Gardening For Wildlife

We can all do our bit to help wildlife out, however much space we have, a garden or a windowsill, or even just an indoor plant, we can all make a difference.

If you like to see wildlife in your garden, you have to make sure there is food for them, and the base of the food chain is plants and insects. So you can be glad of the flies, as they will feed birds and bats.

If you have a garden: The easy and cheap first steps are to leave your garden a little untidy, small creatures need places to hide and things to eat. If you like to keep things in order, set aside a small area that you can’t see, or can screen and stack up a twig or log pile, the pile can be made of twiggy offcuts from your garden. Stop using herbicides and pesticides, as they can kill off the beneficial insects in the garden. Slug pellets can kill frogs and toads.

Cut your grass less often and enjoy the flowers that appear, this No Mow May has seen reports of people finding orchids in their lawn! The humble dandelion is a real feast for many insects, and provide bees with nectar and pollen. Cutting your grass once every 4 weeks is thought to be optimum for allowing plants to flower to provide nectar, but not set (too many) seeds. If you can leave even a small area uncut until late summer, you’ll be providing a another habitat for different creatures.

If you want to get rid of your lawn all together, you could provide much more wildlife habitat. Mosaic lawns of creeping thyme, creeping jenny, oregano, clover, leptinella, even moss all allow you to use the space as a lawn, but with less mowing and more wildlife benefits.

If you are looking to buy plants- make sure that you buy from somewhere that does not spray their plants with pesticides. The type of plant you buy is important too. The fancy double flowers, which froth with petals are not very helpful for insects looking to collect nectar as it becomes very tricky for the bees and other pollinators to get to the nectar.

Trying to have something flowering in your garden from spring until late autumn is also helpful, as then there is always some kind of food available. Holes in leaves of plants can be a sign of a thriving ecosystem. The insects and caterpillars themselves can be an important food source for the birds collecting for their chicks in nests. If you are lucky a Thrush will move in to help reduce your snail population. Leave a stone somewhere for them to crack the snail shells.

Nettles are an excellent addition to any area hoping to boost wildlife, not only do they feed caterpillars of several species, including the peacock and small tortoiseshell, they sustain insects that blue tits eat. The RSPB even have a page dedicated to the benefits of growing nettles!

If you have space for even a small pond, that’s a great way to increase garden wildlife, you might even get a frog! If you don’t have space, why not leave some bee water bowls around, shallow bowls of water with a few stones in, to allow the bees to land on the stones and not get stuck in the water.

If you don’t have a garden (and even if you do!), choose indoor plants that have not been grown with pesticides and that are grown in peat free soil. And pot on your plants with peat free compost as you’ll be helping wildlife that way.

Peat bogs are fantastically biologically diverse habitats and the peat we use in our gardens will never provide as many wildlife benefits as leaving it in the peat bog. Not to mention that Peat bogs store 10x as much carbon per hectare as any other land based ecosystem.

A List of bee Friendly plants can be found on the Bumblebee conservation Trust.

Butterfly Conservation has a page dedicated to Gardening for Butterflies and Moths .

Happy Gardening!

Helena, Garden Facilitator, Ninewells Community Garden

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