April Gardening for Wildlife



Bird tables/Feeding stations

The bird tables and feeding stations can be put away now and stored for next winter. Wash down the surfaces with a mild disinfectant and water to remove all traces of food and droppings.

Keep your distance

Don’t be tempted to get too close to nesting birds this month in an attempt to see when the young are hatched. Keep disturbance to a minimum by observing the parent’s movements from a safe distance, using binoculars to get a better view of the nest or box.


Planting water and wetland plants

Spring is a good time to put in container grown pond plants, although they can be planted at any time between now and late autumn. Select a place in the pond with the right depth of water, according to the growing preferences of the plant. Gently insert the roots into the soil or growing medium in the pond. Place a small stone on top of the root ball to secure the plant until the roots start to anchor themselves. At this time of year growth is rapid and new plants should establish easily.


Sow hardy annual seeds

As the weather improves, many annual wildflowers can be sown outdoors. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to provide flowering nectar plants for the insects and is ideal for anyone starting from scratch. By choosing hardy species that won’t be harmed by any unexpectedly cold weather, the seeds can be sown directly into the ground where they are intended to grow and do not need to be nursed in greenhouses or coldframes.

Prepare the soil by lightly forking over, removing any large stones or clods of earth. Water thoroughly. Sprinkle the seeds by hand over the whole area. Rake in the seeds to make sure they are just buried. If there is no rain for a day or two after sowing, water the ground with a fine rose watering can, making sure the water soaks deeply into the soil.

Aftercare: Remove any competing weed seedlings as they come up between the flowers. When they only have two or three pairs of leaves it is difficult to tell the difference, so wait until the plants are easily recognisable. Thin out any groups of plants that are overcrowded by removing some of the seedlings. Continue to water annual beds throughout the summer, particularly in hot dry summers.

Recommended hardy annuals

  • Candytuft (Iberis umbellata) Butterfly nectar plant
  • Clarkia (Clarkia elegans) Bee plant, Caterpillar food plant
  • California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) Butterfly nectar plant, Bee plant, Attractive to hoverflies
  • Corncockle (Agrostemma githago) Native, Butterfly nectar plant, poisonous
  • Corn chamomile (Anthemis arvensis) Native, Butterfly nectar plant
  • Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) Native, Butterfly nectar plant, Bee plant
  • Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) Native, Bee plant, poisonous
  • Love in a mist (Nigella damascena) Butterfly nectar plant, Bee plant
  • Mignonette (Reseda odorata) Butterfly nectar plant
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) Caterpillar food plant, attractive to hoverflies
  • Night scented stock (Matthiola bicornis) Butterfly nectar plant, Moths
  • Poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii) Bee plant, Attractive to hoverflies, Butterfly nectar plant
  • Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) Bee plant, attractive to hoverflies, Butterfly nectar plant
  • Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) Butterfly nectar plant, Bee plant, seeds for birds
  • Virginia stock (Malcolmia maritime) Butterfly nectar plant

Planting climbers

Spring is a good time to put in new climbers, giving them a chance of making enough growth to cover a wall or fence by the end of the season. For wildlife, the main consideration is to ensure that there is a gap between the flat surface and the climber itself, making a secluded enclave for nesting or roosting.

The usual framework for non-clinging plants (ie everything except ivy and creepers) is a wooden trellis or horizontal wires. Instead of nailing the trellis flat against the wall, small wooden battens are screwed to the wall first to hold the trellis several centimetres or a few inches away. Similarly the eyes which hold the wires can be attached to the battens rather than being put straight into the wall.

Planting container grown climbers – Water the plant well in its pot. Carefully detach the top growth from its support, removing wires, ties or canes. Dig a hole 30cm (12”) away from the wall. It should be as deep and slightly wider than the container. The plant should sit in the hole so that the surface of the compost is level with the surrounding soil. Mix a little garden compost or well rotted manure with the soil taken from the hole and add a spadeful to the bottom of the hole. Remove the plant from its container and place in the hole. Fill around the roots with the soil mixture, treading down firmly. Water thoroughly, making sure the water soaks right down around the roots.

Recommended climbing plants

  • Ceanothus (C x burjwoodii) butterfly nectar plant, evergreen, aspect – south, west
  • Cotoneaster (C horizontalis) bee plant fruit/berries/nuts for birds/mammals, aspect – north, east
  • Firethorn (Pyracantha) butterfly nectar plant, fruit/berries/nuts for birds/mammals evergreen, aspect – north, east
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) native, butterfly nectar plant, bee plant, aspect – east, west, provides bark for nests
  • Ivy (Hedera helix) native, butterfly nectar plant, bee plant, caterpillar food plant, fruit/berries/nuts for birds/mammals, aspect – north, east, west
  • Old man’s beard (Clematis vitalba) native, butterfly nectar plant, any aspect
  • Russian vine (fallopia aubertii) any aspect

Note: All these climbers may be used as nesting sites for birds and possibly for bat roosts as well.

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