Each week during the 2020 Awards we'll be providing information, updates, ideas and tips. You'll find them all here, the latest at the top. Hope you find them useful - and let us know if you have suggestions for content.
WAGA Weekly 17: 27th July
Why avoid chemical weed killers in your wildlife garden?
Roundup or Weedol – the route to a perfect garden – but we should think again!
These products contain a chemical cocktail including Glyphosate which is absorbed through foliage, inhibiting the plant’s ability to synthesize proteins. This causes it to sicken and die.
Glyphosate is the most widely and heavily used agrichemical worldwide, in agriculture, parks and amenities as well as in gardens.
Dr Robin Mesnage of Kings College London, writes:
"We know Roundup, the commercial name of glyphosate-based herbicides, contains many other chemicals, which when mixed together are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate on its own."
Research in 2018 has shown these other chemicals include arsenic, chromium, cobalt, lead and nickel.
Effects on wildlife
Earthworms are the prime victims. Studies have shown it reduces their ecologically vital activity within the soil, as well as interfering with their reproductive success. Glyphosate formulations destroy other micro organisms in healthy soil. It harms bee navigation, hits butterfly populations and severely affects amphibians. In a study at the University of Pittsburgh, Roundup was sprayed over tanks filled with tadpoles. Within 24 hours most were dead. In three weeks they all were. When adult frogs and toads were tested, they suffered catastrophic mortality rates.
Embrace your weeds
Weeds are friends of wildlife! Wildflowers such as dandelions, selfheal and clover – often regarded as weeds – that grow in the grass will provide bees and other insects with a source of pollen and nectar. House sparrows will forage there for insects and seed, while hedgehogs, frogs and small mammals will take shelter there. You could even lure grass-feeding butterflies such as the speckled wood and gatekeeper, to breed.
In the flower or vegetable patch, many weeds can be kept down by mulching. Mulches can be made from a thick layer of organic matter (compost, shredded bark, cardboard, newspaper, straw etc) or from sheets of plastic textile. A compost mulch is ideal, as not only does it suppress weeds but it also feeds the soil beneath and improves its texture.
Friends of the Earth, Health and Environmental Impact of Glyphosate 2001 report
Effects on humans: This is a complex area, however, a recent paper explored the effect of GBHs (glyphosate based herbicides) on the human gut. Interference with gut enzymes gives rise to many diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders, obesity and diabetes. Another paper revealed that glyphosate can increase our antibiotic resistance - a global health problem looming on the horizon. The World Health Organisation listed glyphosate as probably carcinogenic.
WAGA Weekly 16: 20th July
Bird feeding station (situated away from any nesting boxes)
Of all the groups of wildlife that people like to help in the garden, birds almost always come top of the list! Birds in the garden are visible, audible, good to look at and entertaining to watch! They also help the gardener by feeding on slugs, snails, aphids and insects. If you feed them, birds can easily be encouraged to spend more time in the garden and some can be encouraged to breed.
Types of feeding station and where to put them
There are many different types of bird feeding station ranging from a simple bird feeder hanging from a tree to a complex feeding station holding an array of modern easy clean nut and nibble feeders. If squirrels are a problem in your garden, choose squirrel buster feeders! Put the feeders somewhere quiet situated away from any nesting boxes and out of the reach of predators.
What to Feed
Bird food comes in many qualities and varieties. I regularly offer the birds in my garden sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet balls, but there are lots of other varieties available.
When to Feed
The RSPB’s advice is that it’s fine to feed birds all year round. Feeding birds helps to keep them fit and more able to survive predator attack and disease. However, it’s best to regard the food you offer as supplementary feed and to put it out little and often. Then if, for whatever reason, you temporarily stop offering food, the birds visiting your garden will be unlikely to starve – they will quickly seek out and find other sources of food.
Ideally clean all your bird feeders every fortnight using mild disinfectant and hot water.
Where to buy bird feeders and bird food
A variety of bird feeders and food are available from local hardware shops, pet shops and garden centres. Alternatively the RSPB via their website www.rspbshop.co.uk offer top quality feeders and food grown, produced and packaged in environmentally friendly ways. In addition, 100 % of the profit goes to conservation.
