How to make a Wildlife Friendly Garden

Garden Wildlife Week 2020 is running from 1st to 7th June this year and is annual event to promote the benefit and value of domestic spaces for improving the chances of wildlife to survive in a world with ever decreasing natural habits. The value of the garden to help protect and encourage the survival of some of Britain’s most well-known flora and fauna species is probably paramount to their existence in the future. Gardens can be a conduit between habits for wildlife, creating wildlife corridors between open spaces as well as feeding grounds for mammals and birdlife passing through. No matter how big or small, from country club estate to an apartment block balcony, every little act of kindness can make the difference for one species or more. Here are my ten tips for improving your garden potential for helping wildlife in your area:-

1. Let the grass grow

Leave your mower in the shed, now that’s quite a bold statement from a greenkeeper! Long grass is one of the rarest garden habitats. By letting some area of your lawn grow you will make space for many plant and insect species, including butterflies and wildflowers. Mowing the lawn only once every four weeks gives ‘short-grass’ plants like daisies and white clover a chance to flower in profusion, boosting nectar production tenfold for bees and insect pollinators. Long grass doesn’t have to look scruffy as flower meadow seed can make the areas look diverse and have an charismatic appeal. But before throwing wildflower seed all over the garden, some basic knowledge of soil type of the area is required so you don’t waste your time. Different grass and flower spices suite clay soils whilst other prefer chalk deposits. Some research may be required before committing to a plan.

2. Bird box and feeding

Birds are an important part your garden’s ecosystem. Birds help distribute seed types as well as aquatic life from pond to pond. Creating bird boxes and putting out food will help them thrive. Put your bird box up high in a sheltered area. In spring, provide protein-rich feed, such as fat balls. Seeds are best in the winter. If there are cats nearby place your feeder near a dense bush to provide birds with cover. Entice more birds into your garden by making a tasty fat cake out of kitchen scraps, including cheese and dry oats.

3. Grow climbers

Ivy is a very useful plant for wildlife. Both the flowers and seeds are good sources of food and pollen for bees. Plus, it provides year round cover for birds and insects. Clematis and certain native species varieties of rose are also excellent climbers for wildlife.

4. Build an insect hotel

Leave piles of rocks, twigs and rotting wood in your garden, in a designated wild area. These will create shelter for all sorts of important insects, such as beetles and other insect life. Insects such as woodlice are essential for the decomposition of wooden material and they are also part of the food chain for upper end parts of the food chain.

5. Create a pond

A pond is a real boost for wildlife. It doesn’t have to be huge. You can use a buried bucket or trough. If you do want a big pond, make sure there are stones or branches to help wildlife get in and out. Ponds are best filled with unchlorinated rainwater from a water butt. Waterlilies will help prevent it from becoming stagnant. Avoid locating it in full sun or full shade.

6. Compost

A compost heap is a win-win. Making and using your own compost will naturally enrich your soil. It will also provide a habitat for worms, woodlice and many other insects, including frogs and slow worms. To avoid attracting rats, only add raw, not cooked food.

7. Leave a gap in your fence

Don’t lock out hedgehogs and frogs. Make sure your garden fences have some gaps at the bottom. This will allow wildlife to move through from plot-to-plot. It will also help link different habitats together.

8. Grow flowers

Flowers look beautiful and bring colour and scent into your garden. They also provide food for many insects. Grow as many varieties as possible to ensure colour from spring through to autumn. Go for native species, as much as possible.

9. Have a break from weeding

Learn to relax about weeds. Plants such as nettles, daisies and buttercups are important sources of food for many insects, including butterflies and moths. They flower for a long time, whatever the weather. And so provide food when other sources might be absent.

10. Plant native trees and shrubs that produce berries

Plants that flower and produce berries, nuts and fruit are tremendous sources of food for bird life and mammals (when they drop to the ground) in harsh winters. Hawthorn, spruce , white oak, crab apple and mulberry trees can all help sustain a bird population in the winter. Honeysuckle, rowan, cornus, teasel, cotoneaster and sunflower plants can also act as a magnet for wildlife as well as give structure to gardens.

Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager

Picture: insect hotel, made by garden enthusiast and Club Member, Tricia Culliford