Pollinators fly in July!

Painted Lady © Jim Higham 

Pollinators are literally getting moving in July, with a huge amount of butterfly species currently exploring gardens and green spaces all over the UK. Read on to find out what you can see this time of year.

As summer is getting into full swing, there’s plenty of maintenance and preparation you can do in your garden to keep it pollinator friendly this month. 

What to do

  • Make comfrey plant fertiliser. This has been shown to be high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and out performs conventional shop-bought fertilisers. Use gloves to cut the plant to the base and take off the leaves. Steep the leaves in a container (preferably with a lid!) and check every few weeks. Collect any liquid in a re-used bottle or suitable container and store in a cool, dark place. Keep topping up with more leaves! When you want to use it dilute the comfrey fertiliser 1:10 parts water. 
  • Leave areas of long grass around your pond for emerging baby frogs and toads.
  • Continue tying in new growth from climbing plants.
  • Water plants at the roots to conserve and direct water. 
  • Keep your plants watered- top tips for water conservation include: Water plants using a watering can instead of a hose; Ensure there are saucers under your pot plants to avoid water running away; Water at the base of the plant to reduce evaporation; Use water from your water butt or grey water form washing up.
  • Dead head roses, sweet peas and other perennial plants to keep them flowering.
  • Take the first cut of your Spring meadow keeping blades high.  Ensure you leave cuttings for a few days for seeds to drop then rake off and put on compost heap. A scythe is best for this.
  • Take cuttings or collect seeds from plants you’d like to grow on.
  • Take cuttings or collect seeds from plants you’d like to grow on.
  • Now is the time that bees and other insects as well as birds will benefit form access to water, so keep bird baths and other sources fresh, clean and topped up.
  • Keep your bird feeder topped up for hungry family groups.
  • Check your solitary bee home and see if anyone is home. Count how many entrance holes have been closed up with mud or leaves! 

July sees the start of The Big Butterfly Count, running from 19th July – 11th August; why not join in and record which species are visiting your garden?  You could also make a butterfly house, for butterflies to shelter in during bad weather or for when they are mating. This is especially useful if you don’t have mature trees in your garden or have a small space. Check out our activity sheets below for fun activities to do with children (or other adults!) in the garden. 

Now is also a brilliant time to discover the moths that emerge at dusk to feed on your nectar rich plants.  Indoors, try turning your bathroom in to a moth trap - leave the light on in the bathroom and return a few hours later to see what moths have been attracted to your bathroom light. Or if you’d prefer them to stay outside - leave an outside light on and check it before you go to bed to see what has settled on it. If you’re really feeling adventurous, use a torch to follow them around your garden and if you have time try and catch them with a net and jar to get up close and personal. Finally, if patience is your virtue, fashion a simple but handy DIY moth trap, by hanging a sheet up in the garden over your washing line or similar, then shine a light on it and wait to see what moths rest on it.

What to see

The painted lady butterfly is July’s species of the month, so be sure to look out for the tell-tale flutter of orange and black among the flowers. The garden tiger moth and Bombus pratorum – early bumblebee, which flies April to August – will also 'bee' active at this time. See if you can spot any of Spring’s new additions out exploring the world - including Spring fledged birds such a blue tits and finches, still in family groups with parents, baby frogs, toads and hedgehogs. Southern Hawker dragonfly are common in garden ponds in July and you may see stag beetles emerge from underground or wood piles in to breed.

What to plant

  • Sow more biennials such as foxgloves, honesty, teasel, sweetrocket, stocks, evening primrose. Check out Junes monthly guide for more biennial suggestions.
  • Achillea species (yarrow) can be planted now
  • Delphiniums can be planted this month
  • Snapdragons – Antirrhinum majus- short lived perennials.
  • Dogwood
  • Holly - available as shrub or trees.

Most importantly, enjoy the fruits of your labours - if you've been working in your garden for a few months now, you should be rewarded with colour and wildilfe, and a great place to put your feet up and admire your achievements!