiest to grow is sunflowers. Although you can sow them direct into the ground, birds love them just as much on the ground as they do in a feeder, so it''''s worth sowing them first in pots!
I sowed them singly, one each to a small pot in March. The weather can be terrible then but if you keep them under cover, they germinate rapidly and once they have grown to a couple of inches tall, nothing really touches them - they are fairly tough plants.
They need to be kept on the go, though.
As with any other kind of seedling if they are left to their own devices for too long, they will stop growing and when eventually you do put them out they''''ll find it very difficult to catch up. All plants need to be kept on the move and go forwards or they''''ll start to go backwards.
When mine were sturdy little plants I potted them on and later potted them on again into fairly big pots, planting them finally into the garden.
Most have one big seed head ASK CAROL QIS THERE a difference between African, French and English marigolds? Claire Knowles AYES there is. Both French and African marigolds are forms of tagetes and they come from either Central or South America. Neither is hardy. English ones, sometimes called pot marigolds because they were used in cooking, are their European cousins. They have quite big, simple daisies and they're tough.
QMY cabbages are stunted and when I pulled one up, the roots seem to be mangled. Trevor Desmond, by email ASOUNDS like a classic case of club root, an infection that affects plants in the brassica (cabbage) family. Once they've got it, there's nothing much to be done.
Don't grow brassicas, including wallflowers, in the same spot. Lime the soil, it thrives on acid soil.
Grow cabbages from seed in future, keeping them in pots until they're a fair size before planting them out.
| French and English marigolds growing on a single stem. Now the seed heads are beginning to ripen and when they are dried sufficiently it''''s easy to upend them and let their bounty fall onto a dry cloth or sheet of newspaper. Eventually, they''''ll be put into paper bags to ensure they don''''t rot. Or I just hang them in the shed until I''''m ready to put them out.
One year we hung them up and then put them out in midwinter, tying them to stakes or suspending them from the washing line or tree branches.
You could leave them in the garden but stems tend to collapse and seed heads go soggy.
There are so many ways to help wildlife and none is in contradiction to having a beautiful garden.
There are always disagreements about ivy, we had a question about it the other week, but I encourage it wheneverican.
Not only does it provide a nesting place for wrens and blackbirds, but overwintering butterflies take shelter among its dense growth.
Some of our butterflies overwinter as eggs, a few as caterpillars, some as chrysalises and some as adults. Peacocks, small tortoiseshells and brimstones hatched in the summer hide in cool, dry places and ivy can provide the perfect venue.
We all love our gardens, but more and more of us are realising how important our plots are to other creatures. We don''''t have to set out on a crusade to be wildlife gardeners but at the back of our minds we can think about how lucky we are to have visitors and residents that make the place come alive.
|French and English marigolds
|Carol planted sunflowers to provide seed for the birds
| Feeding time for our "guests", above, and a sunflower is one of the best choices, left