Go wild and create an eco-friendly wildlife garden!
Our wildlife is under serious threat due to loss of habitat, pesticides and intensive farming practices.
Worldwide, the number of wild animals has halved in the last 40 years, and it’s estimated that between 200 and 10,000 species become extinct every year. Ten million farmland birds disappeared from the British countryside between 1979 and the turn of the last century and we lost more than 100,000 kilometres of British between 1984 and 1990 alone.
But there is hope. With the right planning and planting, even the smallest of gardens can help provide much needed habitat for our struggling wildlife and create a colourful, beautiful garden that can be enjoyed throughout the year.
However big or small your garden is, the key to creating a successful wildlife garden is to achieve a good balance of plants and wildlife that live in harmony, supporting each other’s needs year to year.
Here are some tips to create the right balance in your garden:
Providing the right habitat and food for creatures like hedgehogs, toads, newts, frogs, birds, hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds, helps create organic, pesticide-free and sustainable control for your garden. You can do this by including wood and leaf piles, rocks, bug houses, nest boxes and ponds.
Compost bins are an excellent way to promote natural decomposers such as soil invertebrates and fungi which encourage wildlife into the garden. It’s also a good way to dispose of fruit and vegetable waste as well as all sorts of other things like paper, hairs (human and pet) and egg boxes.
Instead of using pesticides and chemical weedkillers, try using organic forms of control. In the wild, certain plant species thrive together because they are compatible. They benefit each other by attracting beneficial insects and pollinators, deterring pests, and providing shade, nutrients or physical support.
For example, the smell of chives or onions helps deters aphids from tomato plants, nasturtiums can help attract cabbage white butterflies away from cabbage or other brassica and planting sweet peas near beans will help attract beneficial pollinators.
Plant native species for year-round interest
By planting native species of trees, shrubs and flowers that are best adapted to our climate and therefore need fewer chemicals and water to thrive, you will also attract native wildlife like bees, butterflies and birds.
Include a mix of plants that will create year-round interest, colour and habitat for as many species as possible. For example, large shrubs and evergreen climbers provide good nesting sites, spring and summer flowering shrubs and perennials attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators, and fruiting shrubs and trees such as holly, rowan and and crab apple provide much-needed winter food for birds. Pulmonaria, winter flowering honeysuckle, crocus bulbs, snowdop and aconites will also provide winter nectar and leaving seed heads on teasels and grasses will provide overwinter food for birds.
‘Rewild’ parts of your garden
Allow some areas of your garden to ‘rewild’ and you will be amazed at the variety of wildlife it will attract and the beautiful, vibrant colours it will create.
You can also buy perennial wildflower seeds to help inject a burst of colour that will return year on year. Sow in spring or summer when the grass is short and cut once a year in early autumn. Remove all clippings to keep soil nutrient levels low.
Even the smallest of gardens can have trees – small varieties like rowan, hazel and crab apple will be self-sustaining and provide shade, shelter, nesting, perching and food for birds, insects and other animals.
Trees also help combat climate change by absorbing CO2 from our atmosphere, help prevent soil erosion and provide food.
Create a pond
A pond or pool is essential to provide a good source of water for all sorts of wild creatures and to offer much needed habitat for amphibians like frogs, toads and newts.
Make sure that one side slopes gradually or add containers to create stepping stones to ensure that all creatures can easily access the water. You can plant a whole range of aquatic and moisture-loving plants like yellow flag iris or marsh marigold in a large pond, and ragged robin and meadowsweet on the margins. Try to include oxygenating plants like curled pondweed or hornweed to help keep the water clear.
If you have a very small outdoor space, try planting up a glazed water-tight pot with a dwarf water lily or an arum lily.
Add a hedgehog highway!
Hedgehogs are in decline due to intensive agriculture practices and loss of habitat so add a hedgehog highway to your garden to make it easier for them to travel to find food.
Hedgehogs travel about one mile every night as they look for food and for a mate and their habitat becomes more and more built up with fences and walls, it’s harder for them to get around.All you need to do is create a small 13cm x 13cm hole either in or under your garden fence so that they can come and go. This will be too small for cats or dogs to pass through.
Remember to put water out for hedgehogs in warm weather.
Bird and bat boxes
Add wooden bat boxes to trees and quiet areas around your garden to provide somewhere for bats to roost, raise their pups and sleep during the day.
The same goes for bird boxes - position them in quiet, sheltered areas to provide a safe place for them to nest in the spring and summer months. Clean them out in the autumn so that they can be used for winter roosting.
Bird feeders and baths
Putting up a variety of bird feeders around your garden - especially during the winter months when natural food is scarce - will help attract a variety of bird species.
Don’t forget to put out water for the birds, not just in the summer months but in icy conditions too.
For more information about creating wildlife gardens visit the following websites: