Wildflower Walk in May

Hosehill Lake

This is a lakeside walk suitable for any time of year but I enjoyed this easy circular walk in mid May. Dogs are permitted but there are signs asking for dogs to be kept under control to prevent them disturbing the nesting birds. This is a popular nature reserve for those bird watchers, particularly, wetland birds. It also boasts a wildflower meadow. The site is managed by
Bucks, Berks and Oxon Wildlife Trust. https://www.bbowt.org.uk/nature-reserves/hosehill-lake

Hosehill Lake information board
Hosehill Lake information board near the entrance.

Bird Sanctuary

As mentioned, this nature reserve is also a thriving bird sanctuary. You will spot many bird boxes in the trees as well as viewing platforms and bird hides around the lake. This place is popular with local bird twitchers
www.berksbirds.co.uk/, dog walkers,who may also appreciate the local dog friendly pub, www.foxandhoundstheale.co.uk/ and ramblers.
www.ramblers.org.uk/berkshire

Lakeside Views

The views across the lake are stunning with plenty of variety. This gentle walk certainly encourages a sense of mental wellbeing, with its small beaches and the gentle waves lapping the shores. There are also plenty of reed beds rustling with wildlife. Fortunately there are also many viewing platforms and rustic seats dotted around the lake’s edge from which to enjoy these beautiful peaceful views. If you want to spot the wide variety waterfowl, then a good pair of binoculars will prove very useful.

Wildflower Meadow

To the east and south of the lake the land is reserved as meadow. The eastern meadow is cut and then grazed by wild Exmoor ponies for a short period in the spring and autumn. In the southern meadow there is a butterfly bank. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosehill_Lake

More Wildflowers

The wildflower meadow to the east of the lake is a visual treat with its abundance of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer months. After that it is cut and then grazed by Exmoor ponies.

Conclusion

narrow bridge
narrow bridge

This wildflower walk in May will take you along a mixture of grass and surfaced paths. Whilst fairly flat around northern part of the lake the paths become more undulating to south. This makes it tricky for pushchairs or buggies unless they are the off road variety. The narrow bridges do add charm to the walk. Some of the paths can be muddy in winter. The walk is approximately one mile, but can easily take up to one hour at a slow pace as there are many interesting places to stop and enjoy the views.

Happy Wildflower hunting in May.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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Spring Walks-2

Binfield Heath

If you love a bluebell walk as I do, then late April is most likely to be the best time for this walk. This is an easy 4-mile circular walk across farmland and through woodland. We tried it in mid-April and saw plenty of bluebells but they were not yet at their best.

bluebells
Hybrid Bluebells

We actually saw the first bluebells at the edge of the car park near the recreation ground in Binfield Heath. http://www.binfieldheath.org.uk/ Although these were the hybrid type, more upright and unperfumed. Not our native bluebells which tend to droop to one side with their familiar and lovely perfume.

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants-and-fungi/woodland-wildflowers/identify-native-bluebell/

Car park at the end of Kings Common Close, Binfield Heath.
Car park at the end of Kings Common Close, Binfield Heath.

After crossing the recreation ground we turned right and just before the post office stores ( here we bought a nice cup of coffee while waiting for our friends to arrive), and then turned right along Heathfield Avenue. We turned left down a narrow hedged path and crossed the road at the end, continuing straight to enter a field with fine views over the rolling countryside.

path across agricultural field
Path across agricultural field

High Wood

We followed the well-trodden track and into the next field where there was a gap in the hedge leading into a woodland. This is the steepest part of the walk but its only a short section. At the top, we emerged from the wood to go across another field into High Wood. This is where we found plenty of English bluebells in early bloom and now we really started to enjoy this bluebell walk, even though we were a little early for the best display.

We passed an archaeological site on our left where apparently a Roman building is believed to have been sited.
https://www.henleystandard.co.uk/news/community/98834/could-roman-temple-be-buried-in-woods.html

At the far end of the path through High Wood, we continued down a drive and then along the roadway, turning left across a track opposite a house called Little Spinneys to reach another beautiful woodland path through Shiplake Woods.
https://getoutside.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/local/shiplake-woods-south-oxfordshire

Then along a broad grassy track, eventually turning right at the end up a lane towards a large property situated behind a field of oilseed rape. After passing the house on the right-hand side, we made a sharp left turn to walk along the edge of a field, turning right at the end and walking along the roadside (there is a path up some steps for part of the way). Along these tracks and paths, I saw plenty of common wildflowers including Borage, Forget-me-nots and Speedwell as well as those shown here.

