Our allotment plot is only about 150 square metres but we cultivate it with wildlife in mind and have several features to actively attract the wildlife that can support our gardening efforts. We endeavour to garden for wildlife and with wildlife. Some we attract some is here anyway.
Many beneficial insects are attracted onto our plot to help us fight pests and pollinate our fruit and veg. The most important insect predators are probably Ladybirds. Lacewings and Hoverflies. Their larvae are voracious pest eaters.
We have created an insect hotel on our plot to attract the beneficial predatory insects. Our “hotel” is made from bricks with holes of varying sizes, wooden posts drilled with holes and every available gap filled with twigs, canes, cones, dried grass, in fact anything that may be seen by insects as somewhere to shelter and to hibernate. On its roof we grow Sedum which will flower and attract more insects and we have added a log for insects to hide under. We know it works as in the spring on warm days Ladybirds pour out to sun themselves on the bricks which hold warmth.
We encourage birds to visit our plot to feed off pests who want to eat the leaves of our crops. Our bird feeders attract Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Longtailed Tits and Great Tits who feed particularly greedily on aphids and caterpillars. We have also put bird boxes up to encourage birds to raise their young, both open-fronted boxes for Robins and holed boxes for members of the tit family, as well as roosting pouches for Wrens. the birds are so confident now that they use the feeders when we are gardening close by.
Flowers decorate the plot for our own enjoyment and the feel-good factor, but we only grow flowering plants that attract wildlife such as Sedum, Marjorams, Cowslips, Primroses and Evening Primroses that will attract butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Some species of butterfly overwinter by hibernating in our shed as adults or as larvae. The one in the photo took a fancy to my hat hanging on the shed door as his winter haunt.
The Tortoiseshell Butterfly is exploring the flower buds of our Sedum, which once fully in flower is busy with insect life.
We leave some plants to go to seed each year for wildlife. The Fennel’s yellow umbrella’s of flowers attract wasps and hoverflies. Wasps are useful on a plot as they are the only insect that will consume the caterpillars of Cabbage White Butterflies.
The seed heads of Globe Artichoke are a magnet for finches especially Goldfinches, but when in flower they bring in the bees.
Our next plan is to develop a strip of wildflowers so that we have our very own mini-meadow. This will also act as a Beetle Bank attracting beetles into the shade of the plants, and we need beetles on our plot as they consume slugs and their eggs. We leave bundles of sticks around and these attract the best predatory beetle of all, the Violet Ground Beetle, which we see whenever we cultivate soil or do any weeding. the males are large with iridescent violet wingcases.
It goes without saying that we garden organically, we mulch a lot and grow green manures to protect the soil. The health and well-being of our soil is of paramount importance. We only feed it with natural materials to provide nutrients – manure, compost, green manures, seaweed feed and our own comfrey liquid feed. We maintain two compost bins on the plot.
The front edge of the plot is planted with wildflowers as a narrow border in front of the first row of fruit bushes. They bring in insects and give a welcome to visitors. Calendula and Heartsease self seed there each year so never need to be re-sown. They make enough green growth to be useful addition to the compost bins.
The next gardening for wildlife blog will be about our garden at home and its wildlife.