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.
In order to promote and enhance biodiversity and conservation of our breeding birds and wildlife, there's a selection of nest boxes you can purchase, designed to attract various animals, birds and insects.
The Wildlife World Hedgehog and Mammal House is a shelter for our spiny friends who do such a good job hoovering up unwanted snails. There's a 'breathable' interior so, unlike in my house, there's no condensation problems. The large inspection hatch means easy cleaning and it's raised off the ground to prevent rotting. It's predator resistant and has as a safe feeding 'lounge'.
The same company's Hedgehog House is made from acacia for good insulation. A 12ins tunnel leads to the house that has a waterproof sea grass roof, hinged for looking inside and cleaning.
And they have a third house for hedgehogs and small mammals that's insulated, weatherproofed and with a raised floor. Again there's a hinged door for inspection and cleaning purposes.
Frogs and toads are also garden friends to be encouraged. The Wildlife World Frog and Toad House is an overwintering location and safe retreat. It's constructed from various woods, one chamber is a cool sanctuary open to the soil, the other has a timber floor with separate access and provides drier accommodation.
Bats are not everyone's cup of tea but they are fascinating animals and you can encourage them with a study oak Bat Box. There's an access ladder and hinged front door providing access.
Insects will be delighted with their choice of accommodation. They can check into the Butterfly and Moth Habitat that Small Tortoiseshells, Commas and Peacocks will find safe when overwintering. Thoughtfully it has a sponge that can be charged with sugar water, for feeding, or a butterfly attractant to gain their attention.
Ladybirds and Lacewings, who find aphids an irresistible meal, can be encouraged by the Ladybird Log where they can overwinter or retreat to in the summer. There's also the Ladybird and Insect Tower, both this and the Log have central chambers that can be filled with straw or bark to provide insulation and safety.
The Beneficial Insect Box and Bug Box 2000 have various sized tubes to provide homes for Mason and Leafcutter bees who are excellent pollinators and other garden good guys. Both should be hung in a sheltered position in the garden or on a wall.
Non-swarming bees, who increasingly find it difficult to settle down in our tidy gardens, will also love to move into the Solitary Bee Hive.
There are many nesting boxes available commercially. From the simple wooden box to decorative postbox and teapot nesters.
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.
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 bird 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.
Nathan James Dodd
With high winds increasingly affecting most parts of Britain, many people are likely to be contacting their insurance companies regarding damage caused to sheds, greenhouses, fences and other garden property. Robert Hall explains how GardenSite can help with an insurance quote and claim.
With gardens becoming smaller, neighbours closer and roads busier, we all suffer from different types of noise pollution. But, as Andy Taylor reports, Forest have now come up with a new kind of fencing that minimizes this nuisance.
Although gardening activity in February may not be so frenetic as during the summer months, there's still plenty to be done and Spring is just around the corner. Nathan James Dodd suggests the jobs you should be tackling in the garden this month.
Dan Everton helps you look after your pond during the February with some tips on the precautions you can take to avoid the water freezing over, and advice on keeping fish at this time of the year.