HOW YOU CAN HELP BIODIVERSITY AND ENJOY NATURE
THIS MONTH .
What a great time of year it is as we near the end of winter. With days noticeably longer and brighter and spring just around the corner. So much to look forward to and so much to do. .
You can see the first signs of spring already, crocuses pushing up through the wet soil and snowdrops in flower. The birds are just beginning to sing to establish and claim their breeding territories, and attract a mate. What a beautiful sound of late winter and the coming spring..
There are lots of things you can do this month to help halt biodiversity loss and make a real difference to our threatened native wildlife.
What can I do. How can I make a difference ?.
Start with your immediate spaces around you. If you have a garden, or community space , a patio, a balcony.
or even a window box on a window sill. Every action now matter how small makes a real difference.
We have such precious and beautiful wildlife here on our doorstep and it is in drastic need of your help and protection.. All it needs is the right conditions which can be provided with a little effort and you will be rewarded many many times over. You will get close up views of our stunning native wildlife to fascinate you and that wonderful feeling of satisfaction knowing you really are making a difference..
PLANT OUR NATIVE IVY CLIMBING SHRUB.
It might seem like a strange thing to plant but Ivy is one of our most beneficial plants for wildlife in our gardens, parks and countryside.
It is a plant that has often gets bad press and could do with an image makeover. Though it is a plant that is hugely important for wildlife in in many different ways.
Listed below are the reasons why it is a top wildlife plant.
It retains it leaves in winter and thus provides vital shelter and cover from the elements for many animals.
It provides a dense nesting habitat for lots of our common much loved birds such as Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds and many more species.
It provides a fantastic habitat for many of our invertebrates, such as spiders, beetles, woodlice and much more. Which in turn provide a rich food source for other wildlife.
it is one of those rare plants that is an abundant source of both pollen and nectar when in flower. It provides this for our pollinators in September and October, and even into November. A time when all other sources of forage have long since finished and just before these animals go into hibernation, or cease activity for the winter months. Another bonus is because the nectaries of the flowers are shallow, and not difficult to access, all manner of pollinators can access this abundant supply of food. This can be seen on a sunny day in autumn when a flowering Ivy plant will be covered in all sorts of small invertebrates, such as hoverflies, bumblebees, solitary bees, honeybees, wasps, flies, and some butterflies.
It then fruits in late winter, when all other sources of berries, such as rowan tree, holly and hawthorn berries are all gone. Producing lovely large purplish berries that are a vitally important late winter source of food for all manner of wildlife.
Finally to finish off listing its wonderful benefits, another often unknown one is the insulation and protection it affords to walls and houses. In the UK the debate about its potential effects on historic monuments was such that English Heritage with Oxford University carried out a study on its effects on walls it grew on. It was found that walls with Ivy were 15% warmer than those with no Ivy and in summer 36% cooler. Also it protects walls from salt, frost and pollution. As it can root into cracks and crevices, if the wall is structurally damaged or vulnerable then it could potentially cause problems. But for walls that are not vulnerable, as is often the case, then Ivy does not need to be removed and as detailed, can actually be beneficial to have growing on them.
What about that for an impressive CV. So you can see how fantastic a wildlife plant it really is.
Though, as mentioned before it does have a bad, often unwarranted, negative reputation. To dispel and correct some of those myths.
It is said to cloak and choke trees causing their demise.
Ivy does not derive its nutrients from other trees or plants. It is not parasitic.
It solely uses other plants as a support structure upon which it will scramble up to access sunlight.. It derives all its nutrients from the process of photosynthesis, and through its root network by absorption of nutrients, water and minerals. In reality Ivy can smother some mid story smaller trees with growth such as hawthorn or blackthorn but more often than not they will coexist providing a wonderful habitat for wildlife..
It is said to cause trees to cause trees to fall in stormy weather.
Yes, because it retains its leaves in winter when we get most of our storms, it can trap and catch more wind with its abundant foliage putting greater strain on trees to withstand these winds, Though more often it is normally weaker trees that are in decline, or trees in exposed sites or trees with compromised root systems that are susceptible to this wind. Normally healthy strong trees can withstand this additional wind burden.
If you look around your flowerbeds, driveways, or on any margins around green areas you will often spot small Ivy seedlings. These would be perfect to tease out and lift gently from their growing position, retaining as much roots as possible, and place in a pot to grow and establish for planting out later in the season into their final position.
Or alternatively, often at the base of an Ivy plant or in undisturbed soil near where it is growing, you can find Ivy growing laterally across the ground.
You can then often just carefully lift a section that often will have already have sent out small roots where it has come in contact with the soil. Choose a section with as much strong root growth as possible . Then cut a small 20cm approx length of this griowth and remove the leaves leaving the stem and roots, Place this cutting it in a pot of soil or compost with the roots well covered and grow it on until well established and ready to transplant to its final growing position.
Keep the soil moist with your newly potted up seedling or cutting and as spring progresses into summer, you should see growth. When you see roots beginning to show through the pot drainage holes and good top growth with the plant, you can plant it into its final growing position.
Choose a position such as against a wall or fence where it will be able to scramble up and keep watered untill it is established, and can fend for itself.
In time it will be a incredibly rich habitat for all manner of wildlife and a wonder to observe all year long as you see wildlife sheltering in it , birds nesting in it, flowers covered in pollinators and birds feasting on the plump berries later in the winter.
What a wonderful wonderful wildlife plant it Ivy is.
FEED THE BIRDS:
February is a great month to feed our wild birds in preparation for the coming breeding season in spring. And to attract them into your outdoor spaces.
What better way to brighten up these darker winter days.
See the previous post all about this here.
PUT UP BIRD NEST BOXES:
There is still time to put up nest boxes in preparation for the spring and summer nesting season.
Birds soon will be checking out potential nest sites and a great way to keep them in your garden during Spring and Summer is putting up suitable nest boxes.. See the previous post with lots of information on how to go about this here.
PLANT A NATIVE TREE OR SHRUB:
This is a still a great month to get some planting done. See previous post relating to this here.
TAKE A WILLOW CUTTING:
This is a great month to take a Willow cutting.
See previous post relating to this here.