29th March 2020

How are you using our time in isolation?

I can guarantee that across the country there are jobs being done which have not been looked at for a very long time. Those tidying and sorting jobs which we have been promising to get around to for months or perhaps even years. Well, I did something this week that really needed doing. That’s right; I tidied the garden shed!

As you can see it is looking very neat now and I have made a few discoveries, the most interesting being the fairly large hole that the mice have chewed through the floor. It also seems likely that a few of them have spent the winter in there as well, plenty of shredded paper and vegetation making a comfy nest. I can count myself lucky though as my sister has lost a lot of the seedlings in her greenhouse to mice!

I had hoped to get on with other jobs this weekend as well but the weather has been a bit of a problem. Windy, cold and, on and off all Sunday afternoon ….. hailstones!

One of things that many of us do over winter is to keep the birds fed. Now that the spring is here there is plenty of food around for them but there is no harm in continuing to fill our bird feeders and put out food on the bird table. Food shortages can happen at any time for the birds and we are trying to encourage much greater numbers and species.

The RSPB advice on this is to focus on protein which can include everything from oatmeal, sunflower seeds, and even grated cheese! Avoid bread and whole peanuts as these are not good for chicks and it is important to keep the feeders and table clean of any old food. There is lots of advice on the RSPB web site and maybe you have some tips to share for spring and summer feeding for birds.

Hedgerows are amazing habitats for our wildlife as they are a complex mix of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses. I have been trying to grow one down one side of my garden with a simple rule, which is to encourage as many native species as possible. Having said this it does include an old bay tree which was here when I moved in.

Although from the Mediterranean the bay is great non-native urban tree. As an evergreen, it provides my sparrows with plenty of winter shelter and it does support a reasonably good selection of invertebrates in the summer. Also, as it has such a dense crown the local cats avoid it and the sparrows have somewhere to escape to, which happens several times a day. Finally, it is great for cooking!

The question of what is native to the UK or not is always a tricky one. The experts have been debating this for a long time. We do know that native species always attract the greatest number of invertebrates and this brings in the birds so we need to plant them whenever we can. However, the fact that is that all of us have non-native species of plants in our gardens.

What I am trying is a gradual programme of replacement. I now only plant native species and when I can, I replace the non-native with native. Eventually, I will have a purely native garden; perhaps by the time I retire!

That’s all for now…. Why not share some of your stories about your urban greenspace; whether it is your garden, your local park or your window box!

Stay safe at this difficult time

Simon

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