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Why Untidy Gardens Make the Best Habitat for Wildlife

Why untidy gardens make the best habitat for wildlife
By Steve Connor, Science Editor

People who want to turn their gardens into wildlife refuges should relax and let the grass grow tall, the flowers turn to seed and the hedges, shrubs and trees expand skywards.
A detailed study of biodiversity in town and city gardens has found that they offer a vital refuge for animals and plants – provided that those responsible for their upkeep are not too fastidious as gardeners.
It has also found that many of the preconceptions about wildlife gardening are not true. Small gardens are just as good as big gardens at attracting wildlife, suburban gardens are not always better than city gardens and non-native plants are not always harmful to native insects and birds.
Britain’s 16 million gardens are a haven for hundreds of species of animals and plants that would find it impossible to survive on intensively farmed land, said Ken Thompson of Sheffield University.
“Gardens are amazingly diverse even compared to natural habitats that are good for wildlife. Gardens are more interesting on a small scale because they are so variable. All the wildlife responds to these variables,” Dr Thompson said.
“Compared with an equivalent area of modern intensive farming, gardens are much, much better in terms of everything you measure, whether it is spiders, bugs or birds,” he said.
“It sounds heretical, but from a biodiversity perspective most farmland would be improved by having a housing estate built on it,” he told the British Science Festival.
Dr Thompson was involved in the first detailed study of the wildlife inhabiting British gardens when he and his colleagues surveyed 61 gardens in Sheffield between 1999 and 2002. They found an “astonishingly diverse” array of flora and fauna.
They also identified a range of simple measures that improved a garden’s habitability for wildlife. “The top thing is to grow more big shrubs, trees and hedges,” Dr Thompson said.
“These massively increase the volume of vegetation in your garden and a lot of vegetation means a lot of places to live and a lot of stuff to eat,” he said.
“Don’t be too tidy: don’t be in a hurry to clear up everything when the garden stops flowering. Just leave a bit of stuff lying around.
“There’s a mistaken belief that wildlife gardening is something special, something different, something odd and that a wildlife garden needs to be untidy, messy and not something you’d be proud of, but that’s not true,” Dr Thompson said.
The best gardens for wildlife needn’t cost lots of money, and many of the “wildlife” products sold in garden centres are unnecessary, he said.
“Decking is a disaster. One of the findings of the Sheffield study was the very clear relationship between hard surfaces of any sort and less wildlife. It doesn’t matter what it is – as long as it’s hard, it’s bad,” he added.
How to get a more natural garden
*Plant large shrubs and let them grow big. Shrubs and trees produce more vegetation where wildlife can live and eat.
*Allow at least some flowers to turn to seed and the lawn to grow tall. Don’t be in a hurry to clear up fallen leaves.
*Create a pond for insects, frogs and toads. Think before stocking it with fish which will eat insect eggs and larvae.
*Don’t illuminate your garden at night with bright lights. This will disturb many nocturnal creatures, such as moths.
*Create a compost heap – they are miniature nature reserves in themselves. Compost also enriches the soil.

Thanks to Independent Online

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How We Discovered “Chook Scratchings”

We really discovered this almost by mistake, our redworms are grown on outside beds and as a result they produce a very fine worm compost, this compost is put to one side for further refining until sold, whilst being stored it is invaded by a myriad of tiny creatures from spring tails, millipedes, centipedes, little beetles, eelworms, white worms and a 1001 other creatures and their offspring, added to this are a lot of worm cocoons that hatch into tiny redworms, it is a whole soup of tiny living creatures and chickens love it!

Our chickens are free range and get into everything, when this compost is “barrowed down” for further processing we have to fight the chickens otherwise a barrow full is spread around in no time, as chicken owners you will sympathise with this!
Chickens when kept confined in a run or enclosed area soon decimate the surface soil and anything living in it, after a while pretty much every living bug has gone leaving the chickens to scratch around in a pretty barren area, this can lead to boredom and a reliance on food provided for them, natural live foods now being replaced by mealworms, maggots or a few earthworms dug up elsewhere, this is now why we offer this for sale, a small saucepan full put into the run will immediately be set upon, they will pick out every little morsel of food they can find! scratching away to their hearts content.

This product is 100% natural it is completely organic and contains nothing harmful, if there is any left, just sweep it up and put it onto your garden where the natural nutrients will now benefit your plants.
There are also health benefits, chickens are built to scratch and pick, all day long if necessary, when they can no longer do this they will end up with set mealtimes i.e. corn in the morning, maybe extra greens put in during the day and maybe a mash feed at night or whatever your feeding regime is, giving them something to pick and scratch in along with all the live food they will find can provide nutrients, vitamins and minerals that may be missing from their diet, apart from that there is nothing like a bit of live food to keep the crop in good working order and just to make sure we add some extra worms and chicken grit to it, as a bonus, egg yolks look like what egg yolks should look like!

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