Go wild in our gardens this summer!
This summer The Wildlife Trusts are hosting — for the second year running — themed wildlife gardening events, wildlife gardens to visit and a multitude of wildlife gardening award schemes and community initiatives across the UK that anyone can join. The aim is to enthuse people to 'go wild in their gardens' and provide a home for nature. Large or small, ledge or yard, our gardens can be vital mosaics in a wider network of natural havens linking urban green spaces with nature reserves and the countryside.
Our Summer Garden Wildlife weekends are organised to help show that creating a more wildlife-friendly garden isn't difficult. More than 80% of UK households have access to a garden, and The Wildlife Trusts' Vice-President Bill Oddie insists that "any garden, no matter how tiny, can be made to support some wildlife."
But gardens, like so many other wildlife habitats, are under threat from development as front gardens give way to parking spaces and larger gardens get sold off for housing. Nigel Doar, Head of Development at The Wildlife Trusts, said: "The millions of gardens across the UK make a huge collective contribution to wildlife and also enable millions of people to enjoy first-hand contact with nature. By taking a few simple steps to encourage wildlife, everyone can play a part in helping garden wildlife to thrive."
Wildlife gardens to visit, award schemes, competitions, community projects and events being held and run by The Wildlife Trusts across the UK this summer can all be found on the Wildlife Trusts' Wildlife Garden web pages.
Bill Oddie has created an abundance of habitats in his small Hampstead garden including a mini-meadow, a wetland and even woodland, all scaled to suit the space available. Meadows have become rare in the countryside, but Bill has two meadows in miniature just a few feet from his back-door. "My mini chalkland meadow is earth with added chalk and some limestone. And the plants suit chalk downland — we have Betony and some Knapweed and eventually, later in the season, some Harebells. I also have my ordinary meadow, where I have scattered some wildflower seeds. Later in the year we'll see Toadflax and some Camomile there. Under a small pile of old sticks are, just visible, little tiny green leaves. Meadowsweet thrives where it is damp. I created this little tiny area of dampness with a little bit of butyl liner which you make ponds with and so it holds some of the water in. Even a tiny garden pond is better than no garden pond because animals can drink from it and aquatic insects can fly in to use it."
Long-established trees attract birds and insects, while a willow planted by Bill is a magnet for moths and butterflies. "We are pretty close to the centre of London here but nevertheless I wouldn't call it an urban area because nearly every house has a garden and nearly every garden has some trees in it and I am only about half a mile walk from Hampstead Heath, which is an amazing big green area with real woodland and real lakes and real grassland and a lot of wildlife, I promise you. And so it's not surprising that some of the wildlife spills over into the gardens and vice versa."
Gardens can play a vital role in The Wildlife Trusts' Living Landscape schemes, created to expand and connect areas where wildlife can survive, thrive and colonise new areas. Nigel Doar added, "We hope that everyone will be inspired to help their garden become more welcoming to wildlife."
Adding a pond to your garden — no matter how small — may attract odonates such as this Common Blue Damselfly (Photo: Gordon Bowes)
Six things you can do to nurture nature in your garden:
- Please the pollinators: plants such as Viper's Bugloss, Comfrey and Bird's Foot Trefoil are beloved by bees.
- Say goodbye to slug pellets, and say hello to garden-friendly hedgehogs, frogs and birds that will eat slugs and snails for you. An area of long grasses and a pile of logs will give your new friends a refuge too.
- Install a bird box or a bat box — or, better still, both!
- Create a pond to make your own mini-wetland: quite apart from the creatures that may come to live in it, others may find it to feed, drink, bathe and breed.
- Add wildflowers for wildlife: scatter native wildflower seeds for an easy burst of colour and a great way to attract new species to your garden.
- Start a compost heap. Compost is good for your garden, reduces landfill and makes it easy to dispose of your kitchen and garden waste. But a compost heap will also attract worms, insects, birds and other insect and slug predators such as hedgehogs. You might even find a Common Newt sheltering there!