The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is urging gardeners to support garden wildlife as high temperatures, baked soils and evaporation inhibit their access to important food supplies.
At RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, an estimated 5.5 inches of rain will be needed to restore soils to the moisture levels of spring. This will take several months, meaning no immediate respite for wildlife. As a result, the charity is asking gardeners to:
- Keep pollinator summer favourites like single dahlias, single fuchsias and verbena going by watering well and deadheading regularly. Nectar flow can slow if plants get really thirsty and flowers run to seed.
- Ensure wildlife can get in and out of ponds as water levels drop, extending ramps in steep-sided ponds and positioning plants so they provide additional access points.
- Leave saucers of water in the garden for wildlife to sip from, placing pebbles and marbles in them to aid insects and smaller birds. Beekeepers might also benefit from chicken drinkers with pebbles in the trough close to hives.
- Avoid tidying the garden. Leave wildflower and meadow grasses uncut, increase log piles, and leave in place plants that have gone to seed. These are relished as a shelter and as nesting supplies while the seeds are highly prized by goldfinches. Watch out when digging for toads that have burrowed to escape the heat.
- Composting garden wastes, especially in shady areas, is very helpful to wildlife. The insects, slugs and worms associated with rotting vegetation can feed other wildlife including amphibians and hedgehogs. Moisten the compost if dry.
- Supplement the diet of hungry hedgehogs by leaving proprietary hedgehog food, available from most bird feed suppliers, in shady spots. These garden favourites need moist soil to easily reach earthworms and other invertebrates that make up much of their diet.
- Group container plants and keep well watered as a refuge for frogs, toads and newts.
Helen Bostock, senior horticultural advisor at the RHS said: “The UK’s gardens are a haven for wildlife with many gardeners plumping for plants and features that support their numbers. Instigating some small changes this long, hot summer could bring major benefits for the many insects, amphibians, mammals and birds that call our plots, pots and baskets home.”
For more information on creating a wildlife garden and tips on maintaining your garden in the heat visit www.rhs.org.uk