Spring is finally upon us, with the snowdrops rescinding to the blooms of daffodils, and with the sprigs of bluebell leaves indicating that’s there more on the way. The birds are now in full song and you may see the odd bird carrying sticks or moss.
Although spring is now truly on the way don’t get too anxious to over tidy your garden for the season ahead. Useful allies such as ladybirds, amphibians and hedgehogs may still be sheltering beneath piles of leaf litter or old pots.
Now would be the ideal time to introduce any new shrubs, plant out those perennials which were over-wintered in a sheltered spot, or introduce any hardy annuals that you may have been fortunate enough to seed early in a greenhouse, porch or conservatory. If you weren’t able to seed out any annuals, don’t worry you should be able to find some at your local garden centre. Poppies, marigolds (Chrysanthemum spp.) and poached-egg flower (Limnanthes douglasii) are favoured flowering annuals, with scabious (Scabiosa spp.), musk mallow (Malva moschata), white campion (Silene latifolia), wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare), tormentil (Potentilla erecta), common valerian (Valeriana officinalis), evening primrose (Oenothera acaulis) and tobacco plant (Nicotiana sylvestris) proving particularly wildlife attracting perennials and biannuals. Using a mixture of the above, restock beds ready to provide an abundance of colour and an important nectar source over the coming summer months. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t have a large garden or any garden at all. Remember that the annuals and perennials listed above could just as easily be grown in pots or a window box.
Have you ever considered having your own wild flower meadow? If you have an area of your lawn which you wouldn’t mind letting grow over the summer, this would be a good time to sow the wild flower seed. It’s important that the area should be cut as short as possible and raked really hard, with all the clippings collected and removed. You only need 5 grams of seed per each square metre of grassland so it’s a cost effective way to introduce some colour to your garden. Wild flower meadow seed is available from a range of sources; a particularly useful supplier is Emorsgate Seeds (www.wildseed.co.uk) who are able to provide a seeds for individual species or a range of standard mixtures to suit your gardens soil type. Species to look out for include oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), common knapweed (Centaurea nigra), meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Simply sprinkle the wild flower seed over the top of your prepared area, and allow this area to remain uncut until about September when your wild flower meadow has flowered and set seed ready for next years meadow.
Amphibians are back on the move, with frogs always the first to return to their aquatic habitats. Frogs have inbuilt antifreeze which allows them to emerge slightly earlier, and if you have a garden pond you may have seen frog spawn appear during late February, with free swimming tadpoles already present. March sees the return of toads and newts, hot on the heels of the frogs, also heading for our garden ponds. As ponds have become less frequent in the countryside, garden ponds have become increasingly important for amphibians and other wildlife.
If you already have a pond March is a good time to top up or fill in any marginal spaces with pond plants, such as water mint (Mentha aquatica), yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides). Alternatively if you have any particularly established swathes you could remove these plants carefully, dividing them up and replanting around the ponds margin. If you’re still considering a pond it may be worthwhile adding it to the ‘to do list’ for later in the year.
The study of the seasons and how this affects our wildlife is called phenology. In addition to our amphibians first sightings for the year during March may also include butterflies, bumblebees and lady birds. To learn more about how the first sightings indicate the coming of spring, or to report sightings from your garden visit The Nature’s Calendar web site at www.naturescalendar.org.uk.