Supporting Wildlife in Our Own Gardens

Our gardens make up a living landscape all across the Country and the way we look after them can make a big difference to our wildlife. Hedgehog This page sets out some of the things we can do in our gardens to benefit the biodiversity of the natural world on which we all depend.

  • Gardening organically helps to increase the numbers of bees, butterflies and other insects we see in our gardens, which in turn benefit insect-eating birds such as robins, wrens, blue tits and thrushes, and mammals such as hedgehogs, shrews, frogs and toads.
  • Compost made from garden and kitchen waste can either be dug in to your soil or spread on the surface as a mulch to add nutrition to it, as well as improving drainage in clay soil and helping to retain moisture in chalky soil. Compost is much better for your soil and for the environment than peat which soon disappears into the ground and is a threatened habitat. Plants and shrubs and fruit and vegetable waste need to be shredded or cut up and mixed together with grass cuttings if they are to rot down effectively to make Adding rain water collected in a water butt filled from a down pipe from the roof of your house will also speed up the decomposition. Using a compost bin with a lid can also speed up the process by retaining the heat generated by the plant material as it decomposes.
  • Oak leaves should not be included in the material being composted as the tannin in them is poisonous to plants. However they can still benefit the garden if they rot down separately as they make which improves soil structure and supports earthworms and beneficial bacteria. It can be made by filling a large strong plastic rubbish bag with wet shreaded leaves, cutting holes in it and sealing it. Keeping the leaves wet and shaking or turning the bag over every few weeks to get air among the leaves speeds decomposition which should complete after about a year although tougher leaves may take longer.
  • Compost heaps also provide shelter for many creatures both large and small, including slow-worms that eat the slugs that are thriving this year.
  • A wildlife pond will attract wildlife into your garden as it provides food, water and a bath for birds as well as a home for amphibians such as and newts. According to The Royal Horticultural Society, nearly 70 percent of ponds have been lost from the UK countryside during the past century, meaning garden ponds and water features have an increased importance for wildlife. The pond should have sloping sides and be shallow around the edges to enable creatures to climb in and out. It should not contain fish as they will eat the other wildlife. Remove floating weed and algae and leave it on the side overnight so that creatures living it can return to the water.
  • Hedgehogs help protect our plants by eating snails, slugs, beetles and caterpillars but the decline in their population in recent years could endanger their future. Log and leaf piles, wilderness areas or even a box with straw in it in an undisturbed corner of your garden can provide a safe and secure area for them to breed and hibernate, and putting out meaty dog or cat food can help feed them. Adult hedgehogs can travel up to two kilometers in a night and so leaving a gap in your fence or digging a channel beneath it will enable them to travel between gardens and move safely between habitats to find mates and food.
  • A pile of dead wood or leaves and twigs in a secluded and shady corner of the garden provides a perfect habitat for numerous insects, including beetles which are dependent on wood, that in turn attract birds and mammals.
  • Trees and hedgerows give birds somewhere to nest and provide them with food and shelter as well as being wildlife corridors joining up green spaces for small mammals. Trees with blossom in the spring and fruit in the autumn are particularly good, and wall climbers can provide links between gardens for pollinators. Trellis and evergreens make a calm haven by acting as a windbreak.
  • Growing a variety of plants and shrubs that flower at different times and provide pollen and nectar from spring to autumn attract diverse species to your garden and provide food and shelter for both small and larger creatures.
  • A wildflower meadow attracts butterflies as the long grass provides a habitat for such egg-laying insects as well as shelter for small mammals. Night-scented plants such as buddleia and evening primrose attract moths, and taller flowers also attract dragonflies as well as bees which, like hedgehogs, are currently under threat. More ways in which we can help bees in our gardens can be found on some of the websites at the foot of this page.
  • Putting out water and food such as kitchen scraps, peanuts, sunflower hearts, seeds and seed-heads, fat balls and berries throughout the year will attract and feed a wide range of birds in your garden. Hanging single bird feeders around your garden is better than having one multiple feeder as shyer species do not need to compete with more aggressive birds for food.
  • Frog on Stone Book Cover More things we can do in our gardens to support and care for wildlife can be found on the following websites.

    BBC Nature: How to help wildlife
    Brent Lodge Bird & Wildlife Trust
    RSPB: Giving Nature a Home
    The Wildlife Trust: Making space for nature in your garden
    RHS: Encourage wildlife to your garden
    Friends of the Earth: 10 easy ways to help bees in your garden
    'Gardeners' World' videos about creating a wildlife garden
    RHS: Encouraging bees into your garden
    The British Hedgehog Preservation Society
    Making and Using Leaf Mold

    You might also like to read wildlife gardening pioneer Chris Baines book 'How to Make a Wildlife Garden'. Chris talked about his involvement in wildlife gardening on 'Gardeners' World on 31 March 2017

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