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A South East garden

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chubsta View Drop Down
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    Posted: 20 Feb 2018 at 7:38pm
Well, figured it is about time I put up some details of my own garden instead of jumping in on other peoples posts! So, with thanks to Gemma for the inspiration, here goes...

I live in a smallish village on the cliff top between Folkestone and Dover in the very South East. Because of our proximity to the Continent we often have very different weather to the rest of the Uk and I believe we are now classed as semi-arid due to the low rainfall, it is very noticeable if you go just 20 miles North West how very different most days are.

I have lived here for 20 years but for most of that time have had pretty much zero interest in maintaining the garden for wildlife but I guess as most of us get older we often discover where our true interests lie. I have always had a great number of fogs in the garden and have a decent sized pond for them, but apart from that the garden has been kept as low-maintenance as possible - just a lawn and hedges - as I just don't have time to do much, we have two houses and most of my spare time is spent at the other one.

I guess it all changed about 6 years ago when I spotted some hedgehog droppings in the garden and my partner decided to buy me one of those cheap domed hedgehog houses. I put some food in a bowl inside it, went back indoors to fill the water bowl up and when I came back out there was a hedgehog in it!

And that was me hooked - I am now far more conscious of the needs of wildlife and although most of the garden is still lawn I have a rough area of about 25 foot x 5 foot at the far end which is overgrown with logs and piles of compost and decaying vegetation. As time goes on I hope this will become more 'natural'.

Thanks to advice and inspiration from here my pond is looking the healthiest it has ever been, and last year for the first time in forever I saw a couple of newts, and I also spotted slow-worms in a rough area near the conservatory. Hedgehogs, my main passion, seem to be maintaining numbers and I look forward to helping their survival prospects by becoming more proficient in treating them (unfortunately my local rescue closed down last year).

Although I don't have much to do with my neighbours, when we do chat it is usually about the wildlife we have and it is clear that people in the immediate vicinity are very interested in helping create a good environment.

So, to the future, this year I hope to do the following:
improve the two 'rough' areas I have, making them more attractive to insects etc
plant more around the edge of the pond - last years plantings have all done really well so with the advice on new ones to add from a post on here I should be able to create a good environment for the amphibians.
I have a strip of unused ground about 25 foot x 1 foot along one edge, I am going to place pieces of corrugated sheeting along there in the hope it will be attractive to slow-worms and also for the hedgehogs to shelter and nest under.
Put more cameras in - I have recently upgraded all my cameras to 4MP and 5MP ones and the quality is far better so will add a few more to better cover some blind spots, particularly around the pond.

Unfortunately, I am rubbish at gardening and pretty much everything I have ever planted seems to die - I even tried to get ivy growing up a tree-stump and that died off as soon as I looked at it, so only time will tell how my efforts will pan out...

Species list for 2018 is as follows:
Hedgehog
fox
brown rat
wood mouse
field vole
common frog

here is a little photo of my current set-up, should be able to get an idea of what I have to work with...




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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Feb 2018 at 1:28am
Fantastic and great to hear we've all given some inspiration! Our wildlife garden is relatively tiny, but it packs a lot into a small space. Looking forward to updates and news of progress. I'm kind of a keen gardener, but have to be honest I prefer wildlife gardening as it is less of a chore. Intentionally untidy works for me and I'm much more easily motivated if I know my efforts will benefit wildlife. Just one tip, for many years I cut down a lot of the 'wild flowers' (weeds to my neighbours) because I thought it looked kind of grim over the winter months. Last year I didn't as I thought it might give the pond some protection from chemicals sprayed on the adjoining field. What I really noticed though by keeping all the standing vegetation is just how much it is used by birds as a food source when there is very little else available. Often had blue tits eating the left over seeds of the purple loosestrife during the winter and they are still enjoying them now! I was told a few years back by an entomologist how important leaving standing vegetation is for many bugs which hibernate in dead vegetation. So now I think we will always keep at least some of the old vegetation standing over the winter.

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Liz Heard View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Liz Heard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 12:43pm
Always enjoy reading about/seeing other folks gardens - thanks for posting and good luck!

