August Gardening for Wildlife



Birds and water

Birds too can suffer in particularly dry summers. Check the pond level and top up if possible. Rainwater is preferable if available from a barrel or waterbutt, as tapwater can lead to the growth of algae in the pond. If there is no pond, then it is vital to provide alternative wildlife drinking and washing places. An upturned dustbin lid balanced on two piles of bricks is one solution or a washing up bowl set into the soil so it is level with the ground. Even a large terracotta saucer or dish will suffice. Check the levels daily and fill up as necessary.


Trimming deciduous hedges

Native deciduous hedges (single species or mixed) can be clipped now. Overgrown hawthorn, beech, field maple or hornbeam will benefit from a trim, once the danger of disturbing nesting birds is past. Use sharp hedging shears and keep the blades flat against the face of the hedge. Cut the top of the hedge with the shears held horizontally. Electric hedge trimmers are noisy and can cause accidents. Unless the length of the hedge is great, hand shears give a less severe cut.

Note: native hedges do not need clipping every year and should only be clipped to retain shape and control over-exuberant growth.


Last minute planting

This is the last chance to plant meadow saffron and autumn crocus.

Taking semi hardwood cuttings

Mid to late summer is the time to take semi-hardwood cuttings of shrubs like lavender and ceanothus which do not root well from the more usual autumn hardwood cuttings. A semi-hardwood cutting is taken from the current year’s growth which has begun to get woody towards the base but is still green and soft at the top. They take a little more care than hardwood cuttings but the trouble is worthwhile for any shrubs that prove difficult to propagate.

Choose this year’s growth (easily identifiable as the shoots with leaves grown on them) and select a side shoot about 15-20 cm (6-8”) long. Using secateurs cut the shoot near to the point where it meets the main stem. Using a sharp knife take off the lower leaves and trim the cutting just below the leaf joint. Take off the soft tip just above a leaf joint so that the finished cutting is 5-10cm (2-4”) long. Insert the cutting, one third of its length, is a small pot of seed or cuttings compost. Water well with a fine sprayer and cover the pot with a polythene bag secured with a rubber band. A plastic drinks bottle cut in half and placed over the pot also works well. Place the pot in a warm place (16-18°C/61-64°F) but out of direct sunlight. The cuttings should root in two or three weeks. Harden off the cuttings by gradually lifting the polythene to allow more air to circulate over the next three to four weeks. Transfer the cuttings individually into larger pots. Place the pots in a cool greenhouse or coldframe if possible and keep well watered. Plant outside in the spring.

Shrubs to take semi hardwood cuttings from

  • Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) fruit/berries/nuts for birds/mammals
  • Ceanothus (Ceanothus x burkwoodii) butterfly nectar plant
  • Firethorn (Pyracantha) fruit/berries/nuts for birds/mammals
  • Guelder rose (Viburnum opuius) fruit/berries/nuts for birds/mammals
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera pericylmenum) butterfly nectar plant
  • Japanese quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) fruit/berries/nuts for birds/mammals
  • Lavender (Lavendula) bee plant butterfly plant
  • Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) bee plant butterfly nectar plant
  • Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) bee plant butterfly nectar plant

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