We’ve always loved spying out for little critters in the garden – big or small – so it was inevitable that one day the kids would get into this too. There’s also nothing like spending a bit of money on child membership of an organisation like the RSPB or World Wildlife Fund, to stimulate young minds and get some passion for the planet going.
Family and friends bought one of our daughters membership of RSPB and the Whale and Dolphin Society. Membership means regular magazines, with news, activities, connection to a wider community of little planet protectors and much more.
One competition our eldest (8) decided to enter into was developing a wildlife garden. Picture above. We don’t have a huge garden so we went for small and beautiful.
- A pond with water loving plants such as iris, lilies and the prolific water violet algae eating pond snails and fresh water pea mussels;
- Rocks for shady, dampness loving larvae and other nano-critters;
- A mix of wild flowers to attract butterflies and moths (and because they’re pretty)
- Bug house: old bark and hazel twigs from our hedge for woodlice and other creepy crawlies;
- Oh yeah – and a gnome too……
What you need to acheive this:
The pond Well you can dig a hole, and line it with clay and pond liner or be lazy like me and buy a ready-made plastic pond liner from a garden centre or the internet. Ours cost about £25. Plants can be pricey but better to spend a bit of money really than raid existing wild ponds. Our kid’s wildlife magazine had tips on how to design it. Which basically meant surrounding it with rocks graduating from biggish to smallish so critters can clamber in and out of the water. A mix of sand and earth around the pond edge is helpful for fringe plants. If the water stagnates you get nasty weird stuff like blanket weed growing, but you can twiddle a stick in it to extract it. It’s then great for throwing at each other as it’s slimey and sticks well to ears and noses. We bought some fresh water pea mussels and pond snails to populate the pond ans combat algae. Make sure that if you fill the pond with tap water you should leave it a good day or so before putting plants and creatures in it. And don’t forget to put in oxygenating pondweed.
The wild flowers seed mix was a couple of quid. We had an old pile of grass cuttings sitting in the bottom corner of the garden already so we chucked a load of our compost on there and then watered it assiduously through a dry April and May – and then let nature weave her magic.
The bug house. Some good slabs of old bark (we got some good cedar bark off my brother as he works with trees and wood and we figured cedar would last longer). Bung loads of criss crossed twigs underneath and it should get populated quite quickly.
Identification was always going to be part of the learning process (for us as much as for the kids) – so some internet research was required. It never ceases to amaze me how helpful most experts are online if you bother to send a friendly email and image. So thanks again to Joe at www.britishbugs.org.uk.
Apparently our slightly creepy looking visitor in the picture is a member of the longhorn beetle family and his name is Raghium Bifasciatum. More info here….
We’ve also seen lots of larvae providing food for the bottom of our local food chain, spiders, more bugs and one rather emaciated frog who’s since hopped off somewhere else.
The best thing about the pond was it really motivated the kids to find out more. One of them decided to enter a competition and produced the following all by herself (including all text and photos) – nice one! Good use of a bit of technology to capture stuff, think..and learn….
We also get this as a frequent visitor (new post with gorgeous photos on the fascinating world of moths coming soon) – the Elephant Hawkmoth – beautiful:
Have fun and more posts coming soon!