Agree with Gemma. What other people might describe as untidy, to me looks natural and beautiful.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Liz Heard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 1:43pm
As far as plants go, you could endeavour to find out what type of soil/ph you have so you can make better informed choices. Simply noting which plants are commonly observed growing around your area will also help. I suspect those which favour dry conditions and light soil will suit best.
Another option might be to simply turn the soil and let whatever's in your 'seed bank' come up.
It's the same with ponds, some plants will 'like' the conds while others won't take. It's best to use native plants as they are most suitable (having evolved alongside the newts etc) and happily, these days many species can often be sourced from garden centres.
Once well-established, you'll probably need to thin them out annually to prevent the pond from becoming 'choked'. This is best done in autumn or you'll 'throw the baby out with the bath water'. IE lose newt larvae etc.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Suzi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 2:52pm
Whilst I agree with Ben on most of this, I would say that I have newt larvae overwintering in the pond and so find it hard to choose a clear out time.
Suz
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Liz Heard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 5:41pm
Well there's no perfectly ideal time i guess, but by autumn the larvae should be bigger and more easy to see. So you could painstakingly remove weed bit by bit by first swishing it in a bucket under good light and sift them out.
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chubsta View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chubsta Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Mar 2018 at 12:04am
Well, although temperatures were very low we didn't get the bad snow like the rest of the country, even 10 miles away inland they had up to a foot but we just had a light dusting and freezing rain.

As expected frogs have been a bit thin on the ground this last week but as I type this at midnight I can see at least a dozen pairs of eyes in the pond so they are starting to be active again - luckily no spawn was laid but with night temperatures around the 7-8degerees mark for the next week or so I guess it won't be long now.

Released a hedgehog last night, and plenty of activity from the mice and voles so I would say Spring is just around the corner...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Suzi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Mar 2018 at 11:38am
Fingers crossed for a good spawning! 
We had about 8-9" snow which froze, but has all gone now. It was bitterly cold.
My frogs must have been sitting cross legged somewhere waiting for the thaw (see my today spawn post).
Suz
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chubsta Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Mar 2018 at 8:43pm
Still very quiet here - about a dozen frogs in the pond each day but no pairs and certainly no spawn although the weed is getting a bit torn up where they are moving about actively at night.

No signs of my newts or slow-worms, plenty of wood mice and my lone hedgehog visiting about three times a night, have to de-tick her every few days as she is like sugar to them, took 13 off her face and ears last night! Apart from the ticks she seems happy enough and is getting through at least 150grms of dog food a night, not bad for something not much bigger than a grapefruit...

Weather is till pretty poor, very wet and cold, which is a bit annoying as I am working nights outdoors at the moment. A positive of working nights though is that I get to see what happens over my cameras in the garden, always a nice thing to see foxes and other wildlife rooting about.

If anyone is looking to get cameras set up I have upgraded mine to Reolink 4MP and 5MP ones, the picture quality is fantastic, so can definitely recommend them.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chubsta Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Mar 2018 at 12:46pm
Still no spawn and only about a dozen frogs in the pond, no couplings at all. Very strange given how warm it has been during the day this last week. I had a record number of fogs in the garden last year so doubt they have all succumbed to the cold weather a few weeks back.

Perhaps with another cold snap on the way they know to keep their heads down. Only my one 'regular' hog who has been coming on and off since New Year - she seems firmly out of hibernation and actually has looked tick-free this past couple of nights so that is a bonus.

One thing that has always puzzled me is the lack of birds in my garden - I have a wren, a regular Robin and a couple of blackbirds and wood pigeons. Any food I put out just sits there for weeks. I am in a smallish village surrounded by countryside on 3 sides and the sea on the other but we hardly get any birds at all. Our other house is in a small town, albeit near the large 'wild area' of an Army shooting range, and we have loads of birds of all different types, the feeders get mobbed as soon as we put them out. I have plenty of hedge cover, as do all my neighbours, who also have a number of large trees of different types, yet if you do the one-hour Garden Birdwatch for the RSPB you may not see a bird at all, very odd!
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