A Hertfordshire harvest for wildlife

It's British Food Fortnight this month, a modern take on the harvest festival – a great time to think about all the tasty stuff you can grow in your own garden. Here's how your harvest could help wildlife too

IF you don’t have any trees in your garden, think about planting one. They are wonderful things to watch grow. They provide food and shelter, not only for humans but for wildlife too. Think about the surface area they provide in leaves, branches, flowers and fruit – all from a relatively skinny tree trunk.If you don’t have a large garden, you still might have room for a small tree. Fruit trees are wonderful for the harvest they bring in at this time of year, particularly apples of course – who could think of making a British apple pie without the wonderful Bramley? There’s nothing like picking fruit from your very own tree, and home grown always tastes best.The great thing about having fruit trees in your garden is that you are providing food for innumerable little beasties, as well as yourself. Blackbirds and plenty of other birds love windfalls, and will peck an apple clean before your very eyes.It’s not just fruit trees that provide food for wildlife though – our native oaks support around 284 species of insect. The berries from lots of other native species are very welcome food for birds and caterpillars too. Here are some great native trees for wildlife:

30 metres + (large)Beech, oak, ash, alder, hornbeam 15-30 metres (medium)Maple, silver birch, yew, bay willow Less than 15 metres (small)Hazel, hawthorn, holly, crab apple, wild cherry

Finches, including bullfinches, like the seeds from beech and silver birch trees. If you don’t have a large garden, some of the smaller trees are perfect – they also don’t take as long to mature as bigger trees of course.Crab apples are fantastic sustenance for birds in late autumn and early winter, especially when ground frosts prevent them digging for creepy crawlies. Last winter was so tough that fieldfares (which generally stay in the fields, as the name suggests) flocked into urban gardens and were very grateful to find crab apples and other fruit still on the trees.A hawthorn hedge provides great cover for small mammals like shrews and voles and a nesting place for birds, and doesn’t take long to establish itself. Insects love it and the berries provide food for all – a fantastic all round wildlife plant. Berry-producing plants of any variety are generally a good choice.Beech can be grown into a hedge if you don’t have room for a tree, and retains its foliage through the winter. Holly and yew also make great hedges – remember, if you want your holly hedge to produce berries, you must have both a male and female plant. It’s also a nice idea to leave some seed heads on your flowering plants rather than deadheading them, as this provides a useful source of food for wildlife. To get more ideas about plants you can grow that bees, birds and insects love, visit www.wildaboutgardens.org