Gardening for Wildlife

Facilitator Helena has written about providing habitats for all the wee beasties.

Wildlife is incredibly important to our ecosystem, especially in the middle of a city! The habitat wildlife needs is reducing but we can help. There are lots of things we can do to garden in a way that helps wildlife, creating different habitats.

Sometimes the first thing we need to change is our ideas about what a garden is. If your garden is going to be part of the ecosystem, we need to let things in and let them eat some of our plants. The good news is, the more wildlife you get, the more balanced your ecosystem will be, thrushes to eat the snails, ladybirds to eat the aphids, maybe even bats to eat the flies and midgies.

Ditch the chemicals- pesticides and herbicides. As these are designed to kill things in your garden, they are as likely to kill the beneficial insects as the ones you think you are targeting. If you can keep a small population of pests, you will also encourage the beasties that eat them – after all, we’d have no ladybirds if there were no aphids.

The little critters need to drink too, but can drown if the water has no where to land beside or no way out if they accidentally land on the water. A simple bee bowl can be an old plate and a few stones that are sticking out of the water. This gives bees a place to land and still be able to access the water.

The Idea behind No Mow May (or No Mow Summer) is to provide nectar eating insects some more sources of flowers and the longer grass provides habitat for other insects. If you leave your lawn to grow long (or even just a patch) you’ll find you get a lot more insects – more food for the birds and hedgehogs too- and you don’t have to leave it messy, cutting the edges and a path through the grass can make the long grass look intentional and you might find you already have some wildflowers growing. If you are lucky enough to have a garden big enough for a piece of ground you can just leave to do it’s own thing you can call it a wild area and leave it be. You might get some nettles, which are brilliant for wildlife and many butterflies use them as caterpillars for their food plant.

Providing a bug hotel, or even a pile of sticks or logs is about providing a habitat for things to live in, frogs and toads need a shady damp space to retreat to when the sun is out. A pile of roughly stacked rocks will provide shelter and a different kind of habitat.

If you’ve got some space and want a project- maybe a Beetle bank is for you, lots of info here from https://www.worcswildlifetrust.co.uk/

You don’t need a big space for a pond, even a half barrel or a plastic dustbin sunk into the ground will provide a pond habitat in your garden. Make sure you have some oxygenating plants to stop the water going stagnant and if you can put in some emergent plants and something for insects that have fallen in to crawl out on you’ll be providing some amazing wildlife a home. If you are lucky you might even see a dragonfly!

Trees can provide food, shelter and shade in a garden, birds can use them to check if it is safe to land or as a spot to escape to if there is danger about (cats!). Evergreens are especially good as a refuge for birds, holly can provide cover and spiky protection.

No Garden? No Problem!

If you have an outdoor windowsill or balcony, or even a bit of space on steps at your front door a few pots of flowering herbs will give a hungry bee or butterfly a snack. See our blog on Small Space Gardening for more ideas.

Maybe there is a neighbour or relative you know who needs a hand in their garden, you could talk to them about gardening for wildlife and maybe give them a hand setting up some of the ideas above

If you want to do something bigger, join your local community garden or park volunteer team.

Words and photos by Helena Simmmons

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