Wildlife Garden Maintenance in April

Spring has arrived and with luck you may see the first swallows and house martins in your area.  Many spring wildflowers are blooming this month including cowslips, fritillaries and ladyís smock.  Birds could be feeding early nestlings, so look out for blue tits or great tits taking insects into nest boxes for their young.  They will still visit your bird feeders for their own food from time to time to keep their energy levels up at this busy time.  Young fledged blackbirds could be out of the nest.  April is a great month to get out and observe wildlife and the many changes occurring now.

If you donít have a pond, April isn't too late to consider making even a tiny one.  Most aquatic plants donít start to grow until the weather warms up, so they are not available in Garden Centres earlier than this. More information about making ponds and bog gardens is available elsewhere on this website. If you have a bird bath, keep it topped up with clean water daily.

Toads should be spawning, and if you do have a new pond you may be tempted to import spawn from other sources.  It is far better to be patient and wait for frogs, toads and newts to find your pond of their own accord.  Moving spawn from one pond to another is a major cause of the spread of disease amongst amphibians and should never be considered.  You may on the other hand feel you have too much spawn.  Again there is no need to take spawn elsewhere.  Tadpoles have many predators and the excessive numbers will soon disappear naturally.

As young birds leave their nests, watch out for domestic cats.  Some cats, especially as they get older, give up hunting but an efficient hunter may decimate the population of young birds in your garden. If you own a cat, fit a bell or an electronic warning device on its collar.

If you have a summer meadow in the garden it can be given one last cut month along with lawn areas if nothing is flowering yet. This helps to keep the grass a little under control and can prevent it from getting long and straggly early in the summer.  Donít do this if your meadow contains any spring flowering species such as cowslips.

This can be a peak time for goldfinches in gardens.  They will flock to a feeder full of nyjer seed so make sure your feeders are well topped up.  For other birds, use a good quality seed mixture containing plenty of sunflower hearts, fat blocks and peanuts in hanging feeders through the spring and summer.  These are high energy foods which birds appreciate at this time of great activity.

Now spring has arrived all sorts of wildlife friendly plants can be added to the garden, although perennials are best planted in the autumn to allow them to establish while the weather is wet.  Be prepared to mulch and water if you plant them now.  Climbers can also be planted this month.  They will need careful attention in dry weather especially if they are planted against a wall.

As long as the weather is reasonable, you can think about sowing hardy annuals early this month.  These can be sown directly into spaces in borders or on the allotment or in containers.  English marigold is a good choice, being easy to grow and a good bee attractant.  Other good wildlife attracting plants are recommended elsewhere on this website.

© Text and photographs Jenny Steel 2017