Wildlife Garden Maintenance in May
May is the greenest month
of the whole year with everything growing at a rapid pace. In
the garden many plants are in flower including some that are
excellent wildlife attractants. Bumblebees will eagerly gather
the pollen of the hardy geraniums and foxgloves that flower
this month. Chives will also entice bees and some
butterflies. Several plants, especially forget-me-nots and
geraniums, could be setting seed, which may encourage
greenfinches and occasionally bullfinches to the garden.
Out in the garden you can
cut back spring shrubs like flowering currant if you are sure
that nothing is nesting in them. This will ensure that they
produce plenty of flowers for nectar and pollen next spring.
There is lots of activity
in garden ponds now with tadpoles of frogs and toads feeding
and growing, and newts laying their eggs. This may be a good
time to look at what is growing in the pond and make sure you
don’t have any invasive alien plants like parrots feather or
New Zealand stonecrop. If you do, make a note to completely
remove these in the autumn. Removing now would cause too much
disturbance to the aquatic life.
Tender vegetable plants
such as runner beans, French beans, courgettes and pumpkins
can be planted at the end of the month when the possibility of
frost has passed. Hardy annuals like English marigold and
nasturtiums often self seed once they are established. These
small plants can be moved and replanted to encourage
pollinating bees to your vegetable area.
Hedgehogs are courting and mating this month – activities that
may happen in your garden if you are lucky. Make
sure your garden is hedgehog friendly by removing hazards such
as loose netting, and ensure that your pond has at least one
area that slopes gently to the water allowing easy access.
Slug pellets should be avoided at all costs
– instead encourage hedgehogs, thrushes, shrews and ground
beetles, all of which consume slugs.
If you have containers
with spring bedding including wallflowers, replace these now
with wildlife friendly summer bedding. Tobacco plants, French
marigolds, white or blue petunias, lobelia and heliotrope will
all attract insects, or in a hanging basket you could try
herbs such as thyme, or plants with edible flowers
such as nasturtiums as well as some wildflowers like bird's
foot trefoil. Line your hanging baskets with a purpose
made synthetic liner or old hessian. Avoid Sphagnum moss
which is taken from natural wetlands to the detriment of the
wildlife in these habitats.
Pleasant as May can be,
we may still experience bad weather in all parts of the
country. A spell of wet, windy weather or a late frost at the
beginning of the month can spell disaster for young birds in
the nest. Natural insect food may be reduced or nests may be
swamped by rain. Make sure you continue to put out food for
the birds in hanging feeders now. Mammals such as wood mice,
bank voles, hedgehogs and even
foxes will benefit from the leftovers on the ground.
© Text and photographs Jenny Steel 2017