I thought I would get ahead of the game and purchase some seeds before I actually need them, but while I still have a sporting chance of actually getting hold of some. I went to Seed Co-operative and decided to pick some bee-bird-human friendly seeds in my bid to increase natural food for my wildlife.
This article shows how – once again – our desire to ‘help’ wildlife can end up being at best a little misguided, and at worst downright detrimental. Bird feeders allow dominant species to outcompete shy or subordinate birds in the same way that prioritising honey bees disadvantages other pollinators. Coupled with the inevitable bird flu restrictions that will doubtless come in to play over the winter, and I am reducing my bird feeders gradually so that the Blue and Great Tits that have become used to the sunflower hearts have a chance to look elsewhere for food. I am endeavouring to do this in my garden by allowing a wide variety of plants to grow up, but I thought I would plant some seeds next year to boost the natural forage.
So, I am doing my best to provide some plants which will tick a lot of boxes for as many species as possible.
Sunflowers: Great for bees, and of course the seeds are fantastic for birds. They also make a good cut flower.
Culinary Poppy: I make a lot of sourdough and bagels, and these seeds can be used in baking. While flowering, they are adored by bees, particularly bumbles. The seedheads (once emptied of their blue sprinkles) are also great for decorating wreaths and for dried flower arrangements.
Phacelia: well-known for attracting pollinators, but they also encourage hoverflies to lay their eggs, providing larvae to feed birds, as well as good shelter and ground cover for amphibians, Dunnocks, slugs and snails. Yes – the last two are incredibly important in the garden ecosystem…
Buckwheat: the plants and seeds are favoured by poultry, and the flowers attract pollinators. Like the phacelia, the green manure aspect provides shelter for insects and keeps the soil healthy, encouraging beneficial microbes.
Kale: Hens love kale, and if left to go to seed, the flowers provide an excellent source of nectar for bees and flies. It also needs a soil rich in nitrogen, which thanks to the run-off from the field, my garden certainly is (as shown by the vast numbers of nettles). Brassicas also attract butterflies, moths, and even if the caterpillars aren’t that palatable, any aphids and beetles will be predated by other insects or birds.
I am not particularly worried about growing food for myself, as I already have two veg boxes (one local, one national) and am quite happy to let them carry on providing my main source of vegetables, supplemented with raspberries, strawberries, brambles and blueberries from the garden. Providing supplementary food for the birds is my main aim thus saving the cost, competition, and disease issues to a minimum, and providing forage and treats for my hens and bees too.
As I said in my previous post, I am no longer offering introductory beekeeping courses, but I am developing a new wildlife gardening course that will be available in both a printed and a PDF version.