How to encourage wildlife on your allotment
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Allotments are not only a wonderful place for us to grow produce and have land to tend in the midst of an urban environment, but they are also an increasingly important resource for wildlife. Many of the plants and animals that struggle to survive on intensively managed farmland find a refuge on allotment sites. If you’d like to take on an allotment the first thing you need to do is contact your local council – in some areas the take up of allotments is very high and you may have to go on a waiting list.
The key to getting wildlife to work with you on your allotment is to encourage the beneficial creatures that are already present to continue to thrive while also actively working to get other species to live there.
Tools for the job:
Managing wildlife areas
Empty, overgrown plots can make an allotment look unkempt and uncared for, but a solution is to manage these sites as wildlife areas. Untended plots may be taken over by bramble which is an excellent food source and refuge for many kinds of wildlife. Apart from attracting insects such as hoverflies, bees and lacewings, a tangle of brambles is a favourite nesting site for birds such as robins, wrens, thrushes and blackbirds. Some warblers and finch species may also use bramble in this way. To control bramble, cut back different sections on a 3 or 4-year rotation so there is always a gradation between the first year growth and mature stems – this means you can keep a plot relatively tidy while still retaining much of the wildlife benefit.
Habitats, nesting sites & refuges
You can encourage all manner of creatures to take up residence on your allotment – just follow these simple ideas:
Many birds are excellent predators and will eat all manner of pests that might otherwise damage the plants and crops growing on your allotment. The best way to encourage beneficial birds onto your plot is to put up bird boxes and make sure there is plenty of water available for them to drink.
These are superb insect predators, so why not build a bat box made from untreated timber to encourage them to live on your allotment?
If you have the space, try building a pond on your allotment. This will encourage frogs, toads and newts to take up residence – all species that will consume various different types of insects as well as slugs. Alongside your pond, use large piles of logs and stones to create shelters for these creatures.
Encourage beneficial insects to visit your allotment and stay on your plot through the winter months by providing them with a place to hibernate. An old log bored with holes will be an invaluable refuge for many different types of useful insects, while a small stone pile will be a useful habitat for beetles and centipedes. Try also to keep some plant litter such as leaves and old vegetation to provide a winter hibernation site for insect predators such as ladybirds, lacewings and spiders.
The addition of flowers to your allotment will attract pollinating insects such as bees. Look for plant care cards bearing the special pollinator logo to find the best plants for attracting bees to your allotment, or go to www.beesneeds.org.uk to find more information about the Bees Needs campaign and the National Pollinator Strategy that aims to encourage us to help bees thrive in our gardens and allotments.
You could also try planting native hedging plants and trees such as hazel, elder, blackthorn, hawthorn, dog rose, field maple, beech, and yew. These will make wonderful nesting places not only for birds, but will also provide shelter for beneficial insects and provide berries for food.
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