What steps can we take in our own gardens to increase the amount and diversity of wildlife? There has been a move forward in gardening, away from controlling nature and towards working with it.
Ecologists have estimated that there has been a two-thirds overall decline in plant and animal species in the last 50 years. We all need to help where we can before it is too late. Here is some guidance on where to start.
1. Mow Less Frequently
A monthly mow to keep your grass tidy but on a high blade setting will help. Try to leave some patches unmown altogether if you can. The initiative “No mow May” has been promoted this year to help give wildflowers and insects more of a chance.
2. Stop Using Chemicals
If you stop using chemicals, wildflowers, insects and birds have a better chance of thriving. Scattering blue slug pellets like confetti did little to wipe out slugs but a lot to damage thrush and hedgehog populations. Even ‘bee-friendly’ insecticides damage other insects which are helpful to gardeners. There are thousands of insect species and only around one percent of them are really damaging to garden plants. Even those have predators if we have wildlife rich gardens. For example, most ladybugs voraciously consume plant-eating insects, such as aphids. No butterflies without caterpillars!
3. Be Messier
Don’t clean up all your dead plants in autumn, leave them until spring so the insects hiding in the stems and dead leaves have woken up first. It means more concentrated effort but no need for exertion in the autumn. You won’t disturb the butterfly chrysalis either.
4. Choose the Right Plants
Mix your favourite plants with native ones and choose single flowering varieties rather than doubles which carry no nectar. Grow a mixed native hedge if you can, birds love them. Trees are nearly always a good idea but check the eventual height and spread before you plant. Flowering and berrying shrubs are all good for wildlife. Consider nettles, brambles and ivy at the edges of a large garden.
Have a pond no matter how small, this will bring so much life to your space. Remember to have a sloped area where things can crawl out if they fall in as well as different levels. Be aware of safety with small children. Have fresh water available in a shallow dish for birds to drink and bathe, wash and fill daily to prevent disease.
by Jean richardson