This is a busy time of the year for both gardeners and wildlife, and the activities of the one can have a profound influence on the other. Late summer and autumn is when we cut back plants, tidy up and pick the apples and other late fruits. At the same time wildlife is itself preparing for winter, looking for cosy corners in which to snooze, places to lay the eggs that will produce next year's insects, and feeding up whilst there is plenty to feed on.
Don't be too tidy therefore, leave some piles of leaves and logs or branches in quiet corners, refurbish the bird feeders and, as always, ensure a supply of fresh water. This year being such a good one for fruit of all kinds it should be easy to leave some it for birds and other creatures, and when deadheading flowers please leave at least some seed heads for birds such as goldfinches and linnets. Lots of insects, for instance some moths and beetles, overwinter as larvae or pupae in plant stems so try too not to cut everything back to ground level.
A garden rich in wildlife will ultimately suffer less from garden pests than one doused in, and sterilised by, weedkillers, fungicides and insecticides. It will also reward the owner with the sights and sounds of nature. In my garden recently there has been an abundance of peacock butterflies, holly blue butterflies laying their eggs on the ivy, bats swooping around at night, and the first hesitant songs of young blackbirds.
To focus gardeners' minds on these things later this year the Royal Horticultural Society and the Wildlife Trusts are launching an initiative - Wild About Gardens Week - to help boost garden wildlife. The week runs from 25 - 31 October, during which time it is hoped that many of their members' gardens will be open to the public, talks and events will be organised and seeds will be given away. People will be asked to 'do one thing' for wildlife in their garden.
Chris Baines, Wolverhampton based Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts, said:
"The nation's gardens are hugely important for wildlife and as a habitat network they are second to none. Inner-city balconies and courtyards, the suburbs' hedgerows and lawns, and the orchards and allotments of market towns and villages: all have the potential to be incredibly rich habitats for wildlife."
The event is a response to the 'State of Nature' report about which I wrote earlier this year. The report showed that 60% of more than 3,000 animal and plant species looked at have declined in the last 50 years. Gardens can be an important refuge for species under pressure in the countryside which means that you really can do something to help.