Tag Archive: bug hotel


Old School Gardener

Hellebores one of a few winter flowers currently on show...

Hellebores one of a few winter flowers currently on show…

Old School Garden – 29th January 2016

Dear Walter,

I looked back at the letter I wrote you this time last year, just out of interest. Even though that letter (written from a snowy landscape), painted a picture of relative inactivity, I did at least have potatoes chitting and the first seeds germinated. Alas, even though the weather has been mild (if a bit wet) I seem to be way behind this year.

I do NOT have potatoes chitting (I’m waiting on my friend who’s ordered the seed potatoes this year) and I do NOT have seeds sprouting (I brought the propagators in yesterday along with the seed box for sorting through).

I am looking forward to seed sowing though. Apart from some interesting perennials I bought at a National Trust Garden in the summer, I’m waiting on my selection of seeds from the RHS Seed scheme. These, with early vegetables (I planned out this year’s crops for the Kitchen Garden before Christmas) will give me a lot of seed sowing and seedling potting activity in the coming weeks….

Apart from NOT doing the things I needed to, I HAVE done a few other garden related things. As you know, I’ve been constructing some cupboards in two alcoves in our entrance hall. I’m rather pleased with the result. I bought some solid oak cupboard doors and sourced some oak framing and tops from a local timber merchant (the smell of freshly cut oak in the car on the way home was delightful). These are now finished and being repopulated with photo albums, sewing machines and other stuff… and I’m pleased with the result, and not a little surprised at my own skill level (YouTube ‘How to’ videos are a wonderful invention).

One of two new cupboards I've been building from solid oak...

One of two new cupboards I’ve been building from solid oak…

Well, I was left with a few pieces of spare wood, and had begun making a key cabinet to also go in the entrance hall, but upon putting this together using glued dowels I discovered my skill level wasn’t quite up to that challenge and also concluded that the thickness of the wood looked out of place for such a small item….So, having abandoned that project I had a lightbulb moment and decided to adapt the three sided box I had into a ‘bug hotel’, with a focus on nesting places for solitary bees and the like. Here’s the result…

One Bug Hotel!

One Bug Hotel!

It is rather heavy, but certainly solid. I’ve used a selection of old canes, some willow plant support and an old bamboo window blind, cut to fit and jammed together. I’ll now need to finalise where to put it up. I gather it needs to be in a warm sunny spot at least a metre off the ground. I may try to fix this to the fruit fence in the Kitchen Garden; this is the place where effective pollination is especially important.

Oh, and I nearly forgot that I’ve tied in the summer raspberries – at last! I’ve pruned the apple trees and vine. I’ve also finally dug up the dahlias and apart from a little tuber rot, these seem to be OK, so they are currently drying off in the greenhouse and will be put into slightly damp, second hand compost shortly, to stay under cover until they are ready to plant out later in the season. I also dug up two Osteospermums and put these in pots inside, as I think they might be prone to dying off before the end of the winter if left outside.

I’m pleased to say that my new Garden Design Course, ‘Get More From Your Garden’ looks like it will run as I have achieved the minimum number needed to make it viable, so I’m looking forward to meeting this new group of people and using the wonderful venue at Blickling Hall to explore and develop their own design projects.

Deborah and I have followed your lead and joined our newly established, local U3A (‘University of the Third Age’) group in Aylsham. We went along to a fascinating talk about ‘PAT’ (Pets As Therapy) dogs yesterday, the ones used in schools to help shy children learn to read, as companions for older or disabled people and so on. I’ve also joined a new gardening group and met the dozen or so other people in the group last week for an initial get together to discuss what we want to achieve. It looks like this could include visiting each other’s gardens to discuss problems and ideas, swapping plants, visiting open gardens etc.

An ahhhh moment...

An ahhhh moment…

So, I look back. And whilst I’m behind in some garden-related things, hopefully there’s still time to catch up (especially with the seed sowing). I’m pleased to hear that your new terrace has been laid and look forward to seeing it when we visit you and Lise at Easter. No doubt you’ll be planting up the pockets you left amongst the paving soon?

all the best for now,

Old School Gardener

 

 

Peter and Ed spreading shredded bark in the new 'Bug Village'

Peter and Ed spreading shredded bark in the new ‘Bug Village’

Apologies for the title, but I couldn’t resist it. I guess a more serious alternative would be ‘weaving and strewing’!

So my latest session at Blickling Hall involved working with fellow volunteer Peter and Gardener Ed on a new project in part of the Dell Garden; this is an area that’s looked a little neglected for some time and it was good to see some work to create something different.

This was a really fun, creative day as we helped Ed work up his idea of creating a ‘Bug Village’ of different insect hotels/habitats (with fun historical references to Blickling’s owners) in a largely shady and overgrown spot.

Ed had already done some clearing of the ground and had in his mind a rough layout. We started by continuing the hazel pea stick fence he’d begun which provides a really effective, simple, permeable barrier through which you can see into different parts of the area. These sticks are harvested every year from the Estate and put to use to support climbers and vegetables of various sorts. Peter hammered in a metal fence post to create holes about 6″ apart and I pushed home the sticks and wove them together.

