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Love Your Lawn

Don`t be tempted to pave over a paradise?

This long hot summer has played havoc with lawns all over the UK and many gardeners could be tempted to make-over their patch. Decking, gravel, cobbles and patios can seem like work-free alternatives but PLEASE think twice. Mike Toms of Garden BirdWatch and Wincey Willis, wildlife gardening writer, join forces to ask people to give their brown and dead lawns a second chance - don`t just dig them up. Your lawn may look dead but it is a living carpet supporting an amazing variety of wildlife, from invertebrates to our favourite garden birds. Even the most parched areas will spring back to life with some TLC.Wildlife Depends On You

Birds such as Song Thrushes and Blackbirds find much of their food on lawns - a so-called make-over would be really bad news for garden biodiversity. Blackbirds play life or death tug-of-war with unwilling worms. On damp nights, hedgehogs will snuffle their way across the grass to eat the exposed worms and while they are in your garden they will devour the slugs. Robins will feast on insects too small for us to see and if you are really lucky, in the drier areas, Green Woodpeckers will discover an ants` nest, giving you hours of entertainment. Bird species which feed on lawns include:

Song Thrushes feed on worms, slugs and snails ? all of which thrive in and around lawns. We have lost 56% of our Song Thrushes in the last thirty years.

Blackbirds have been shown to do much better in gardens than they do in farmland and woodland habitats.

Starlings are tremendously successful at clearing a lawn of leather-jackets, the larvae of crane-flies (daddy long-legs).

House Sparrows and Goldfinches will eat the seeds of dandelions, grasses and daisies. House Sparrows are now red-listed species of conservation concern.

Robins, Dunnocks and Pied Wagtails will pick small insects from the surface of the lawn and Robins will also look for worms.

Green Woodpeckers specialise on ants, using a sticky 10 cm (4 inch) tongue to find ants and their eggs.The best wildlife lawn will be a little bit wild so let some weeds flourish. There is no finer sight than goldfinches wrestling with the dandelion seed-heads. Clover attracts bees, which in turn pollinate your vegetables and fruits. In the dampest parts moss will flourish, beautiful to look at, maintenance free and an essential for many nesting birds. Why don`t you involve the children? Let a patch go wild and keep records of how many different plant and creatures live on and in it.Quote from Wincey Willis ? I scream at the telly when I see the make-over people digging up a lawn. It is so short-sighted. A lawn is the heart of a garden for people and creatures alike. You can`t make a daisy chain out of bits of decking. [Wincey Willis, wildlife gardener, writes in Water Gardener Magazine. Wincey is a member of the BTO`s Garden BirdWatch Scheme.]Quote from Mike Toms (Garden BirdWatch Organiser) ? Lawns are really important for birds such as Song Thrushes, half of which have disappeared in the last thirty years. A wildlife-friendly garden is just a pocket-sized nature reserve, with central heating instead of a draughty hide.Recent rain will have kicked started life back into the parched areas. Cooler weather has slowed down growth but you can still patch-mend some Spartan bits with turf.

For Wincey Willis`s lawn fact sheet and information about how to attract more birds to your garden, write to Wincey Willis, Garden BirdWatch, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU. - The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run continually throughout the year, providing extremely important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Over 16,000 people take part in Garden BirdWatch. The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch is funded by participants` contributions and supported by CJ WildBird Foods. For more information: http://www.bto.org/gbw/For further information please contact: Mike Toms on 01842 750050, mobile 0795 2026181 or e-mail: mike.toms@bto.org Graham Appleton on 01842 750050 or e-mail: graham.appleton@bto.org during office hours

4th July 2014