Wildflowers

We turned right just before Teapot cottage, through two fields, going between the houses at the end to reach the gravel roadway which returned us to the recreation field car park. For refreshments, we enjoyed the Bottle and Glass Inn which we found very dog-friendly. The food is excellent but it is probably best to book a table.

bottle and glass inn
Bottle and Glass Inn

Conclusion

This is a lovely part of the local area. So many different paths can be explored. The best map to find other paths is probably the OS Explorer 159 Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne.
https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/shop/explorer-map-reading.html

It is a lovely part of the world to explore at any time of year but if you manage to go in late April or early May then I hope you enjoy your bluebell walk.

Happy Wildflower hunting in April.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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Spring Walks

Waterside Walk in Spring

This is a fairly easy linear walk starting at Whitchurch-on-Thames and ending at Goring-on-Thames where there is a station and the trains run regularly back to Pangbourne, near the start of the walk. It is a popular walking route particularly along the Thames Path stretch and also makes a great walk for dogs although it is not suitable for buggies. There are just a couple of short steep ascents/descents but most of the walk is flat and easy.

Whitchurch-on-Thames

We parked near the Dolphin Activity centre in Whitchurch-on-Thames
https://adventuredolphin.co.uk/ and walked across the road over the Whitchurch Bridge noticing the breathtaking views high above the River Thames on either side. This was a great start to our walk. https://whitchurchonthames.com

Whitchurch Toll Bridge

whitchurch toll bridge
Whitchurch Toll Bridge

Continuing past the toll gate and along the High street in Whitchurch, we passed the Ferryboat Inn on our right-hand side and a little further along was St. Mary’s church on the left. Both of these places looked like they would be worth further exploration. The Greyhound Inn was not much further along on the right-hand side but we continued up the road through the high street, past the Modern Artists Gallery. Another time, I must stop and browse.http://www.modernartistsgallery.com/ . The High Street continues bearing left and going uphill but we had to take care as the pavement runs out although after passing a flintstone wall we took a sharp left-hand turn onto Harts lock Bridleway. https://whitchurchonthames.com/about.html

The Hartley Steps

We followed this path which includes a steep descent and equivalent ascent. But this part of the path was made much easier by the construction of some helpful steps.
h

The Hartley Steps
The Hartley Steps

Continuing on, eventually, a signpost indicated the Thames Path,
https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/thames-path/route/goring-pangbourne taking us across the fields which were straight ahead. This path soon arrived at the river. This part of the walk is very peaceful and the path continues along hugging the riverbank.

Along the Thames

Wildflowers

Eventually, the path began to drift towards the right and away from the river but before long we found a sharp left turn, signposted Thames Path which took us back alongside the river adjacent to a wonderful wildflower meadow.

Wildflower Meadow beside the Thames

Goring-on-Thames

We finished our walk by taking a sharp righthand turn towards a roadway just before the train line ahead. Then we continued up Manor road into Goring https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goring-on-Thames

In Goring, there are several good pubs.
https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g1046995-Goring_on_Thames_Oxfordshire_England.html We stopped at the cosy Catherine Wheel as we had half an hour to wait before catching a train from Goring and Streatley station back to Pangbourne.
https://www.gwr.com/plan-journey/stations-and-routes/goring-and-streatley

At the station garden, I spotted this ladybird enjoying the forget-me-nots. From Pangbourne station, it is just a few minutes walk back to the Dolphin Activity Centre carpark.

ladybird on forget me not
ladybird on forget me not

Conclusion

This walk took us about 2 and a half hours at a leisurely pace. The trains run at approx. every half an hour https://www.thetrainline.com/ and the journey only take 5 minutes to returning to Pangbourne. I am looking forward to repeating this walk again and taking more time to explore the towns of Whitchurch and Goring.

