The gardening year begins!

I can’t promise you any pretty pictures in this post. To be honest, my garden is looking anything but pretty at the moment. Despite a fresh, almost spring-like feel to the weather this weekend, the plants and wildlife in my back yard have yet to awake properly from their winter slumber. Last year’s growth has died back and is festooning the flowerbeds with sad-looking, crumbling twigs and dry leaves, while on first glance you’d be hard-pressed to believe that any animal life had survived the winter.

Sad-looking winter flowerbed
One of my sad-looking winter flowerbeds.

However, inspired by a bit of sunshine I decided to give the garden its first tidy of the year today.

There was plenty of dead growth to cut back, although I didn’t want to over-tidy as there are likely to be small creatures lying dormant among all the vegetation. Contrary to first appearances, there was some animal life stirring. In particular, my “bucket ponds” – three large containers of water that serve as mini ponds, since I can’t dig a proper one – have suddenly sprung back to life. Although they’re not looking at their prettiest as yet, a few daphnia have reappeared in them and the pond snails are active again – even laying lots of eggs all over the sides of the buckets!

My bucket ponds, stirring back into life Great pond snail

Pot plant beginning to re-grow Foxglove starting to grow

To my surprise, I even found the first caterpillars of the year – one curled up among the leaves of a buddleia, and the other somehow stranded (and subsequently rescued) from a leaf floating in the middle of one of the ponds. When I look at the garden at this time of year, I always find it hard to believe that in a few months’ time it will be green and full of life. It’s therefore always great to have these small hints and promises that spring isn’t too far off!

Caterpillar on buddleia Small caterpillar

The rest of the garden is still in need of some attention, the patio needs to be cleared of weeds, and the “presents” the neighbour’s cat has left need to be removed from the flowerbed (always a joy). I’ll wait till the weather’s a bit warmer before I do some serious work on it, but seeing the first signs of life returning has got me thinking about what I’m going to do in the coming months to make my garden as wildlife-friendly as possible for the year ahead, and in particular in preparation for the Garden Bioblitz in June.

I tried out a few things last year, including trying to grow a variety of nectar-rich plants, adding a ‘bee hotel’ and setting up my bucket ponds. I had mixed success – many of the plants got eaten by slugs and snails, or dug up by cats, while the bee hotel didn’t attract a single bee, although it did become home to several large spiders. However, the bucket ponds far exceeded my expectations. Once I had added a few native plants to them, I soon had at least 3 different species of pond snail, thousands of daphnia and other small crustaceans, and to my delight a pair of damselflies also decided to make it home!

This year, I want to carry on with the bucket ponds and try and maintain them well so they stay healthy and keep on attracting wildlife. And I am determined to do better with the flowering plants – I think a few of the pots previously reserved for home-grown veg will be filled with flowers instead this time! Not only will this make the garden even better for bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects, but it’ll also make all the stone and concrete look much prettier too.

Overgrown buddleia The current state of my plant pots! Some of my "weeds"...

An untidy-looking strawberry patch The drooping sedge seems to be escaping...

If you’re new to my blog and haven’t heard about it before, or want more information on how to take part, you can find out more about the Garden Bioblitz event on the Garden Bioblitz pages of my website, or on the Garden Bioblitz website itself.

Why not take part yourself, and see what wildlife is living in your garden? It’s easy to do – you don’t have to have any special skills or knowledge as there are plenty of experts online to help you identify what you find. And you don’t even have to count every species – just count what you can, and most of all have fun!

And why not let the Garden Bioblitz team know what plans you have to attract wildlife to your garden this year? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – even small actions can be surprisingly successful. You can keep up-to-date with what’s going on by following us on Twitter @GardenBioblitz, by looking at the Garden Bioblitz website, or by emailing us at gardenbioblitz@gmail.com.

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