Festival of Gardening for Wildlife

Photo credit : Stop Photography

March will be a month full of events associated with wildlife gardening thanks to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWF).

The Trust is devoting the whole month to promoting gardening to attract wildlife into your garden and has the support of Alan Titchmarsh; who when opening the RBC Rain Garden at WWT London Wetland Centre, September 2010 said “A garden without wildlife is like  kiss without a squeeze”. I couldn’t agree more I cannot imagine not having lots of wildlife in my garden.

I already have a wildlife pond, water butts, piles of hardwood prunings for insects, I leave seed heads and spend a fortune on bird food.  In return the wildlife in my garden over the past 6 years has multiplied ten fold at least.  I have loads of frogs, even finding one basking in the warmth of the greenhouse the other day.  Birds a plenty, all the usual garden varieties but also recently Goldfinches and Siskins thanks to an investment in a niger seed feeder.  I have little slug damage and generally not many other pests.  Whilst it’s important to have a good wildlife population in the garden to keep it healthy, the wildlife also needs our gardens due to the declining habitats so it’s a win:win proposition.  To be honest you cannot beat sitting quickly in the garden, as I did this weekend, with the birds chirping in the tree above you – its wonderful.

Even as a keen wildlife gardener there is still much I can learn so I am interested in WWT’s programme of activities at its various centres during March.

Events happening at WWT centres during the Festival of Gardening include:

WWT Arundel T 01903 881530 West Sussex – Medieval herbalist 10, 17, 24, 31 March   For centuries plants have given us food, medicine, shelter, fragrance and beauty. Learn more from our Medieval herbalist. 11am & 2pm

Wild about art – growing Sat 20 March  Get those creative juices flowing using natural materials. Create cress heads and other green fingered fun. £4.50pc. Children must be accompanied by an adult (1 free pc). 11-1pm. wwt.org.uk/arundel

WWT Caerlaverock T 01387 770200 Dumfriesshire, Scotland – Check in at the insect hotel Advice on gardening for wildlife – check out our insect hotel in our sustainable garden  wwt.org.uk/caerlaverock

WWT Castle Espie T 028 9187 4146 County Down, Northern Ireland – Your garden Sat 5 & Sun 6 March Discover plenty of tips from window boxes to allotments, growing food to eat, permaculture workshop and painting pots! 2-5pm.  wwt.org.uk/castleespie

WWT London T 020 8409 4400 Barnes – Pond planting Sat 26 & Sun 27 March  Free demonstration all about native plants for a natural pond and how ponds can be a real help to wildlife,11am-12 noon. Places limited. BE – call 020 8409 4400.

Gardening walk with a warden Sat 26 & Sun 27  March Tour taking in the highlights of the RBC Rain Garden: then discover a log garden where lizards bask and feed, and a nectar-rich garden for bees, butterflies and other insects. There’s also our bog garden – popular with newts and dragonflies. Our guide, Alwyn Craven, will give plenty of wildlife gardening ideas to try at home! 12.30-1.30pm.

Gardening for wildlife Sat 26 March Our gardening expert Alwyn Craven will show you how you can easily provide homes and food for wildlife while still enjoying a beautiful garden. 2.30-3.30pm.

Clever composting Sat 26/Sun 27 March & Sat 2/Sun 3 April  Special talk on how compost heaps work, and are an eco-friendly, money-saving garden tradition providing fertile soil and a warm nutrient-rich refuge for small creatures. 4-4.30pm.

Ask the gardeners Sun 27 March  Get answers to your green gardening questions from some of the UK’s leading gardeners. Including Dr Nigel Dunnett, creator of the RBC Rain Garden; Channel 4’s The Landscape Man, Matthew Wilson, and our own Kew-trained gardening expert Alwyn Craven, plus Lesley Mair from Barn Elms Allotments Society (BEAS) and Anne Gatti, columnist for The English Garden magazine. 2.30 – 3.30pm. £6pp. BE call 020 8409 4400.

