“Gardens are increasingly important havens for wildlife as habitats in the wider countryside shrink and fragment, and climate change takes its toll.” (Sussex Wildlife Trust, www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk) Almost 9 out of ten UK households have a garden, covering around 667,000 acres. According to The Wildlife Trusts (www.wildlifetrusts.org), this is larger than all our nature reserves put together. By creating a wildlife friendly garden, we can all play a part to protect wildlife.
Why is it important to protect wildlife?
While wildlife and nature is great for our mental wellbeing, it’s vital to understand the importance of wildlife to our physical wellbeing. Bees pollinate 75% of our main food crops worldwide (Friends of the Earth, www.friendsoftheearth.uk), with scientists estimating that it would cost over £1.8 billion every single year to pollinate UK crops by hand. A threat to bees is a threat to other important pollinators, therefore all wildlife should be protected for ecosystems to thrive and global food security.
What easy things can you do to create a wildlife friendly garden?
Making a haven for wildlife to feed, shelter and breed doesn’t mean leaving the garden to grow wild, nor does it require expensive equipment. Read on for some small, simple things you can do to make a big difference…
Mow lawns less!
As well as a place to hide and breed, areas of un-cut grass provide important habitats for insects and minibeasts which become feeding grounds for birds. Campaigns like No Mow May (Plantlife www.plantlife.org.uk) highlighted the detrimental impact of climate change on wildflowers and pollinators. Mowing less can be a lifeline for biodiversity, butterflies and bees, so save cutting back overgrown gardens until late winter/ early spring if you can.
Create a safe space.
Making shelters for wildlife mean they have somewhere to hide from predators and poor weather. Build a bug hotel using some hollow sticks and logs with drilled holes; allocate that corner in the shed or pile of rocks for bugs, or provide a bird box or hedgehog home.
Put down the hosepipe!
Save rainwater in water butts and barrels for water features, plants and ponds. Water butts are a great way to do your bit for the environment, saving money (if you have a water meter) as well as helping plants to flourish. Rainwater is not only free from chlorine and treating agents, unlike tap water, but it also contains nitrates which plants prefer.
Plant a feeding ground.
Planting beautiful colourful flowers and shrubs all year round feeds important pollinators with essential nutrients. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators feed on nectar-rich flowering plants, pollinating them as they go. Attracting insects and minibeasts to gardens provide tempting feeding grounds for birds and small mammals.
Ditch the weed killer and toxic pesticides.
Many insects are incredibly useful for gardens. While moving around, ants and earthworms aerate soil, improving drainage. Sadly, pesticides like pellets and powders cause declining insect numbers and harm to wildlife. If you are frustrated with plants being obliterated by slugs, why not consider natural methods to keep them at bay? Used coffee grounds and hay can prevent slugs, along with broken eggshells.
Another popular idea is companion planting to combine plants that compliment each other. For example, plant mint next to lettuce to keep away slugs; chives and garlic together to repel aphids and marigolds to attract aphid-eating ladybirds. Not only is companion planting great for pest control, it saves space by providing shade and structures to grow around.
Get family and friends involved!
From vast country gardens to small inner city outdoor areas, we can all do something to protect UK wildlife. Use hashtag #wildlifefriendlygarden or post your wildlife friendly garden ideas and photos to Cotswold Company social media.