With the help of a biodiversity grant from Tower Hamlets Homes, residents have been working hard to provide new wildlife habitats at Approach Gardens. Already a thriving community food-growing site, the gardens have received a wildlife makeover during 2014.
Pride of place, once it is established, will go to the wildflower meadow. This has been carefully designed to produce a diverse, colourful meadow containing perennial wild flowers. The topsoil was removed from this area and aggregate added in order to produce a poor quality, sandy soil. Given the new soil condition, and the fact that the site slopes, a wild flower seed mix intended for a well-draining sandy environment was selected and sown. To provide good colour in the first couple of years, while the perennials establish themselves, cornfield annual flower seeds were added to the mix. It doesn’t look much now (see photo left), but next spring should see a spectacular display of flowers.
Beside the new meadow is a “wilderness area” (see header photo), which has been fenced off and allowed to grow wild. At the rear, along the wall, is a large amount of rotting wood and shavings. Most of this is now covered, with the soil excavated from the meadow area, and the wood is effectively now an underground habitat for more than half of its length. An insect hotel has also been installed here.
Climbers, including ivy and honeysuckle, have been planted along the whole length of the iron fence railings on the north edge of the site. The first ones to be planted are already climbing well. Bird feeders are dotted around the garden, and there is one ‘feeding station’ (see photo left) with numerous feeders. These include feeders suitable for nuts, fat-balls and seeds. Two bee houses, suitable for mason and solitary bees, have been fitted to the walls. Residents also took part in a scheme to grow sunflowers for the benefit of bees, and planted around 40 sunflowers this summer.
In addition to the wildlife enhancements, the gardeners are promoting sustainable gardening with a composting system (including making signs in English and Bengali) to ensure they produce good quality compost.
Future plans include creating a pond, which the gardeners hope might eventually attract frogs.
All photos by Colin Toogood