The Inherited Garden
I moved into a small bungalow in Martham, Norfolk in February 2018, around the time of what was called the ‘Beast from the East’, where at the rear of the property there was a ‘small garden’.
What I inherited was an area of approximately 28 x 14 feet with a picket fence, a brick shed, which took up 6x3 ft of the garden, a 3 ft wide path leading from the back door to the back gate and an area of concrete 9ft x 4 ft 6 inches where an oil tank had previously been sited.
The rest of the garden consisted of paving slabs, plastic membrane, shingle and some areas of very compacted soil which was very much clay-based!
However, on the plus side 3 Fuchsias, a Honeysuckle, a Rose, 2 Clematis and what I discovered to be Three-cornered Leeks represented the plant contingent.
This was very much a ‘blank canvas’, but required some basic hard work, to prepare the soil (after removing the very things, which were there to prevent plant growth) and to re-utilise the hard landscaping (e.g. paving slabs) to good effect, in order to create a wildlife-friendly garden.
A Win, Win situation!
Like many people, money to spend on the garden was very limited, as was energy to do the work, because of the ME and mental health issues I suffer from. However, after spending the vast majority of my life gardening, being brought up in the building industry and my ecological knowledge pertaining to soils and plants, wealth of knowledge and knowhow was not in short supply!
The point here is that many people have health issues and a lack of finance but do not necessarily have the knowledge to create a garden for wildlife and that is the main point of this Wildlife Garden Diary, along with the great importance in helping to create areas where other life-forms can live, in a world where habitat loss is accelerating at an alarming rate!
There is also the added benefit to our own wellbeing and mental health and I can testify that working with and for wildlife is highly beneficial on both counts!
Re-designing and introducing Wildlife-friendly features
One of the first things I did was to provide food and ‘hostelries’, so a bird table, drinking bowls, nestbox and a ‘bee hotel’ were installed. This was followed (after the big freeze!) by repositioning the plants I had inherited into areas (where applicable) where they would be more successful and add shape to the overall garden redesign.
Planting was introduced from donations of plants from friends, planting seeds and occasional visits to garden centres, where I knew I could purchase plants for very little money!
The trick here is to buy greatly reduced plants, which due to them being no longer in flower and/or dying back, in respect of their growing season end up on the ‘Reduced to clear’ benches. Knowing the ecology of different species of plants can save you an absolute fortune, when purchasing plants as can buying ‘crammed’ pots, which can then be divided up into many more plants; if you can manage to think long-term and avoid paying over inflated prices for ‘showy’ plants!
Further additions to the garden, included incorporating a pond to stand on the unsightly area of concrete, which is currently undergoing landscaping to make it no longer an unbeneficial area for wildlife, repositioning of the paving slabs to create pathways, which also are useful as sunning areas for insects and a home underneath for various creatures and a Hedgehog box following the discovery of their presence in the area.
The Wildlife Garden Diary
So, there you have the basic history of what has occurred thus far to develop an area to benefit wildlife and indeed myself; altruism really does not exist!
The aim of this new feature is to show how to create an area attractive to wildlife with very little expense and indeed energy. Knowing how to plant limits how much time you have to do any work, allowing the great majority of your time to enjoy your garden.
The way of gardening here (or lack of it!) is very much based on a ‘Cottage Garden’, where species of plants are just that and not divided up into the concept of ‘weeds’! What is a weed? A human term for an unwanted plant, or a plant of predetermined human judgement that is out of situ.
As the year progresses I will endeavour to show how to make features, which are attractive to wildlife and identify and show the great biodiversity that occurs in a garden. Think of it not so much as a ‘garden’ but how to create your very own ‘nature reserve’, where the wildlife comes to you and where that much forgotten aspect of interacting with the other organisms, which we share this planet with can happen.