Wildlife Garden Maintenance in July


July can one of the quietest months from the point of view of garden birds, as some are moulting and many of those that have bred are with their young feeding in the countryside. But this is one of the best months for insects, especially butterflies.  The average garden, where a few good nectar plants have been provided, could have 15 or more species this month.  This is because some of our best butterfly nectar plants are flowering now Ė the non-native Buddleia and wildflowers including knapweed, field scabious and wild marjoram.  In some areas bats may be very evident, and there will be several different bumblebee species around.


Keep a close check on your pond this month as lack of rain may cause the water level to drop rapidly.  You may also find that blanket weed becomes a problem.  This can be carefully removed by hand, or a bundle or woven pad of barley straw dropped into the deepest part may help to reduce the problem.  Look out for these in garden centres, but check that the pads are chemicals-free. Prevention is better than cure though and having plenty of plants with floating leaves, including duckweed, will help to prevent algae problems.


Algal blooms, where the pond water becomes completely green, may also occur now if the weather is hot.  This build up of tiny single celled plants looks more alarming than it is, and generally disappears of its own accord, especially if rain arrives.  Donít be tempted to use chemicals, which can harm all aquatic plants and possibly the wildlife in your pond too.


You may want to start collecting seeds from the plants in your garden that have gone over now. Growing your own from seed, especially wildflowers, will provide you with a good supply for planting new areas, replacing dead plants or encouraging friends and neighbours.  Foxgloves, red campion and cowslips are all easy to collect.  Store dry seeds in paper envelopes (not plastic bags) in a cool dry place.


The stems of foxgloves that have finished flowering can be cut down to just above the basal leaves now.  As biennials they would generally die after the flowers have gone but this process encourages some of them to survive the winter and flower again next year.


If you are away for any length of time ask your neighbours to top up your bird feeders and bird bath or drinking saucer.  Some house sparrows, finches, tits and starlings will be bringing their young to drink and feed in the garden this month so a good supply of food and fresh water is important.


Plant autumn flowering bulbs in borders, containers and window boxes now, especially the native meadow saffron and autumn crocus (naked ladies).  Make sure your bulbs come from a reliable cultivated source and have not been taken from the wild.


If you have nettles in a sunny place cut back some of the growth early in the month.  This will encourage fresh new shoots to grow for the next generation of small tortoiseshells, red admiral and peacocks to lay their eggs on.


© Text and photographs Jenny Steel 2017