Plan(t) for Autumn!

Hummingbird hawk moth © Derek Moore

August is underway and as the days shorten a little more, we make our way through the final weeks of Summer. This month, there are steps you can take that will help to ensure your garden continues to offer sustenance for wildlife as we head into Autumn, as well as some preparation for next year’s growth.

Read on for our top tips on what to do, see and plant this August and September to help pollinators in your garden! 

What to do: 

  • Take note of where the gaps are and plant/sow now to fill the gaps next year (see what to plant)
  • Leave seed heads on lavender, verbena, sunflower and teasel for birds
  • Stop deadheading roses now so that they grow hips which birds and other small mammals love
  • Ensure bird feeders and water baths are not hidden by encroaching vegetation – they need to be in clear /open view to protect birds from predators
  • Turn compost heap
  • Clean bird feeders/water baths with extra care this month – remove old seed and wash/ scrub thoroughly with dilute salt water and rinse well. The feeders will have been busy in recent months and disease can spread rapidly on poorly maintained feeders in hot weather. Dry water baths completely in the sun prior to refilling with water (drying kills some viruses which need moisture to survive).
  • Build a log pile and/or hibernaculum ready for autumn hibernation for bees, toads, slow worms etc.

What to see:

August’s Species of the Month is the Hummingbird hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum). A Summer visitor to the UK from Southern Europe, it has a grey-brown body and forewings, a black and white spotted ‘tail’ and orange hind wings. This day-flying, expert hoverer is so named due to the excellent impersonation it does of its avian counterpart - using its proboscis (a long feeding tube) to reach nectar, its wings beat so rapidly that they produce an audible hum and an orange blur.

Also look out this month for the Cinnabar moth, with its vivid red and black colouring; the Magpie moth, with striking black and yellow spots on white wings; and the Holly blue butterfly which, as the name suggests, is a pretty bright blue. Fluffy, gingery-brown carder bees feeding on flowers, lacewings seeking out aphids and hover flies with their deceptive yellow and black stripes will all be visible at this time. You may also notice swallows begin to group together prior to their winter migration.

What to plant: 

  • Forget me nots are great for shade and ground cover
  • Wild carrot needs a sunny, well drained area. Sow directly where you want them to grow
  • Seeds of flowers such as English marigold (Calendula - Indian Prince variety), cornflower, nigella, scabious, salvia and salad burnet can all be planted this month
  • Rowan, Willow, Birch and field maple trees can be purchased and planted this month
  • Apple (Malus) and Cherry trees (Prunus) can be purchased and planted this month. Dwarf varieties may be available to grow in a container if you have a small space