Late flowering plants are essential sources of nectar for insects including butterflies and bees who are still foraging at this time of the year. Martyn Loach suggests five plants that will make your garden wildlife friendly into the autumn.
Are nesting boxes really necessary? Before spending too much time, trouble or hard earned money on buying or constructing one, Martyn Loach thinks you need to know whether they are worth the effort.
The good news is that various studies have shown that there's no doubt that nesting boxes are useful, increasing breeding success and enabling bird numbers to climb.
Other researchers have concentrated on whether the material used to construct a bird box matters.
The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this year that whether the box is made from timber or concrete reinforced with wood fibre (woodcrete) does make a difference. Tits preferred woodcrete, possibly because those nests were warmer.
Incidentally it seems that colour is also important. Tits have been shown to prefer green boxes to brown, but robins have more success in black ones.
There are many nesting boxes available commercially. From the simple wooden box to decorative postbox and teapot nesters. If you have some time and a few DIY skills they are not too difficult to make. This is a basic Gardeners' World nesting box:
Cut a length of 15mm timber into six sections: back panel 45cm x 15cm, base 11cm x 15cm, front 20cm x 15cm, roof 21cm x 15cm and two side panels 25cm at one end and 20cm at the front (this is to accommodate a sloping roof).
The wood shouldn't be CCA pressure treated, or be stained, painted or have had preservative applied.
Fix one of the sides to the base of the nesting box and then nail them to the lower portion of the back section. Turn the box on to the fixed side and nail the other side into position.
Using a wood drill bit make an entrance hole in the front, more than 125mm from the floor of the nesting box, then fix that panel into place. The diameter of the holes will attract different species, blue, coal and marsh tits prefer 25mm, 28mm will attract great tits and a 32mm hole is suitable for sparrows and nuthatches.
Now use self-tapping screws to position the top that should be sloping forward and overhanging the front. Drill a hole in the upper portion of the back section and use it to screw to a tree or wherever the nesting box is to be placed.
Where you locate the nesting box is important, the RSPB recommends that they face north and east. The location should be away from the worst of the weather and out of reach of predators. A metal plate around the entrance is another way of discouraging the latter.
Placing a nesting box near to a bird table is not a good idea as there is too much disturbance.
The number of nesting boxes in a garden depends on the species you want to set up home. Blue Tits for example are very territorial and won't tolerate nearby boxes but sparrows are what's known as colonial nesters and will willingly live in an avian Coronation Street.
Finally, it's generally accepted that you should remove the lid and clean out a nesting box each season in October or November, using boiling water not insecticides to eliminate parasites.
With Christmas rapidly approaching, our New Oscott Garden Centre has just taken delivery of that most seasonal of plants – the Poinsettia. These are David Hall's tips on to how to keep these beautiful plants at their colourful best.
Our garden centre has been part of the local community for over 60 years, so when one of our partners, David Coton, received a request to donate a Christmas tree to a nearby hospice, he had no hesitation in helping them out.
Many people believe that Christmas would not have the same festive feel without the scent of a 'real' Christmas tree. They're naturally fresh, giving off a lovely aroma, and here Martyn Loach gives advice on which ones to buy..
There's a huge selection of Premier Christmas Lights, and it's no wonder why they are market leaders judging by the variety and innovation that's on offer. This is Andy Taylor's guide to their range of top quality lights and decorations.