After this we collected several loads of shredded bark and strew these over the areas where the bug hotels were to go- a mixture of different types of habitat and mixed in with some impressive stumps and enormous slices of chestnut tree felled elsewhere in the estate and, as Ed said ‘no good for firewood’. It was great ‘designing on the hoof’ with Ed and Peter, creating bays and spots where different elements of the layout could be best fitted in.

In particular there is an elevated spot overlooking the rest of the space which would make a wonderful spot for a seat, and Ed had already identified a wonderful piece of timber- a half round slice of Oak, I think, which would make the perfect base for this. We also helped to gather smaller edging logs which further helped to define the space and again filled in around and shrubs trees with more shredded bark.

On the way...

On the way…

It will be great to see how Ed progresses this in the coming weeks and what visitors think of this new feature- created from recycled materials from around the Estate.

 Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

ornamental bug hotels

I love these ornamental bug hotels!

Old School Gardener

I featured a range of ‘hotels for the discerning’ earlier this year, and here are a few more ideas for desirable residences for the bugs you want in your garden.

Old School Gardener

Hotels for the Discerning #5

5 star comfort

Old School Gardener

Hotels for the Discerning #4

Multi Storey hotel

Old School Gardener

Hotels for the Discerning #3

Bug Havens a plenty

Old School Gardener

Hotels for the Discerning #2

Royal Horticultural Society – School Gardening Bug Hotel

Old School Gardener

nWh
A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

Most gardens play an important part in promoting biodiversity and maintaining ecosystems – vital if we are to have a sustainable planet. You might want to further enhance your garden’s ecological value, or perhaps promote wildlife to help pollinate plants (important if you want to gather your own seed and/or are growing your own food) and to help control unwanted pests.

Promoting wildlife is also a way or enriching the garden experience – just think about birdsong, the buzzing and gentle flitting of bees from flower to flower, the colourful displays of butterflies and the fascinating movements of the myriad insects and other ‘critters’ out there! So how can you ‘design’ wildlife into your garden and gardening activities?

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

First it’s important to recognise that you and your friends and family are also going to use the garden, so there’s no need to ‘go completely wild’ and make it unpleasant or difficult for humans to use the garden. In fact the best designed and managed gardens (and often the most beautiful) can also be the best for wildlife. These are the places where nature has not been allowed to take over.

You can ‘tip the balance in favour of wildlife’ in a number of ways. If you have a large garden you can adopt a ‘conservation’ approach and set out separate areas to attract and support different types of wildlife. If your garden is smaller, you can provide a range of features for the wildlife species you want to encourage. This approach is especially important if you want to actively harness nature to control pests.

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

So what can you do?

  • Create habitats that mimic those in nature and complement the local range outside the garden

  • Provide natural shelter, nesting, food and drink –  important as ‘stopping off’ points for temporary visitors to your garden as well as for longer term residents

  • Aim to increase diversity- and recognise that this is going to be a gradual process

  • Build in some key features, such as…..

Climbign planst like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

Climbing plants like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

  1. Native plants- these act as a host to many more species than non native plants

  2. Wildflowers, grasses, weeds- these attract butterflies and many other insects. Nettles are important hosts for species that aid a healthy garden; butterflies and ladybirds. Maybe you can grow these in a container if you don’t have the space to leave patch in the garden?

  3. Nectar and pollen rich flowering plants- these  feed butterflies, bees, hoverflies etc.- which in turn attract birds

  4. Trees, flowering and fruiting shrubs- these provide food and shelter for birds

  5. Climbing plants- they provide food and cover for birds and food for insects and butterflies. Examples include Ivy, honeysuckle, quince, wisteria, clematis..

  6. Hedges- these give food and shelter for wildlife (e.g hedgehogs, voles and shrews), food and nesting for birds- where it’s practical choose to install a hedge rather than a fence

  7. Water- a pond brings masses of creatures to drink as well as attracting resident pond life

  8. Wood piles – insects colonise the decaying wood, attracting spiders and birds; beetles lay grubs; toads and hedgehogs hibernate underneath; slow worms use it as home (and these prey on slugs)

  9. Compost heap – provides both food for the soil and home for minute insects and other ‘mini beasts’ which feed birds, hedgehogs, toads. It also acts as a possible nesting place for hedgehogs, toads and slow worms.

  10. Bird and Bat boxes, tables, feeders and baths- put these up in secluded and sheltered spots out of full sun – and out of the reach of cats! Birds need extra food in winter. provide a range of foods according to the species you want to attract. Birds need to drink and bathe to keep their plumage in good order- even in winter, so keep birdbaths unfrozen

  11. Stones and walls- toads, newts and female frogs usually spend winter on land, under rockery stones (or in a log pile). Beetles, spiders, insects live in nooks and crannies

  12. Bug hotels’ can provide a ‘man made’ substitute for the above, and are good fun to make with children.

'Bug Hotels' can provide a 'Des Res' for many insects and other critters

‘Bug Hotels’ can provide a ‘Des Res’ for many insects and other critters

Further information: A range of useful wildlife gardening guides

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