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Gardening for Wildlife
There are many practical ways to enhance your garden for wildlife, whether you have a window box, a balcony, a yard, or a larger garden space you can utilize.
We have plenty of ideas on how you can help nature from planting flowers, bird feeders and hedgehog boxes, to building ponds.
Cultivating a garden to attract wildlife can be a source of enormous pleasure. It also makes a small yet vitally important contribution to counter the wide scale loss of wildlife habitats. Animals require food, water, shelter, and sites to nest or roost. Large areas of weed-free mown lawn may look better than gardens that have been paved over but they offer next to nothing for wildlife.
It’s usually a good thing to draw up a rough plan of changes you wish to make, especially if you have a garden you plan to transform. You'll also have a record of where particular plant species are and when's the best time to prune them etc. You might go all out and turn your garden into a mini nature reserve, or you just make a few tweaks to work with what you have and what is physically and financially possible. Identify which features you wish to retain, and what areas that can be developed. Ponds make excellent habitats and a wonderful feature to a garden. If you have bare fencing consider trellises and climbing plants. Large patios are often unnecessary. Instead consider lifting some up, or cover it with potted plants, raised beds etc.
If you’ve ever been at a garden centre and seen bees busying themselves over certain plants, then you’re guaranteed these will be winners! Exotic and plants non-native to Britain are less likely to be of benefit. Grow a mixture of trees, shrubs, and flowers.
This is can be a low cost and significant part of your wildlife garden, and it certainly won’t be a large pond with advanced water filtration systems filled with fish requiring daily feeding. A wildlife friendly pond largely takes care of itself.
A pile of logs in a shady spot is a perfect habitat for insects such as beetles and their grubs, and many species of fungi. This has the added benefit of adding a rustic touch to your space.
Bird feeder and bird bath
Another low cost solution to attract birds into your garden. Garden centres, ironmongers, and pet shops sell these for just a few pounds as well as bags of bird feed. Also consider a place for birds to drink from. Bird baths are a nice architectural touch but could easilly be a bowl of water or an inverted dustbin lid.
Allow some parts of your lawn to grow long. Not only are daisies and dandelions quite beautiful, you'll provide shelter and areas of interest for small mammals.
Children usually have an instinctive love of nature and many adults like to see them enjoy wildlife – so long as it is the ‘right’ sort of wildlife. The nature-lover’s maxim should, however, be ‘Live and Let Live’. If you like seeing a song thrush, you will grow to like seeing the snails it eats. The overall aim should be for a healthy eco-system rather than mentally dividing your garden residents up into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. So-called ‘pests’, like greenfly on your roses, will soon become food for the blue tits you enjoy watching.
Nature is important, though, not just for entertainment value but because what is healthy for mini-beasts is also healthy for us. A garden that is teeming with wildlife will be a garden that is good for our bodies, minds and spirits.
There has never been a more important time to make your own contribution to biodiversity by letting your garden double up as ‘habitat’. Wildlife in the countryside has taken a huge ‘hit’ from modern agriculture, development and pollution. Your garden can help counter this.
However small or large your plot, there are many ways to enhance your garden for wildlife. We hope you will find some ideas to suit you below.
Dos and Don’ts
Some of the ‘don’ts’ are the easiest to accomplish and the most effective way to change your garden into a wildlife haven.
Don’t tidy up too much in the autumn. Leave some dead wood, twigs, leaves.
Don’t keep every part of the garden tidy– if you have space, have a rough area that is left undisturbed most of the time.
Don’t use pesticides and weedkillers. Let your dandelions flower in the spring. They provide important food for bees.
Grow some wild flowers – many species fit well into a mixed herbaceous border. A mixture of trees, shrubs and flowers gives the right kind of structure.
Put out food and water for birds and other wildlife.
Make a wildlife pond. However small it will be useful to wildlife – but don’t put fish in it.
Make a log or rock pile – or a mixture of both – in a shady place.
For further reading:
There are many informative books. The classic is ‘How to Make a Wildlife Garden’ by Chris Baines.
See higgysgardenproject.blogspot.co.uk for an insight into the wildlife garden belonging to one of YACWAG’s trustees.