Gardening for Wildlife
Sharing our gardens with nature brings joy to the majority of gardeners, and never more so than during recent Covid lockdowns. A rich diversity of plant and animal species will live happily alongside people, needing only a little helping hand from us. There’s lots of information and some great guides available on the web to help you to make your outside space a haven for wildlife. Here are just a few.
Surrey Wildlife Trust has lots of gardening for wildlife information on its website including a summary guide on how to make room for wildlife... ...and feel the benefits. They also have a useful shortlist of hints and tips:
Resist the urge to tidy up in autumn! Seed heads left uncut will be enjoyed by birds. Plant stems and leaves are a great place for creepy crawlies to shelter. Perennials left standing will help overwintering insects such as ladybirds.
Slugs are part of the garden’s cycle of wildlife, eaten by frogs, toads and hedgehogs. Avoid using slug pellets based on metaldehyde or methiocarb as this will get into the food chain. Investigate alternative methods – #e.g. pellets based on ferrous phosphate, or products that create barriers such as copper bands or gritty sand.
Diluted household detergent is effective against greenfly and blackfly and is thought not to harm other insects.
Save water. Install water butts under downpipes outside your house and find ways to reuse household grey water for watering the garden.
Mulch your borders in spring to keep your soil moist in hot weather. Mulch them again in autumn to help absorb heavy winter rain.
The essentials of successful wildlife gardening are based on four things: trees, deadwood, water and variety of planting. Any of these features will encourage wildlife to your garden.
The RHS has published multiple guides with expert advice on Gardening for Wildlife - from creating a pond to building a wormery.
The Wildlife Trusts and the RHS set up the website Wild About Gardens to celebrate wildlife gardening and to encourage people to use their gardens to take action to help support nature. Many of our common garden visitors – including hedgehogs, house sparrows and starlings – are increasingly under threat. But together we can make a difference.
Here is a selection of their great guides.
Grow a secret garden for butterflies
Butterflies are vibrant, eye-catching additions to our gardens as well as helpful pollinators. Butterflies, moths and their caterpillars are also important in the food chain, being prey to many species of birds and bats. As environmental indicators butterfly population fluctuations give us a good sense of how well the rest of the environment is doing. Butterflies and moths aren’t doing too well at the moment, with many species declining in recent years. The good news is that we can help butterflies and moths through gardening! Collectively our gardens can provide important places, homes and food sources for them.
Click on the image to download a helpful leaflet telling you how.
Well known to gardeners, worms are essential for our soils and wildlife. Charles Darwin called them the most important animal in the history of the world! He dubbed them ‘nature’s ploughs’ for the way they mix soil layers and enable plants – the basis of all terrestrial life – to grow. Engineers of the earth Earthworms are true engineers – they specialise in moving through the soil, creating networks of burrows and mixing the earth. This means oxygen and water can flow through the soil, allowing water to drain away after heavy rain. They also break down and recycle decaying plants, releasing nutrients to increase soil fertility, which helps soil microorganisms and fungi to thrive. Read abut the 29 earthworm species in the UK, how they help us and how we can help them.
Click on the image to download the leaflet.
Gardens, hedgerows, woodlands, grasslands, parks and cemeteries are all important hedgehog habitats. Adult hedgehogs travel between 1-2km per night over home ranges as big as 10-20 hectares in size. Hedgehogs eat a huge range of other garden invertebrates.
Their numbers have fallen by 30 percent in just over 10 years and there are now thought to be fewer than 1 million left in the UK. They are disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers are worldwide. Certainly the hedgehog population in and around Churt has suffered severe decline.
Click on the image to download a leaflet on small steps everyone can take together to help save the hedgehog
Adding a pond is one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden. We’re losing our ponds, rivers and streams at a rapid rate. Their loss to development, drainage and intensive farming is linked to a huge decline in wildlife, from frogs and toads, to water voles and insects. There is a lot we can do in our own gardens to help - even a small pond can be home to an interesting range of wildlife, including damsel and dragonflies, frogs and newts. It could also become a feeding ground for birds, hedgehogs and bats – the best natural garden pest controllers! You could start small with a repurposed washing-up bowl disused sink as long as you make sure creatures can get in and out.
Click on the image to download a helpful leaflet on how to add a pond to your garden.
Bats are nocturnal creatures, seen dimly at dusk and very occasionally during the day. They hang upside down or creep into cracks and crevices to roost. Some prefer hollow trees, others caves, many shelter in buildings, behind hanging tiles and boarding, or in roof spaces. Because there are few flying insects (bat food) to be found in the UK during winter, British bats hibernate.
Of over 1300 species of bats worldwide, 17 are known to breed in the UK. They are threatened but are protected by legislation. One thing we can all do to help is by reducing light pollution. Artificial light, such as street lights, garden security lighting, or decorative lighting on homes and trees, can have a detrimental effect on bats by affecting the time they roost and come out to hunt. So please reduce or preferably turn off your garden lighting. If you’d prefer to keep on your security lighting, consider changing your settings to a dimmer light and fit hoods or cowls over them.
Click on the image to download a helpful leaflet on ways in which we can help bats.
Bees provide us with every third mouthful of food we eat? Without them, we would be unable to grow lots of our favourite foods. They contribute over £650 million a year to our economy. Whilst the honeybee is an excellent pollinator, this leaflet focuses on the equally valuable wild bees, which includes bumblebees and solitary bees. They are facing threats - insensitive land use, including fragmentation and loss of habitat, reduction in plant species diversity and the use of insecticides and herbicides have all been linked to declining bee numbers.
Click on the image to download a leaflet full of ideas to help make your garden even more bee-friendly.
Beetles are a vital part of any wildlife garden. They will munch on garden insects like aphids and snails, whilst acting as food for our larger garden visitors such as hedgehogs and birds. Unfortunately, beetle populations are threatened by things like pesticides, habitat loss and climate change - but you can help. Download your guide to Bringing Back Beetles in your own garden, with instructions for building your own beetle bucket, beetle bank, or dead hedge.
Click on the image to download the beetle leaflet.
Our insects are amazing! Some are beautiful, others fascinating – but all are important, as they pollinate our food crops, provide food for wildlife and dispose of our waste! Yet, 41% face extinction. It’s not too late to bring them back, but urgent action is needed. We can all help by reducing our use of harmful chemicals and by calling on the Government to set an ambitious pesticide reduction target. We also need to start establishing a Nature Recovery Network by creating insect-friendly habitats in our gardens, towns, cities and countryside that are bigger, better protected and more joined up.
This guide contains lots of useful information to help you turn your home and garden into insect-friendly havens and to help you become an insect champion.
Click on the image to download - but it is a large leaflet and the download may take a little while.
Even more information:
The RHS lists of plants for pollinators with separate lists for garden flowers and wildflowers.
The Natural History Museum webpage on how to grow a lawn that's better for wildlife
See also the Make Space for Wildflowers page on this website