It isn’t easy being an organic gardener, there are times when I’m really tempted to grab some glyphosate and blast the weeds. They do seem to be winning at the moment, mainly because I haven’t kept up with gardening, what with all the rain.
But I don’t think chemicals have been used on our garden for many years – not so much about being kind to the environment, more about recent owners not being gardeners and letting it all go wild. We haven’t used any chemicals either in the 16 months since we’ve been here, so it would be a shame to let impatience spoil the natural order of things, especially as I’ve spotted a slow-worm and some toads.
A priority is to encourage helpful creatures into the garden, more slow-worms would be good and I’d be so happy to see a hedgehog snuffling around. Not forgetting, small insects like ladybirds and lace-wings, well-known for their voracious appetite for greenfly.
To encourage more of these helpful garden allies into the garden, I’ve made a special habitat for them, often known as a bug hotel, though hedgehogs, toads etc are welcome too.
You’ll need flat, area so it’s as stable as possible, in part-shade to keep the shade-lovers happy, and a some sun for creatures like bees. Ours is next to a large yew shrub and partly under the shade of a beech tree, so it gets sun for some of the day.
The wooden frame was made by my husband from old timber that was left behind the shed by previous owners, in fact all of the materials [except the screws for the frame] were scavenged from around the garden.
- Dry leaves, easy when there are a couple of large, neighbouring trees looming over the garden.
- Bricks with holes in the sides, these also help to keep everything stable and compartmentalised.
- Small logs, slightly rotting is best, and with holes drilled in for bees 9 the holes have yet to be made in ours.
- Bundles of small sticks.
- Hollow bamboo canes cut into sections
- Straw, from when we used to keep chickens.
- Plant-pots, weathered terracotta ones look good, but I stacked togeter, square topped plastic ones because I figured it would be better than putting them in the dust-bin.
- Loppers for cutting bamboo and sticks.
- There are shelves made from a large sheet of plywood, also found behind the shed.
- The top was covered with an old compost bag [ turned inside out so none of the garish colours show at the edges ] to add a bit of waterproofing.
- This in turn was covered with 5cm/2in of soil, and moss – left over from doing my daughters wedding table decorations. I’ll water the moss when we don’t have much rain to keep it green. It all took about 2 hours to make.
I’ve been meaning to make one of these for ages, because these little creatures are so useful, pollinating flowers on the pretty plants in the garden, as well as fruit and vegetables. They also feed off other insects and break down waste matter in the soil.
With the summer holidays approaching, this is a lovely little project to do with children. Just make sure the stack is very stable and isn’t too high. A series of small ones around a garden or fixed to a shed would be lovely.
Now we’re well on the way to providing food, water and shelter, the 3 things that attract helpful critters into the garden.
Only a tiny number of insects are harmful, so it’s useful to know what’s what in your garden.The RSPB has this very useful chart here about garden insects, click on each name to see an illustration and, and most importantly, what they eat.
You can see some of the flowers I did for the wedding here.
all photos: Jill Anderson.