Gardens are valuable spaces not only for us but a wealth of wildlife too. It’s estimated that the millions of gardens in Britain cover around 10 million acres – an area bigger than all the country’s nature reserves combined! Viewed from the air you can see how they link together into green corridors, providing wildlife with a range of habitats and the ability to move from one area to another to feed, breed, shelter and hibernate.
Every garden can be enriched to become a home for local birds and wildlife, planting flowering meadows for butterflies and insects, hedges for nesting birds, and blossom and blooms throughout the year to bring in bees, butterflies and insects.
To encourage wildlife try developing ponds and bog gardens for frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies, sow annuals and meadows to feed hoverflies and insects, provide shelter for ground beetles, and put up bird feeders, baths and nesting boxes. There are many ways to make wildlife welcome, and most of these creatures are the gardener’s friend, feeding on pests like slugs, snails, caterpillars and greenfly to control problems without the need to spray.
Planting a wildlife-friendly garden is also a great way for children to watch the antics of birds and insects up close, interacting with the natural world around them. Many gardening activities will encourage kids outside, from sowing flowers and crops, building log piles and insect homes, photographing flowers that bees and butterflies visit, feeding birds, or keeping a diary of garden visitors and seasonal changes.
Gardens bring us closer to nature, allowing us to nurture and protect our small piece of the environment that really makes a difference to local wildlife. They also have valuable restorative qualities to help improve our physical and mental health. Just looking out onto a garden can significantly decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, reducing stress and anxiety, raising our mood and increasing our feeling of wellbeing.
So this month get planting to create a wildlife-friendly garden, and reap the benefits of surrounding yourself with nature.
10 things to do to make a wildlife garden
1. Grow fruiting and berrying trees and shrubs for birds
2. Plant year-round flowers for bees and insects
3. Feed the birds all-year-round
4. Make a pond, water feature or bird bath
5. Plant native hedges around the garden
6. Put up bird nesting boxes
7. Sow annual flowers, meadows and crops
8. Build log piles at the back or borders
9. Install bee boxes and insect hotels
10. Give a hedgehog a home