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