Wild Patch Project
What is the ‘Wild Patch’ project?
‘Any piece of land, of any size, where wildlife can be encouraged to live and thrive.’
The South Yare Wildlife Group, with funding generously provided by the Broads Authority via the Heritage Lottery Fund, has created The Wild Patch project to encourage householders and landowners to consider how they might manage their gardens or other spaces nearby to encourage wildlife. A pilot project in Rockland St Mary will ask residents if they would like to get involved in The Wild Patch project by trying something different and then watching and recording what happens.
Why garden with wildlife in mind?
We are fortunate to have a number of nature reserves in our area, but our gardens, ponds, community and other public spaces could be valuable ‘stepping stones’ to enhance the overall biodiversity in a landscape that is predominantly farmed or developed.
Whether your ‘patch’ is large or very small, or if you have just a verge, patio or window ledge, together we can create an amazing connecting patchwork of wildlife havens that will enrich our environment and enhance biodiversity.
What can you do?
There are many potential ‘wild patches’ that can be both home and a giant larder for wildlife, whether it’s in your garden, or the verge outside your house, an allotment or even an unused patch of land nearby.
By taking just a few easy steps, you can increase the food supply and habitats for many different species. Here are a few ideas:
• Don’t cut the grass! Long grass provides the food needed by the caterpillars of a number of butterfly species and many other invertebrates. Also, some bumblebees and solitary bees nest in the base of grass tussocks. Mow a path around your Wild Patch to create a natural boundary and mark it with our Wild Patch stake so that your intentions are clear! Allow plants to seed and die down naturally before cutting the grass just once a year in late summer – or leave a patch uncut right through the year and see what happens.
• Use a compost heap so that you are not only recycling but also creating a warm shelter of decaying plant matter for hedgehogs, slow worms, bank voles and beetles, as well as an enormous variety and number of unseen invertebrates and microorganisms.
• Trees and shrubs provide living quarters and shelter for all sorts of wildlife, as well as food for seed-eating birds.
• Entice bees and butterflies by growing plants like buddleia, lavender and sages – even if it’s just one lavender in a pot.
• Encourage or grow native flowers by sowing wildflower seed or allowing wildflowers (often viewed as weeds) to grow and flourish.
• Don’t be too tidy! Allowing leaves to lie, seeds to set and some areas unstrimmed will provide food and shelter for a variety of plant and animal species.
• Decaying wood is the equivalent of a top-class wildlife hotel, so pile up some logs, or create a ‘dead hedge’ with branches and other material that won’t go on the compost heap.
• Look after the smaller visitors and they in turn will attract the larger creatures that eat them, so spiders, beetles and other insects will attract birds, hedgehogs, frogs and shrews. Most of the wildlife in your garden is very small or rarely seen but it all plays an important part in food webs.
• Water naturally attracts both amphibian and land-based wildlife. Ponds, especially those without fish, often teem with life such as dragonflies, snails, beetles, pond skaters, water boatmen, frogs, toads and newts. If you don’t have a pond nearby or space for one in the garden, an old washing-up bowl or sink make great alternatives. Aquatic plants will enhance habitats and provide places to lay eggs. In addition, some types even oxygenate the water and help balance the ecosystem of the pond.
• Birds and bats will be attracted to your patch by nesting and roosting boxes, and feeding stations for birds will encourage many species.