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How to encourage wildlife on allotments

How to encourage wildlife on allotments
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Why have an allotment?

Allotments are an increasingly important resource for wildlife. Many of the plants and animals that struggle to survive on intensively managed farmland find refuge on allotment sites. If you’d like to take on an allotment contact your local council in the first instance. In some cases, the take up of allotments is very high and you may have to go on a waiting list.

How to encourage wildlife onto your allotment

The key to getting wildlife to work with you is to encourage the beneficial creatures that already live on your allotment and encourage more and different ones to live there. The easiest way of conserving wildlife is to reduce your use of toxic chemicals, ideally cutting them out altogether. Encourage more of the right kind of creature to live on your allotment by creating suitable habitats. Suitable habitats include hedges; ponds and bog areas; nest boxes for birds; roosts for bats; beetle banks; overgrown, undisturbed areas, log and stone piles and a wildlife/herb patch.

Managing wildlife areas

Empty, overgrown plots can make an allotment look unkempt and uncared for, but a solution is to ‘manage’ these sites as wildlife areas. Untended plots may be taken over by bramble which is an excellent food source and refuge for many kinds of wildlife. Apart from attracting insects such as hoverflies, bees and lacewings, a tangle of brambles is a favourite nesting site for birds like robins, wrens, song thrushes and blackbirds. Some warblers and finch species may also use bramble in this way. To control bramble, cut different sections back on a three- or four-year rotation so there is always a gradation between first-year growth and mature stems; this means you can keep a plot relatively tidy but still retain much of the wildlife benefit.

Habitats, nesting sites and refuges

  • Many birds are excellent predators and will eat all manner of pests. The best way to encourage beneficial birds onto your plot is to put up bird boxes and make sure there is plenty of water available.
  • Bats are superb insect predators. Build a bat box made from untreated timber.
  • Build a pond to encourage frogs, toads and newts to your allotment
  • Create a bug hotel to encourage beneficial insects to overwinter on your plot by providing them with a place to hibernate. An old log bored with holes will be an invaluable refuge for many useful insects.
  • Log or stone piles will create a multitude of habitats for beneficial animals. Even a small stone pile will be a useful habitat for beetles and centipedes. Larger piles may shelter slug-eating frogs and toads.
  • Keep some plant litter (leaves and old vegetation) to provide winter hibernation sites for insect predators such as ladybirds, lacewings and spiders.
  • The addition of flowers to your allotment will attract pollinating insects such as bees.
  • Planting native hedging plants and trees such as hazel, elder, blackthorn, hawthorn, dog rose, field maple, beech, yew and the like will create nesting places for birds, shelter beneficial insects and provide berries for food.