Monday, 6 August 2012

Hedgehog Way - creating a wild life habitat

On a hot humid morning I set about cutting back the brambles  on the knoll which will become a wild life garden.  The brambles were tough but even tougher was an overgrown shrub which had expanded eight or nine feet along the edge of the area. My friend Jenny from the Community Plot came along to help and another volunteer Andy willingly lent a hand.

Jenny was very excited by the idea of making the area into a haven for bees, beetles, slow worms, lizards and hedgehogs. Two children became involved as well as. Tracy is our tree expert.  Carry and Nina from two of the  neighbouring plots have expressed an interest in helping..
There is distinct path made by animals through the grass in the middle is made by foxes, cats and hedgehog which is how we came up with the name  Hedgehog Way.  We all have had input into what we will grow, make and provide.

The first idea was for stumpery.  These  structures are drawn from the Victorian era and when gardeners want to create a romantic sense of nature.  It could become  a sculpture if we are able to get some interesting tree stumps.  Ours however  might be more of a log pile but we intend to drill holes in some of the logs to encourage, ladybirds to over winter as well as other invertebrates.  This holes will also encourage the leaf cutter bee.  Piles of dead wood can-be home to a vole or a nest site for a wren or robin.  Hopefully a hedgehog might find shelter there for the winter. We have to be careful it does not become a hunting ground for the cats that come into the allotment site!

Before we begin to build a stumpery we need to clear under the mulberry tree.  We will prune it in the winter  to make it healthier as it has become overgrown and is not fruiting as well as it did, it is about twelve years old.  Every Spring a Robin claims his territory from its branches. The Kestrel is also seen  frequently perched on the top branches searching for prey.

The long grassy area we will not clear for another couple of weeks as there is a bumble bee nest there and  the new bumble bee queens and males are still leaving the nest. These queens will not generally mate with males from there own nest.  To mate the female has to draw their sting back and so can prevent related males from mating with them.  The  chosen  male will leave a plug of  sperm in the queen, which  will  fertilised the new broods in the spring. The workers die once the queens leave the nest. I have noticed that some nests' workers are smaller than usual because of poor nutrition caused by the appalling weather during the past four months..

The worker bumble bees in my cold frame were normals size because they were surrounded by borage and wild flowers.. The flowers and shrubs which we will plant on the knoll  we are will help all the bees including the honey bees.  Honey bees have had a poor summer and some may have, or are,starving to death.   Hopefully the change in weather in August will save many of them..  My plot is busy with honey bees feasting on the bee flowers and other flowers I grow.  I am very happy to help these lovely creatures and to help them make the honey we enjoy. Next year on Hedgehog Way we will  provide another source of life support for them if they need it.

Many of the plants we put in will be designed to attract butterflies and provide shelter and food for their caterpillars.  The plants will also flourish on poor soil and not need to be given fertiliser.  Any soil we add will be organic compost from our bins.  We have one plastic compost bin  given to us already.  Which will be a safe place for slow warms to hibernate this winter.  the children want to paint it wthl  images of slow worms, and write information about these legless lizard.    

Everyone wanted a pond and as the Community Allotments have created a beautiful pond on one of their plots  they will be helping and guiding us to build one the knoll, which will be safe for animals and children.  I have been reading-about rain gardens.  Hopefully we will be able to get a water butt so we can fill the pond with rain water which will avoid the build up phosphates and nitrates in the pond which feed alga and bind weed..   Rain gardens seem a good idea after this years when after six months drought and hose pipe bans was followed by the parch ground being deluged with rain day after day and turning the soil into a bog.  I am interested in to looking more closely at this idea and may buy the book by Nigel Dunnett & Andy Claydein from Timber press but as it is £25 I might get it from the library.

We are also keen to build hedgehog and insects shelters with green roofs.  I have decided that  I will also build a green roof shelter for Pops by my shed to give her a place to be out of the sun and torrential rain.  Green roofs look lovely and are good at attracting wildlife and soak up some of the rain water.  They can withstand drought returning to life after rain fall. .

We have barely started clearing the knoll so once that is done we can sit down to plan the needs of our wild life, slow worms, lizards, hedgehogs, birds and all the variety of wild life found on a allotment site. We hopefully the enthusiasm of the group will continue and we can build a safe haven on Hedgehog Way and a place for children and adults to learn, to enjoy and value wild life here on the allotments and to create their own wild life area.  It would be wonderful if everyone looked to safequard  the wild life when they are working on their plots especially when using strimmers!  

With Reiki blessing to you,
and to all living creatures