Growers Corner: Wildlife in Autumn
As we officially say goodbye to summer and welcome in Autumn, we check in with head grower at our showcase allotment gardens, Chris Murphy, who reminds us how important this new season is for helping wildlife in your garden.
Bless This Mess
As tempting as it is to “tidy up”, leaving some areas of your growing space wild over winter is a great way to benefit wildlife. Hollowed out dry stems provide a perfect spot for aphid munching lacewings to hibernate over winter, for example, and dried seed heads provide a food source for all kinds of insects and invertebrates. From mid-autumn be wary of disturbing leaf piles or logs as they may be being used by hibernating toads or hedgehogs.
Now is an excellent time to sow green manures like phacelia or grazing rye to overwinter. Green manures can help to keep weeds at bay and can increase nutrients and improve soil structure when cut back in the spring. Do so at your own risk as it will self-seed like crazy but leaving some phacelia to flower in the spring is a sure fire way of bringing bees into your space.
Spring bulbs provide and excellent food source for hungry emerging bees and other pollinators and can be planted now. Crocuses are a favourite for very early flowers and alliums have a dual effect of deterring aphids. Plant bulbs at the ends of your growing beds or use rows as dividers or borders.
Learn To Love It
If left unchecked ivy can take over a garden and is regularly cursed by gardeners (I speak from experience!), but it comes into its own in Autumn and Winter. Its late flowers and berries provide an essential food source for many small birds when little else is available and its dense evergreen foliage makes perfect habitat for insects to hibernate as well as being a food source for many caterpillars. It even has its own bee - the ivy bee! It may be time for a re-think next time you are tempted to hack it back to the ground.
Want to learn more? Check out Capital Growth's training programme for some fantastic online and in-person workshops to help you get growing!