With many of us spending more time at home to protect ourselves and others, we want to show you that there are some positives for anyone self-isolating. If you’re up to date on the current advice, then taking a break from the news channel can surely bring some perspective and a relief from anxiety.
So, what better time is there than this to think about the wildlife in our gardens? If you’re sat at your home office desk, or spending time in bed resting and recovering, one of the best things you can do for your mental health is to look out the window. And once you start looking, you start noticing!
What can I do in my garden for wildlife if I am self-isolating?
March is the perfect month to be out and about in the garden. If you are self-isolating, then the Government recommends you still get some exercise and fresh air if possible, whilst ensuring you don’t come into close contact with anyone. What better way to achieve this than through your very own self-contained exercise yard…your garden. In fact, did you know you can burn around 300 calories an hour doing gardening.
We’re not talking about pulling up weeds and raking beds. We want to encourage each and every one of us to think about how we can attract and look after wildlife in our gardens. And that means messing them up a bit, rather than tidying them up.
Here are our top ten tips for a wildlife friendly garden this spring:
Leave out nesting material
Have a look around your house, shed or local wild areas to find suitable nesting materials for those birds which might start to nest soon; including robins, sparrows and blackbirds. You could even make a game of it with your children. Cat hair is a particularly good one, especially as your pets will be moulting soon and glad of the grooming brush! But you could also collate moss and small twigs and leave it near your feeders. If you don’t have a nestbox, it’s not too late to put one up.
Put out fox food
Between March and May, female foxes give birth to an average of four to five cubs. These baby foxes are blind and deaf when born. You should feed foxes regularly in a quiet corner of your garden, at the same time just before dusk, and always leave out a dish of water too. In the wild they eat rabbits and field voles as well as worms and beetles. If you don’t want to buy specific food, then you can leave out tinned dog food, peanuts, fruit and cheese
And feed the hedgehogs
Hedgehogs also come out of hibernation as the weather warms up. You can leave out hedgehog food and fresh water (never feed them milk). If you have pets which use your garden, you might want to consider leaving the food and water inside a hedgehog house for extra protection. Or you could build a log pile structure for them to shelter and eat inside comfortably.
Get solitary bee houses back out and up
Solitary bee eggs will also begin to hatch as the sun warms up. Whether you took the cocoons out in winter and have them stored safely in your fridge, or you just popped your whole bee house somewhere sheltered, now is the time to bring it back outside. As the weather warms, the new baby bees will emerge looking to mate and lay their own eggs. It’s fascinating to watch them in action.
Learn species identification
The more you know about what is visiting your garden, the more you will learn about how to look after each specific species. This knowledge will help you with understanding how and when you can spot wildlife more easily. You could even consider trying to film some on your mobile phone or a wildlife camera. Or perhaps get creative with timelapse photography – filming flowers early in the morning as they open is particularly beautiful.
Plant bulbs for wildlife this summer
March is the right time to plant bulbs in your garden if you want a summer full of the colours and smells which attract pollinators. It’s all about timing. You want your bulbs to bloom at the same time as your garden is buzzing with visitors. Planting in March will give you summer flowering plants. Even if you have a small garden, a couple of pots filled with flowers is enough to attract the wildlife.
Record the dawn chorus
If the weather is looking sunny, set the alarm and head out in the garden before anyone else is up. You can either simply sit and listen. Noting the different natural alarm calls around you. Or you could take your phone or camera with you and record it. Watching the video back and listening to the sounds is a lovely way to meditate, especially if you are feeling unwell.
Clean bird feeders
The birds are beginning to flock to our feeders. It’s incredibly important to ensure you don’t leave huge handfuls of seed and nuts on them for days on end. It’s much better to top them up daily with small amounts of new food whilst at the same time cleaning each feeder with some hot water and environmentally friendly washing up liquid each week. We’re washing our hands lots, so let’s extend this service to our garden birds!
Don’t mow the lawn!
It may be looking a little long and unkempt, but your lawn will also be full of dandelions and daisies. That’s because these flower much earlier than the other plants and bulbs in your garden. And that means they’re an excellent source of nectar and pollen for early bees and butterflies.
Build a log or rock pile
If you have a pond, you may have noticed clusters of frogspawn appearing of late. Tadpoles should develop after a few weeks. Log and rock piles offer shelter for toads and frogs during the mating season. If you don’t have a pond you could think about investing in one, or sink a bowl, similar to a washing up bowl, half way into the ground and place one of our Frogilos inside. Make sure you add some rocks and stones so that the frogs and toads can easily get in and out again.