WAGA Weekly 15: 13th July
Save water – install a water butt
Our water is precious. If we all do our part in conserving precious water supplies, we can make a huge difference for the environment.
Using less water keeps more in our ecosystems and helps to keep wetland habitats topped up for animals like otters, water voles, herons and fish. This is especially important during drought periods and in our area -South East England - where there is a big demand on water supplies.
Top reasons to conserve water:
Water is essential to all life. Not only does it keep us and the animals and plants around us alive, but it also provides specialist habitats for wildlife.
Conserving water can save you money – the less water you use, the less you may be charged by your water company.
Conserving water saves energy. Energy is needed to filter, heat and pump water to your home, so reducing your water use also reduces your carbon footprint.
Gardens are serious guzzlers of water, and much of what we use is drinking water straight from the tap. The average hosepipe uses about 170 litres of water every 10 minutes, more than the average person uses in a day for drinking, bathing and flushing the loo.
Isn’t it strange that when we need water we pump it in from somewhere far away, whereas when water falls on our house, we like to send it down the drain! So the first thing to do in order to reduce the amount of tap water you use when gardening is to fit water butts. A standard butt can hold over 200 litres!
What you will need: Water butt, Pencil, Spirit level, Hacksaw, Hole-cutting drill
Check that you have a suitable location where you could site a water butt next to a drainpipe, where the water runs off your house roof, garage, greenhouse or shed. You’ll need a flat, firm surface where the water butt won’t get in the way.
We recommend you fit a cheap and clever diverter kit to make sure the butt does not overflow. It diverts water from the pipe down a short length of connecting pipe but only until the butt is full, at which point the excess will flow once again down the drainpipe.
Now you’ve done the preplanning, you can buy a suitable water butt and diverter kit from your local DIY store or online. It is good to get a butt with a stand like the one in the picture, it will allow you to fill your watering cans from the tap at the bottom of the butt.
Then follow the instructions to fit the diverter kit. It requires cutting through a drainpipe so get someone with DIY skills if you’re not confident. You will also need a drill capable of cutting the right sized hole.
Once fitted, wait for the rains! Do keep a lid on the water butt - it will not only mean that creatures can't fall in and drown, but it will also stop mosquitoes and midges breeding in there.
Consider adding extra butts, which you can connect in a row alongside the first.
Another benefit of having a water butt is that you can use the rainwater you collect to top up your pond, far better for wildlife than the nutrient-rich water that comes out of the tap.
WAGA Weekly 14: 6th July
Mixed native hedge
Our native hedges are under threat
From 1890 to 1950 there was very little change in the extent of mixed native hedgerows in the UK. Between 1950 and 1975 tens of thousands of kilometres of hedges were taken out, because of changes to the nature of farming, road building and other development.
Why is this important?
Hedges provide shelter, food and security for many birds and other creatures (including dormice, great crested newts, many species of bats and muntjacs). Birds build their nests in hedges, other creatures live in hedges and climb through, over or under hedges (including hedgehogs). Hedges filter wind rather than blocking it so they are less prone to being blown over than fences. Hedges are long lived and if thorny they make an excellent security cordon.
Hedges play a role in reducing climate change by storing carbon dioxide.
Hawthorn blossom was the original wedding confetti and is totally biodegradable!
If you inherit a mixed native hedge in or around your garden, you are very lucky indeed. If not, plant one!
Hedging plants to use for a mixed native hedge
For a mixed conservation grade hedge, use 50% Hawthorn with a mixture of 4 or 5 other native species such as Holly, Oak, Hornbeam, Crabapple, Dog Rose, Quickthorn, Dogwood, Field Maple and the Wayfaring Tree.
You will need to plant a bare-root deciduous hedge in winter (November-March). Evergreens can go in earlier (September) to start to settle in. After planting, lop off the top half of each hedging plant to encourage them to grow branches close to the ground.
By Year 3, your hedge should start to mesh together. By Year 5 it will provide a solid barrier.
All it needs is one annual trim in the late autumn after the birds have finished nesting and fledging.