Professional Gardener - Meadow areas, pollinators and machinery

Finding space for nectar-rich plants can help wildlife and improve pollination, says Sally Drury.

Meadow areas and bee conservation

With so much wildlife under threat, particularly those ever-essential pollinating bees and insects, it is a good idea to incorporate nectar-rich plants in borders and beds wherever possible.

But for some gardens and estates, it is not always that easy - notably where there is a dominance of large lawns, areas devoted to tree collections and perhaps the inclusion of facilities such as car parks, mini golf or even helicopter pads. Yet there are simple things that can be done to encourage and sustain bees and other pollinating insects.

Take a walk around the garden or estate and look for any vacant and underused land, out-of-the-way areas, fringes and margins. There is almost always somewhere, even a border, that can be developed into a colourful and nectar-rich meadow.

It does not have to be a large area, but ideally should be in a sunny spot and clear of grass and weeds or rough grassland scarified.

The warm, damp conditions of autumn can be perfect for establishing such a site - with rewarding results next year after the cold weather has encouraged species such as Yellow Rattle to germinate.

There are lots of companies supplying seed mixtures for meadow establishment. Meadow Anywhere, for instance, offers 10g packets with around 1,000 seeds to cover 2.5sq m. There are mixtures specially formulated for butterflies and moths as well as for bumblebees and for every packet sold £1 is shared equally between Butterfly Conservation and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Autumn machinery maintenance

High winds and gales have already been experienced in many parts of the country and, if weather forecasts are to be believed, we may have more gales and violent storms over the next month or so.

Make sure that tools and equipment are ready for work - especially chainsaws, chippers and shredders. Check service records. Sharpen chains and blades, replacing worn parts as necessary, and make sure that appropriate personal protective equipment is available.

It also makes sense to carry out checks and maintenance procedures to blowers, vacuums and leaf collectors at the same time so that they too are ready to use when required. Where such machinery is not owned, call or visit the local hire shops to see what equipment is available.

Even if the autumn gales are not destructive, there will be plenty of pruning work to do now. Ensure that all secateurs, loppers and hand saws are in tip-top condition because ragged or bruised cuts can affect the health of the plant and be an open invitation for pathogen infestation.

Trees and shrubs

Check health and stability ahead of winter weather. Consider moving any trees and shrubs that are overcrowded, need relocating due to development work or are simply in the wrong place. Plan new sites and research companies offering tree-moving services where mechanical lifting and transport are required.

Compost heaps

Ensure that compost areas are tidy and ready to receive autumn debris and the shredded material from pruning work.

Flower garden

Consider early removal of bedding plants and annuals that are looking tired.

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