Happy Wildflower hunting in March.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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Winter walks

Riverside Walk in December

The mild weather this month has made for great walking.  Good boots, preferably proper walking wellies are essential as the ground almost everywhere is soggy and muddy at this time of year. An easy flat walk, there and back along the River Lodden was a relaxing way to end the December after all the festivities.

Sandford Lane to Whistley Mill

Taking the footpath from the layby about three quarters along Sandford Lane – on the right-hand side (when entering from Davis Street). I was hopeful about seeing some wildflowers, but this was not a great place for them. Nevertheless, this walk provides lots of interesting things to see.

Alder Trees

The first thing I noticed were these dark, reddish catkins. Less common than the frequently seen, golden catkins in this area, I checked their type when I returned home https://www.countryfile.com/wildlife/trees-plants/how-to-identify-catkins/ and found that they are Alder catkins ‘Longer, more knobbly and darker than hazel, these are the first catkins to shed pollen in spring. They’re carried on the tips of twigs, often alongside clusters of tiny red-tipped female flowers.’ The Alder is a lovely native British tree. https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/alder/

Lavell’s Lake

Not far along the muddy path, a green metal bridge can be seen and on the right-hand side just before is an old wooden sign, informing visitors of a conservation area, which is fenced off with wire to keep the public out. Not much further along and a bird hide entrance is signposted but locked, only accessible for permit holders. But it becomes clear that is a nature reserve for waterfowl.  Cormorant and other birds can be seen from the path, through the bare twigs of the winter hedge that follows the edge of Lavell’s lake. Further along and more signage reminds visitors about the private nature of the reserve.

http://www.wokingham.gov.uk/countryside-parks-and-conservation/country-parks/lavells-lake-nature-reserve/

River Lodden

Continuing along the well-marked path alongside the River Lodden, plenty of crack willow trees can be seen. Mallard duck and Tufted ducks are also enjoying the river and on the other side, flocks of Canadian geese can be seen in the fields and further along more plentiful flocks can be found- this time they are grazing sheep.

More Wildlife

Continue past the disused iron bridge on the left and keep your eyes on the ground to see some good examples of bracket fungus, growing on the dead, damp wood. The familiar golden catkins of hazel are also growing along this stretch and the river swirls gently downstream.

Finally, reaching the road at Whistley Mill, Lane in Hurst. This stretch and the lake at Whistley Mill are both very popular with anglers who boast of catching carp, bream, rudd, and roach. https://www.rdaa.co.uk/lakes 

Turn around to retrace your steps along the path, to the layby at Sandford Lane.

Conclusion

This pleasant walk will take about an hour and a half at a very gentle pace. If you want to extend it, then cross the road to find yourself at the edge of Dinton Pastures Country Park where you can walk around Sandford Lake, White Swan Lake and Black Swan Lake.  There is also an activity centre and a coffee shop on this site.

River Lodden
Autumn leaves provide ground cover beside the River Lodden.

Happy Wildflower hunting in December and January.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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November Wildflowers

November Wildflowers

Although wildflowers are fewer and farther between in the winter months., that just makes finding them even more exciting. The milder Autumn weather that we are enjoying this year has extended the wildflower season for some hardy species. Here is a November round-up of wildflowers seen around the Bracknell/Reading area.

Sulham Gap

November Wildflowers
Wild radish flourishes at Sulham.

Sulham Woods is a really popular dog walking area, just beyond Tilehurst. The whole area is criss-crossed with footpaths.  The woods slope down westwards towards the valley of Sulham Brook and the River Pang, which flow side-by-side from south to north. There are woodland and copses throughout the area, on the high ground and also on the slopes and lower down in the valley. The woodlands are interspersed with fields and open grassy stretches of countryside. In these open areas, where the winter sunlight still warms the ground, it is not too difficult to find November wildflowers.

Wild radish grows abundantly across the fields between the woods.  Both  the white and yellow varieties are plentiful here. Wild radish is edible and grows to  a metre tall.  It has dark green, deeply lobed leaves and the roots are white, long and slender with a tough outer core. Peel before eating.

Tall Melilot, November Wildflowers

Tall Melilot also grows here but there are only a few plants still flowering in November. The stems grow about up to 1.5 metres. The main stem is strongly ridged and the bright yellow, pea-like flowers grow along the smaller branch-like stems.

