Allotments

Allotments can be an oasis for wildlife in cities.  Many birds, insects, amphibians and even relatively rare species like slow worms and grassnakes can all be found in and around allotments.  Encouraging wildlife to allotments can be of great benefit to the allotment holders too.  Many species such as lacewings, ladybirds, toads, newts, hedgehogs and many others eat other species which are pests.  Other are important pollinators of many vegetable and fruit plants (e.g. bees).

Allotment holders ca help to encourage wildlife in many ways.

Reducing the use of herbicides and pesticides

  • Mechanical control of weeds - good old fashioned weeding instead of herbicides.
  • Companion planting - mixing in plants which will deter pests.
  • Encouraging the good insects and other wildlife - many animals are beneficial to gardeners and allotment holders as they eat the pests e.g. hedgehogs, lacewings, many beetles, frogs, toads etc.
  • Using mulches to reduce weed growth.
  • Choosing varieties which are more resistant to pests.

Leaving areas untidy

There is always a tendency to tidy up everything on an allotment.  However leaving some areas overgrown in corners and out of the way places will help many species.  Also leaving some dead vegetation to stand over winter before clearing it in the spring can provide a food source for birds (seed heads etc) and places for hibernating insects.  Leaving some windblown fruit lying provides a food source for small mammals, birds and many other species.

Fruit bushes and trees

Fruit trees and bushes can attract many species.  Those which eat the fruit can be a problem but other such as bees and other pollinators are essential.  Putting nets over fruit bushes can solve the problem of birds eating all the fruit.

Nectar plants

Scented flowers and many aromatic plants such as culinary herbs will attract a variety of insects, including many pollinators such as bees and bumble bees.  Night scent plants (e.g. night scented stock) will attract moths which in turn attract bays.

Beetle banks and bug boxes

Beetle banks are areas left with a covering of grass where the soil is not disturbed.  This can be on paths between allotments or around the perimeter of the site.  Beetles (and many other insects) will thrive in these areas. Many beetles are predators of pests and will emerge from the beetle banks at night to forage across the allotments.

Other insects can be encouraged by leaving area of dead vegetation or the provision of artificial boxes and structures for shelter and hibernation.  There are many designs for bug boxes available from garden centre etc but most provide small sheltered holes and corners where the animals can shelter from the weather and predators.

Composting

Composting reduces waste in land fill, provides a cheap fertiliser for use on the allotments and is beneficial to many species.  Reptiles and amphibians, invertebrates, small mammals and much more will use comport heaps.  Try to avoid disturbing the compost heap during the winter when many animals are hibernating.

Log and stone piles

Like compost heaps log or stone piles will provide shelter for many species.

Bird feeding

Putting out food can be a real help to many bird species, especially in the winter when other food is scarce.  However food shortages can take place at any time so keep feeding them all year.  There are many different bird feeders and type of bird food available and some are better than others.  Some food can even be dangerous (e.g. aflotoxin can make peanuts poisonous so they need to be obtained from a reputable source).  The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has a great deal of good information on the subject