Did you see Gardener’s World this week? Carol Klein visited a tiny wildlife garden in Dorset owned by Brigit Strawbridge and I found it truly inspirational. Her garden is pack full of wildlife (particularly bee) friendly plants in a space that seems hardly bigger than ours and looks like the most wonderful little haven. I’ve been trying to enjoy our garden in its final throes of glory rather than think of next year, but that film has got me pondering. I have always wanted this garden to be as productive as possible and that not only means to provide food for us but also to be a home for others. I suppose the ultimate aim would be to eventually make our little plot a cottage garden with a good dose of permaculture thrown in for good measure.
The film made me want to check the bee hotel we have hanging around, but it seems it found its way into the ground elder and turned into a spider hotel. Now placed in a sunny position so hopefully it’ll provide a home for some other insects!
So to wish the last of the summer away, here’s some thoughts on what to add to the garden next year to encourage more wildlife into the garden:
- Add a log pile and some stones for various insects to hide under.
- For some reason I’ve always battled against ivy and tried to get rid of it as much as possible, but I’ve realised that it should be embraced. It’s a great habitat to all manner of insects and birds, and as we’ve seen a little wren flying about this summer, it would be nice to offer it another place for it to stay.
- A pond. There are frogs in the area (Betsy spotted one stuck in my bucket in May. We set it free, only for Ian to pounce after it as soon as it was released. I think it got away though!). They would be amazing to have in the garden, the kids would love it and best of all would help my slugs and snail problem.
- Stachys lanata (lambs ear). This plant is great for bees in particular the wool carder bee (the females use the fibres from the leaves to build their nest) and looks pretty too.
- A bird box. I’m not entirely sure if it’s a good idea to encourage birds into the garden when we have a cat, but he’s not brought anything home in ages, so we’ll risk it.
I have been doing a bit for the garden this week though. One of the million garden centres we have in the area are selling all their packets of seeds for 50p each, so I’ve already got all the seeds I want to grow next year now. How’s that for organisation? Of course, come the spring I will probably forget all about them, and buy a new load of seeds. It’s all too much for this small plot probably, but I think I’ll just grow one, maybe two of each plant. I’m especially excited about the kale and the squash looks amazing.
I had quite a few cabbages planted earlier this year, but snails got to most of them, but a few seemed to have survived so hopefully we’ll have a couple ready for harvesting in the spring. Betsy planted some broad beans (I’ll put them in the ground once the courgettes and pumpkins have given up the ghost) and I’ve stuck a few leeks into the veg bed too. Also planted is a good-looking gooseberry plant that was going cheap in Waitrose.
It seems weird that we have vegetables that could potentially make it though the winter and feed us in the spring, the plans for the garden so far have always been short-term – lets just bung it in and it’ll give us some colour for the summer – type of thing. The wildflower seeds we planted are a classic example. But even the wildflowers are becoming a little more long-term as I’ve saved some of the poppy and hollyhock seeds for next year. Seed saving is something I have never done before, even when I had my allotment, but I get excited when I think about growing plants from seed I have collected, it seems more special somehow. I think I may be getting into this gardening lark.