Gardeners are the new front-liners in the battle to save nature. Protecting our natural habitat is becoming increasingly important – if you’re one of the 16 million gardeners in the UK, then you and your garden play a very important role in this.
Even if you’re a fan of perfectly manicured lawns and neatly trimmed hedges it is still possible to go ‘wild’ without compromising everything you love about your garden. Let’s look at some of the things you can easily incorporate into your garden to help embrace nature’s diversity. Follow some of these steps to go wild!
Let’s begin with the basics. Like liquorice allsorts, wildlife requires a combination of different things and having such diversity in your garden is one of the keys – a few shaded places, one or two hot spots, flower-rich borders here and there, some grass (let the grass grow a little longer, tolerate some clover), possibly a shrubbery, and the simplest, yet most important element of all, water. If you can incorporate even some of these measures into your garden, you will help provide the food and habitat required for an eco-system that benefits and encourages wildlife. Hopefully, you too will benefit as you observe and enjoy the increased wildlife activity in your garden.
Some plants, shrubs and flowers are just more ‘generous’ than others. Many beautiful garden plants provide berries, pollen, seeds and tasty foliage. Lavender, for instance, not only smells amazing but is pollen and nectar rich, which greatly encourages bees. Could you consider planting a native hedgerow bush or tree such as hawthorn, blackthorn or the beautiful Guelder rose, that will not only provide nesting sites but could also be an invaluable source of winter fuel for hungry wildlife? Roses, honeysuckle or clematis embracing fences or climbing walls could be invaluable too for their contribution. If it’s time to repair or put up a new fence, what about an unusual alternative such as a living willow fence? Not only will it reduce carbon, nor will it ever require painting, which of course has the additional benefit of a reduced chemical footprint!
Probably the single most important step you could take would be to add water in one way or another. A simple bird bath would be a great start. Something as simple as a shallow plastic tray, kept topped up with water, could play host to a number of different species, and not only birds. You might be surprised at just how many small animals take advantage of the new bathing and bar facilities. Of course, a small pond would be even better! Remember to keep the edges shallow to allow easy access and exit for hedgehogs.
Add a Bird Table or Feeder
An obvious and really easy way to supplement the food source for birds. Tables can be a lifeline in the winter for many species and don’t we all enjoy watching birds come to feed in our gardens? Really, everyone ends up being a winner. NB Remember that bird tables and feeders need to be cleaned occasionally to stop mould etc from decayed seed and peanut particles.
Mind the Gap
Are there any gaps or deserted places in your garden? What about the patio or decking? Do you have a shed roof, a bare fence or a blank wall? Fill them in with as much greenery as you can - every little helps. What about cutting out a hole in your fence - about the size of a CD? This would provide easy access into your plot for frogs sheltering in the greenery nearby - or even for hedgehogs, which regularly forage several kilometres in a night. Find out more about helping hedgehogs in your garden at https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/helpful-garden-features
Create a Wild Flower Garden
Do you have a small patch of lawn on a sunny site? Then you are almost there! A wild flower grassy area is easier to look after than a traditional lawn and can give you colour interest all the way through from spring until the end of summer. There are many choices of wild flower: try cowslip, meadow buttercup, harebell, or chamomile to start with – check what suits your soil best. Some can be grown quite easily from seed, or buy plug plants. Their beautiful colours vary from multiple shades of pink through to red, yellow and white. If you need to use the area for access then just mow a path through it, leaving the rest of the area unmowed til the flowers have finished. A wild flower area is possibly one of the most satisfying ways of protecting the environment and providing a haven for butterflies and bees. Not sure? Try on just a small area first, or just plant up a couple of tubs and put in a sunny spot where you can enjoy.
Composting all your garden waste is a great way to reduce landfill. It can then be used to improve your soil as well as providing shelter for many small creatures.
Anything that removes the links in the food chain will have a damaging effect on the animals that need them as food, so despite their obvious benefits, think twice about using insecticides and herbicides.
A Leafy Corner
Sweep fallen leaves into a shady corner and leave them undisturbed. Frogs, toads and newts thrive in these damp conditions. A brilliant move for a garden eco-system.
Start to think differently about how you may be able to help our wildlife. Your outdoor space can make a difference, especially if you implement one or two of the suggestions mentioned above. Finally, pass these tips on to the next generation. Provide the kids with child-size tools and encourage them to garden with you. Give it a try, or to make the most of your ‘wild’ options, contact Leeds Garden Design today to discuss your ideas.