Creating wildlife havens in the orchard
Bird boxes – many different bird box designs can be found on the internet.
The RSPB has a good Blue Tit box design here.
Blue Tits love to eat aphids!
Kestrel boxes – Kestrels will predate on small mammals that will enjoy the areas that are less intensively mown. Kestrel boxes can be placed on trees, poles or buildings in sheltered places with a good sightline over the orchard. Example here.
Bat boxes – Bats eat moths. One major orchard pest is the Codling moth. Bat boxes placed on trees and buildings in sheltered areas will encourage bats to carry out some pest control for you.
A very simple bat box design can be found here.
Hoverfly larvae are voracious predators of aphids. They will be attracted to the orchard by a wide range of nectar sources that are available throughout the year.
Native spring bulbs (bluebells, crocus, daffodils and wild garlic), as well as looking beautiful, are a great early source of nectar for bees and hoverflies and will grow well directly under the tree canopy.
Bumblebees – pollinators
Solitary bees – pollinators
Honey bees – pollinators and makers of honey
Moths – pollinators
Flies – pollinators
Beetles – aphid predators
Butterflies – pollinators
Parasitic wasps – aphid predators
Lacewing – their larvae are aphid predators
Hoverflies – pollinators, aphid predators
Ladybirds – adults and larvae are aphid predators
Earwigs –aphid predators codling moth egg predators
Pirate bugs – aphid and red spider mite predators
How to create wildflower areas
- Before planting wildflowers the ground in the orchard needs preparing.
- For spring planting, preparation work is best carried out in late autumn.
- Work out what size area you are going to plant.
- Mow the grass as low as the mower will allow
- Using a biodegradable landscape fabric or a thick layer (10cm) of hardwood woodchip (this can be fresh) and mulch the area(s) to be planted. By spring, much of the grass will have died off or been severely weakened.
- Plant the wildflower plugs into the mulch at a rate of 5-7 plugs per square meter.
Most wildflower plants are grown in 7cm pots using peat-free compost and have established root growth when received. They normally flower in their first season after planting, dropping more seed or developing runners to colonise naturally.
The best time to plant is early Spring, once the ground frosts have loosened the soil, and it begins to warm up. Keep plants well-watered and don’t plant in drought conditions. Plants arrive in waterproof boxes and need to be unpacked quickly and watered. If you are not ready to plant out, keep them in their pots and water when the compost feels dry.
Plants can be added to a wildflower area any time of year, provided the conditions are neither too dry, nor too cold. If you’re putting wildflower plants into a lawn or grassy area, you can mow them on a high setting – a ‘lazy lawn’ as it’s known! – a couple of times in the first year to encourage stronger root growth.
Group plants together in odd numbers of 3s, 5s, 7s etc rather than singly dotted about, encouraging them to form drifts, which look more natural and colonise more easily.
Wildflowers that will attract butterflies, birds, bees and hoverflies
Birds Foot Trefoil