Swinley Forest

Swinley Forest
Swinley Forest

In the open spaces at  Swinley Forest, Bracknell there are plenty of November wildflowers to be found. The woodland is part of the Crown Estate,  stretching over 2,600 acres from Bracknell to Crowthorne. The Look Out is based at the edge of Swinley Forest and is a popular place to begin exploring the area.

Bracken.

Today, Swinley Forest is mainly comprised of Scots pine trees. Among the trees bracken,  covers much of the ground and is one of the most common British ferns.  Dying back in the Autumn,  bracken turns orange and brown during Winter months.

Red Dead Nettle.

red dead nettle November Wildflowers

Red dead nettle can still be seen here in November. The leaves are aromatic, hairy and heart-shaped with toothed edges. Some leaves near the top of the plant have a lovely purple tint.

Common Field Speedwell.

Common field speedwell November Wildflowers

Common field speedwell is a low, short and sprawling plant with branched stems and hairy leaves.  Growing throughout the year in cultivated grounds, gardens, and arable fields. The pretty, blue flowers of the common field speedwell are widely seen throughout Britain.

Lesser Hawkbit

Lesser hawkbit, November Wildflowers

Lesser hawkbit is a short, slightly hairy plant without leaves or leaf-like bracts on the stem. Lesser hawkbit grows in grassy places and it particularly likes sandy or chalky soils. The best months to see Lesser hawkbit flowering are from June to October.

Happy Wildflower hunting in November.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

Tips for Photographing Wildflowers

Wildflower Photography Tips:-

Wildflower photographs

for the non-photographer.

If you don’t have a  camera or just didn’t bring it with you when you spot a wonderful wildflower, you can still take some great photos using a mobile phone camera. These wildflower photography tips will help you.

Scabious Wildfower photography

Sharper images.

Our eyes are always drawn to the sharpest part of an image so consider carefully which part of the wildflower you want to be in focus.

Using a tripod is always helpful but they take time to set up. Shoot lots and lots of photographs because wildflowers are often so gentle that the slightest breeze sends the flowers bouncing and bobbing. Try to protect them from the wind, using your own body or get a friend to hold your jacket as a shield. This can be difficult and also sometimes means that the lighting direction becomes spoilt by your own shadow.  You can always try to capture the flower in between the movements of the wind. Again, you will need to shoot lots and lots to stand the best chance of a sharp result.

Background wildflower photography

Best backgrounds.

A good background is essential because it helps to draw attention to the main subject of the flower. Often the best backgrounds are:-

1) a strong contrast colour from the flower

2) smooth and seamless

3) out of focus

You may need to look around to find the best bloom that with a background made up of one smooth colour which contrasts well with the flower. To get the out of focus background without the use of any specialist equipment or lenses, you simply need to maximise the distance between the flower and the background.

wildflower photography

Creating flower portraits.

The perspective you choose when you take your photograph makes a big difference. If you stand directly above the flower (the most natural angle in many ways) you will be looking down on the flower and this psychologically diminishes feelings of friendliness. To create a more intimate and friendly feeling it will help to make the viewpoint eye to eye. This may mean lying down on wet grass or other unpleasant surfaces, but the results will be worth it.

leave no trace

Leaving no trace.

Be careful where you step. Stick to paths where possible.

Clean away seeds from your shoes and backpack before and after your hike. To help prevent the spread of invasive species.

Only clear dead vegetation from your backgrounds. Don’t remove anything that’s growing no matter how tempting.

Leaving no trace ensures that the next visitor can enjoy the same experience but importantly it greatly increases the chances for wildflowers to return again next year.

wildflower photographs

Make identification easier.

One of the most rewarding aspects of wildflower photography is learning how to identify them. When we can place a name on something, we feel more connected to it. To help with this process, take photographs from lots of different angles. Take photographs of the leaves, both the stem leaves and basal leaves as these may be different shapes or sizes. See how the leaves attach themselves to the stem, e.g. some will have stalks, some will clasp the stem. They may be arranged in directly opposite sides of the stem or be alternately placed on the stem. Look to see whether the stem or leaves have any hairs on them. If there are seed heads, photograph these for reference also as their shape and size are likely to prove important. All these details can help as you look through any wildflower guidebook. When you have identified your flower then label your photograph. If you are not sure what it is, then consider its specific location as that can also provide important clues. If you are stuck and would like some friendly help you can try posting it on #wildflowerhour  onTwitter. Lots of keen experts are online between 8.00p.m. and 9.00p.m. on Sunday evenings to help if they can.  I recommend posting your photos, alongside the question:- Can anyone help with ID? Don’t forget the hashtag #wildflowerhour.

