Gardening for Wildlife Calendar

23 July 2016

 Gardening for wildlife

DJN for the North Herts and Stevenage Green Party


The global, national and local countryside is under 3 main pressures: climate change, intensive agriculture and relentless development. Protection of the countryside and wildlife needs to be addressed at all levels from the political and legal to the private and personal. As well as supporting wildlife charities, we can have wildlife sanctuaries in our gardens, and here are some tips.

A list of wildlife friendly plants is shown below the monthly tips. If you have a tip let us know!



How to get life into the garden

Jan (mid winter)


1. Provide water, eg a bird bath, keep it fresh and thaw it out if it gets frozen (use some boiling water). It’s great if hedgehogs could reach some water somewhere in your garden.

2. This is the right time to clip and shape food-bearing hedges. The birds have taken any berries, hips or nuts, and hopefully will not have started to nest.

3. Make a hedgehog path. Work with your neighbours to cut a hole the size of a CD case in fences that surround and cut off your garden, or dig a channel under fences to help hedgehogs. In fact, think about getting rid of your fences and having green boundaries.

4. Plant a native hedge by choosing a mix of birch, beech, oak, hazel, dogwood, and hawthorn and getting the young trees as “whips” from your local garden centre. Plant a tree if there’s space, it generates a high-rise of different habitats.

Feb (late winter)

1. Put up a nest-box or two (nest-box week is 14-21 Feb).

2. Plan a range of plants for year-round flowering and to provide year-round insect habitat.

2. Crab apples are great specimen trees for small gardens, so why not plant one? Choose one the right size for your garden. You get flowers in spring, lovely foliage in summer, and bright fruit in autumn.

Mar (early Spring)

1. Remember to keep up your supply of bird food and water.

2. Ditch the slug pellets and leave the slugs for the hedgehog.

3. Provide nesting sites for some of our 240 species of solitary bees that hibernate over winter. You can do this by drilling holes in dry logs.

4. Go organic if possible but if you must use any chemicals (herbicides, pesticides or fungicides) make sure they are wildlife and bee friendly, and are never applied to plants in flower. Why not try weeding by hand?

5. Consider converting part of your lawn to a spring meadow not only for the nectar-rich plants but for grasshoppers and crickets.

6. Resist the urge to collect frog-spawn for your pond – this just spreads disease. Instead, watch and wait and they’ll come to you.

7. Plant an area of rosebay willowherb for Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillars, or nettles for butterflies.

Apr (mid Spring)

1. If your cat is an efficient birder, see if he or she will wear a quick-release safe collar, properly fitted, with bell/s.

2. Know the law: nesting season is officially 1 March to 1 July and any clearance of vegetation (or buildings where swallows, swifts, house-martins and barn owls nest) should be done outside this season. It is an offence to disturb an active nest, and a contractor who continues to cut down a tree or hedge after discovering (or being told) about a nest is breaking the law and could get a £5000 fine and/or 6 months to a year in prison.

3. Mow the lawn, but leave it long (about 4 inches/10 cm) and let the daisies, and clover flower – bees love them. Green mossy lawns are ok. Watch out for wildlife hiding under bushes when you use a strimmer.

4. Lightly prune forsythia and flowering current after flowering to get more flowers next year, and divide Sedum spectabile (ice plant) to get more clumps.

5. Sow summer annuals: such as sunflower and marigold species; garden for the planet and don’t use peat.

6. Coconut shells are poisonous to dogs, mulch with leaf-litter.

May (late Spring)

1. Water new plants with water collected from your roof, using a rain-barrel.

2. If water is in short supply use the “puddling” technique. Build a little wall of soil around the plant and fill the space with water that will then soak in.

3. Plant bee-friendly flowering herbs like marjoram and thyme, lavender, rosemary, sage, and mint.

Jun (early summer)

1. Stakes, netting and ties can all catch on claws, or trap little thieves. Make sure that birds and mammals can’t be hurt or trapped.

2. Ensure that protected crops, such as strawberries can be accessed by pollinating insects…or you won’t get fruit!

3. Plant out potted on perennials like honeysuckle, Sedum spectabile (ice plant) and shrubs like some rowans, firethorn (Pyracantha) Berberis, cotoneaster and buddleja.

4. Tolerate ants in the garden, they might tempt a Green Woodpecker.

Jul (mid summer)

1. Sow foxglove, wallflower, and forget-me-not seeds in their growing position for flowers next year.

2. Visit the garden centre and look for bee-friendly plants which are often flowering herbs or old fashioned cottage garden type plants. Don’t choose double or triple blooms that bees can’t get into.

3. Butterflies are lovely – but that means caterpillars need a home. Grow a patch of butterfly-friendly nettles.

Aug (late summer)

1 Create homes for hedgehogs and toads, you never know, someone might choose to over-winter with you.

2. If you’ve got a pond, make sure hedgehogs can get out of it, as they might fall in, or choose to go for a swim.

3. Propagate your buddleja by taking cuttings – even more flowers next year, and get even more butterflies.


Sep (early autumn)

1. Sow hardy annuals to over-winter and give you flowers next year – including cornflower (Centaurea cyanus).

Oct (mid autumn)

1. Don’t tidy up! Leave seed-heads as food for the birds, and dead plant material as winter homes for ladybirds. Dead leaves are perfect nesting material for hedgehogs. Don’t clip hedges with berries, nuts or hips yet! Leaf-litter, compost heaps and rotting wood are great for beetles, bugs and worms – all part of the food chain. Don’t scrub lichens off roof tiles or paving slabs.

2. Propagate your lungwort (Pulmonaria officinales) by dividing the plant and re-planting in two places.

Nov (late autumn)

1. Wash out nest-boxes, and re-position if necessary.

Dec (early winter)

1. Keep an eye on supplies of food and water to help our native birds such as blackbird, robin and blue tit.


Bee and bird friendly flowering plants:

Daffodils and other bulbs, bluebell, bugle, cotoneaster horizontalis, crab apple and apple, flowering cherry and currant,Lamium (dead-nettles), mahonia, forget-me-not (myosotis), hawthorn, pulmonaria, Salix sp. (willow), rhododendron, rosemary, thrift (Armeria maritima), spring-flowering heather, and viburnum.

Flowering and fruiting shrubs: Barberry (Berberis), flowering cherry and currant, crab apple, cotoneaster horizontalis, hawthorn, rhododendron, rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), firethorn (Pyracantha), lime trees and climbers: honeysuckle and ivy.
Early- and mid-summer flowers: Allium, Allium siculum (Sicilian honey garlic), Aquilegia, astilbe, campanula, Cirsium rivulare, comfrey, delphinium, everlasting sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius), fennel, foxglove, hardy geranium, Agastache (giant hyssop), potentilla, snapdragon, stachys, teasel, thyme, verbascum and wallflower.

Late summer
Angelica, aster, buddleja, cardoon, Caryopteris x clandonensis, Cerinthe major (Honeywort), cornflower (Centaurea), dahlia (single-flowered), Echium vulgare (Viper's bugloss), eryngium (sea holly), fuchsia, globe artichoke, globe thistles (Echinops), Helianthus (sunflower), hollyhock, irises, ivy, lavender, lupins, marjoram (Origanum vulgare), mint, Monarda (Bee balm), penstemon, Phacelia tanacetifolia (Beehappy), Polemonium caeruleum (Jacobs Ladder), Red Campion, Salvia (Meadow clary), scabious, Sedum spectabile (iceplant), Verbena bonariensis, Wisteria.

Sedum spectabile, marigold species.

Helleborus foetidus.


Useful references