Gardening guru, author and TV presenter Gay Search will be giving her top garden tips in a talk at WWT London Wetland Centre. Sun 3 April. Tickets are £6, please call 020 8409 4400 for details. wwt.org.uk/london

WWT Martin Mere T 01704 895181 Lancashire – Festival of gardening All month Discover tips at special talks, learn how to create a log pile, tour our eco-garden to find out what you can do at home to create a sustainable garden and take part in a variety of family activities all month. Learn how the beavers are natural gardeners – 11am & 2pm. See our wormery, ants nest and learn how to identify different types of soil. Weekend family crafts including make seed pots out of newspaper and a free art competition. Make Mini-gardens and help us to make a bug hotel. 1-4pm

Eco-festival Sat 19 & Sun 20 March  Talks, family activities amd family crafts – help us create a bug hotel, make minigardens, help us plant in Edwood and help create a wildflower area, discover different types of root systems when we dig things up. All day – Den building. See how slow you can ride a bike in the slow cycle competition Browse the eco-stalls and buy local produce.  wwt.org.uk/martinmere

WWT National Wetland Centre, Wales T 01554 741087 Carmarthenshire – Attracting wildlife to your garden Sat 19/Sun 20 & Sat 26/Sun 27 March  A chance to make insect hotels, habitat piles, bird/butterfly feeders. Activities for all the family. 2pm.  wwt.org.uk/llanelli

WWT Slimbridge T 01453 891900 Gloucestershire – Good pond; bad pond Sat 19 March & Sun 20 March  See examples of how to create a good wildlife pond and what a poor one looks like in this interesting and educational display in our foyer. Chat to our horticulture team for the best tips.

Activities for children Themed arts & crafts sessions: make a butterfly, dragonfly, ladybird or frog. Make a plant pal or a bug hotel, have a go at a virtual pond dip.Paint a pot – take it home and watch your plant grow. £3 a pot (compost and seeds provided).  wwt.org.uk/slimbridge

WWT Washington T 0191 416 5454 Tyne & Wear Festival of gardening Every weekend in March Our expert wardens and education team will be hosting a series of guided walks, workshops and craft sessions.  wwt.org.uk/washington

WWT Welney T 01353 860711 Norfolk – Jane Frost willow workshop Fri 11/Sat 12 & Fri 25/Sat 26 March  Make simple structures using a variety of techniques combining weaving, wrapping and braiding. £55 pp, plus £20 for basic materials. 10am-4pm. BE with a deposit required in advance. Contact Jane Frost on 01353 861944 or Jane@FrostArt.co.uk  wwt.org.uk/welney

(BE – booking essential. pc/pp – per child / per person)

So why does the WWT care about how we garden? Well its mission is to save wetlands worldwide and for the past 60 years they have been closely monitoring the wildlife in the UK but you cannot manage wetlands in isolation you need to look at the whole wildlife picture so they are hoping to encourage gardeners to help make a space for wildlife by passing on what they, WWT, have learnt. They manage 2,600 hectares of wetlands across the UK and support over 200,000 waterbirds and other wildlife.  The centres are used to educate people including a huge educational unit for school children.

So why not have a day out in March, visit one of the centres, see some wonderful birds and hopefully bring home some ideas to try in your garden.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Catherine says:

    I know of Alan Titchmarsh through the gardening shows that used to be on BBC America. I love what he said about the garden without wildlife too. I agree so much! I’ve tried to make our garden as welcoming as I can for wildlife. The pond alone attracts so many birds. I keep hoping that one day it’ll attract a frog too.
    It makes gardening so much more fun when you find or hear visitors in the garden, what a nice reward.

  2. We used to have loads of frogs and newts in our urban terraced garden – a lot of the frogs made it into the kitchen and one summer one lived inside my tomato gro-bag by the back door. Two of our near neighbours filling in their ponds and the last cold winters seem to have killed a lot of the frogs off although we do usually get one in our little 3ft diameter pondlet. I think it shows what a huge difference just having even the tiniest water area makes – we even get the occasional dragonfly.

  3. Great push for the month’s activities. I will be clambering in to our pond later today to clear it our ready for the annual frog orgy, and hoping to glimpse our newts in the process. I think putting the pond in is one of the best things I’ve ever done gardening-wise, the wildlife it attracts is astounding, and like you, I have very few slugs nowadays. Snails, on the other hand…

  4. Anna says:

    Glad that I read your post – I am putting my garden club February newsletter together this week and you have provided a useful snippet for inclusion Helen as Martin Mere is not so far away. Thank you 🙂

  5. Laura says:

    What a wonderful article! I’ve really enjoyed reading it! Thank you! 🙂

  6. Katrina says:

    Great article – nice to see a big name heading up such san importsnt cause and good to see Alan Titchmarsh championing what he is best at – gardening.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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