Conclusion.

I hope these simple wildflower photography tips will encourage you to capture the next beautiful or interesting wildflower that you see. Go on, give it a try.

****************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

Why are wildflowers important?

WHY ARE WILDFLOWERS IMPORTANT?

Thyme Why are wildflowers important?

We find it relatively easy to feel passionate about some of the miserable experiences and conditions that humankind suffers all over the world. We get upset about many injustices and tragedies. In addition, we can feel distressed about the suffering or the threats to the survival of animals in the world.

But we can quite understandably overlook the predicament of wildflowers – This is easy to do, particularly because not many people even realise why they are important. But this may mean we are sleepwalking into a disaster for the world.

All plants play a vital role on our planet: – here are some of the many reasons why.

 

red planet Why are wildflowers important?

Beautiful landscapes and human wellbeing are closely linked.

Can you imagine how the earth may look if there were no plants?  Currently, forests, meadows, highlands, and lowlands are filled with diverse vegetation which beautifies those landscapes.

tree Why are wildflowers important?

Improving Air Quality.

Wildflowers help the air quality of our planet.  Plants take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen by a process called photosynthesis.  Having plenty of vegetation around ensures we have enough clean air to breathe as it goes through this filtering process.

Waterscape Why are wildflowers important?

Improving Water Quality.

Plants play an important role in the quality of our water.  When water passes through plants and vegetation it is filtered by them. This removes many pollutants. Plants also increase water clarity as they reducing soil erosion. Plant roots can help to hold the soil, sand, and gravel beneath them in their place.

Improving the Weather.

Plants also influence our weather.  Having plenty of trees and plants including wildflowers can moderate climates.  Many droughts happen in places that are devoid of vegetation. Areas without forests record more droughts than elsewhere.

Weather Why are wildflowers important?

Conclusions.

In our town and cities, we may find wildflowers, deliberately planted along the roadsides and verges.  By understanding the reasons why this is a good idea, we can encourage and support to ensure this practice continues and develops more widely.

We can all do our bit to help further as by planting wildflowers in your own garden or windowbox as in this way both plant and animal diversity is increased. Wildflowers also help wildlife, giving them a place to hide and stay. They are a good, natural food source for many insects, birds, and animals.  In turn, these creatures will pollinate the plants and eat them. Helping to spread seeds by dispersing them naturally.

Happy Wildflower Gardening!

****************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

Where have all the wildflowers gone?

Where have all the wildflowers gone?

meadow saffron
Meadow Saffron is rare in Northamptonshire.

Wildflowers are becoming extinct at the rate of nearly one hundred per year according to a report from Plantlife.

WHY IS THIS? Here is the first in a series of articles  exploring the many different reasons.

Increased Development 

houses

All development whether located in rural or urban areas will have some wildflower or habitat interest.

countryside

Habitat loss cannot be avoided when land is converted from its natural state into a developed one. All wildflowers require certain habitat features to survive and a diverse population depends upon the natural ecosystems that are found in undeveloped areas. Some species are able to survive in urban settings and these may thrive, but the rest will die.

road
Habitat Fragmentation is a process whereby large tracts of the natural landscape are gradually subdivided until only patches of original habitat remain. These patches may be too small or far apart to support the survival of their original plant species. Generally, road development is responsible for this type of fragmentation. In the end, fewer plant species is usually the result even if the total amount of habitat is the same as the original amount.

Landscape disturbance problems also include compaction of soil and effects to the water content of the soil, resulting in the loss of species due to changes in habitat type.

bell-heather
Bell Heather is rare in Middlesex.

In addition, development can easily introduce invasive species, which will kill off less hardy, native wildflowers.

