Wildlife Garden Maintenance in March


In some ways March can be one of the busiest months for wildlife in the garden.  Birds are coming and going, small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies join the yellow brimstone out of hibernation, and queen bumblebees are on the wing.  Summer migrants, especially chiff chaffs and blackcaps, may be arriving to swell the bird numbers at the end of the month.  Some species could be egg laying, including song thrushes and blackbirds in hedge bottoms or dense shrubs. Useful nectar and pollen plants, especially dandelions, are coming into flower.

Tidying up in the borders can be completed now by cutting down and composting last years dead foliage and seed heads, but look out for hibernating ladybirds if the weather is still cold.  Lavender and heather can also be trimmed now that the seeds have gone.

There is plenty you can do to help the birds this month.  Natural food in the countryside could be completely depleted, so donít let up on feeding.  A range of high energy nuts and seeds, especially peanuts, sunflower hearts and nyjer seed will help to keep the adult birds well fed and healthy, enabling them to cope with the demanding jobs of nest building and feeding young.  Make sure peanuts are inside wire mesh containers just to ensure these are not given to chicks.

Nesting material may be in short supply, so a mossy lawn will be a great asset. Long grass with some dead stems will also provide natural nest material for some species.  Pond edges will provide the mud that song thrushes need to line their nests.   You can also hang out bundles of special nesting material obtainable from bird food suppliers.

March is the month when lawn mowing begins in earnest.  Think about how often you need to cut, and also how short.  Grass left slightly longer and cut less frequently will support a wider range of insects and small plants like daisies and dandelions, the latter very important for a wide range of wildlife.  Leave your grass box off to allow the cuttings to mulch back into the soil to keep the grass greener in dry weather.  If you do remove cuttings, put them into the compost heap with a good mixture of more woody material to make a habitat for grass snakes.

If you grow vegetables you could be sowing seeds this month.  Try including rows of open flowered annuals like Californian poppy or poached egg plant between the vegetables to attract beneficial insects, especially hoverflies, to vulnerable plants such as broad beans. Hoverflies around these plants will ensure that any aphids are quickly eaten.  Turning over the soil now will expose plenty of natural food including wire worms and leather jackets which visiting birds will eat.

Donít be tempted to use slug pellets around vulnerable plants, but try a beer trap instead.  Sink a small plastic saucer into the ground with just the edge about half a centimetre above soil level.  Fill this with fresh beer to attract slugs and snails.

 

© Text and photographs Jenny Steel 2017