The next post in this series Where have all the wildflowers gone? will examine farming and the use of herbicides.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

Organic gardening

Organic gardening is easier than you might think. You can have an attractive and productive garden without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

compost
Compost

Make your own compost.

Natural fertilizer can be made from garden waste and scraps from the kitchen. It is good to include vegetable peelings, fruit waste, tea bags, plant prunings and grass cuttings. Cardboard egg boxes scrunched up paper and fallen leaves can also be included although these break down more slowly but will help the mixture. Crushed eggshells can add useful minerals to the mix. Don’t include any perennial weeds such as dandelions and thistles or weeds with seed heads.

Air can also be added by mixing the contents. Turning your compost helps to aerate and mix up the waste and cuttings, which leads to faster composting.

Either build a compost heap or try a compost bin. These are particularly useful for smaller gardens. Add some worms as they will digest the waste material and convert it into liquid compost.

When your compost is ready it will be a dark brown soil-like layer at the bottom of your bin. It should have a spongy texture. Spreading this into your flowerbeds improves the soil quality, helps it retain moisture and suppresses weeds. It also reduces the need to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Find out more about organic composting from the Eden Project.

Encourage insect and slug eating creatures.

hedgehog
Hedgehog

Wildlife gardeners friends are frogs and toads, bird, bats and hedgehogs because they eat insects and slugs. Ladybirds, lacewings, and hoverflies feed on aphids. Encourage the right sort of wildlife by providing wildlife shelters such as rotting logs in a corner to make a home for hedgehogs and insects.  Leaving overgrown areas to provide places for animals, to rest or hibernate. Putting up bird and bat boxes will also help. Find out more from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Adapt natural processes to enrich your soil.

Work in 4 inches of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost and add at least another 2 inches per year. Mulch around your plants with leaves, wood chips, bark, hay or straw. this helps the soil to retain moisture. Find out more about this at Gardeners.com

Finally, only use pesticides as a last resort.

Pesticides can kill the wildlife you want to attract to your garden, including the predators that eat pests. If you really feel the need to use them, always follow the instructions on the label and dispose of waste products carefully. Don’t pour them down the drain or put them in your household waste bin. Be especially careful to make sure pesticides or other hazardous chemicals don’t get into ponds, as they can poison water life.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

Encourage Wild Bees

WILD BEES such as bumblebees and solitary bees are facing rapid decline.  Although it’s good to know that a few simple steps (see below*) that could encourage wild bees to thrive in your garden.

macro of bee and pollen

We are increasingly aware of the reduction in our wild bee population and realising the impact of this on many important food crops like apples, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, and green beans. About 84% of all our crop and 80% of wildflowers depend upon insect pollination.

Bee on potato blossoms

Some of the reasons for the reduction in our wild bees include the loss of so many plant species. This is partially linked to the use of herbicides and insecticides.  Also, bees need a wide range of landscapes to find their food and shelter. Landscape diversity has been depleted and bees have suffered particularly due to the loss of wildflower meadows, we have lost the vast majority of our ancient wildflower meadows between the years of 1930 1980, and their abundance of nectar-rich flowers.

*There is still a huge amount that gardeners can do to help counteract this loss and these measures will help to increase our population of wild bees.

Bee and ivy flowers.

  • Include nectar and pollen-rich flowers for every season. Some easy perennials include Lungwort and Geranium in Spring-time. Foxgloves and Ice- plants offer nectar in the Summer months. Whilst Fuchsia and Common Ivy are useful in the Autumn and Shrubby Honeysuckle is a good choice for Winter.

 

Bees nest to encourage wild bees

 

  • Create simple nesting sites using bricks, bamboo canes, or by drilling holes in wooden blocks.

 

 

  • Leave some grass uncut when you mow the lawn. Both long and short grass provide good nesting sites and will encourage different wild bees.

Dew on grass

Bees drinking from bird bath

  • Provide a water source. If not a pond, a birdbath or even a pot sunken into the ground offers a welcome drink for wild bees.

 

SUMMARY:-

Just a few simple steps can make a difference to the bee population, providing a fantastic habitat for a wide range of species throughout the year.

For more ideas about nectar and pollen-rich flowers for your garden, take a look at rhs.org.uk/perfectforpollinators

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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