One of the nicest things about gardening is the way it gives us a connection to the natural world. You can live the city life, rushing around all day, working in offices etc but when you get back to the garden you’re suddenly surrounded by the life affirming beauty of nature, it’s good for relieving stress promoting a positive attitude and is simply relaxing. So, why not go a little further to bring more nature into the garden? Studies have shown that as cities get bigger and more and more land is put to use by us, the wildlife that used to rely on it have started looking for new places to call home and one of the best alternative habitats they have discovered is the average back garden. This is an important point to make really, as the eco system has been changing of late we are in danger of losing pollinators such as bees, pest munching creatures like toads and frogs not to mention the veritable cornucopia of butterflies, ladybirds, dragonflies, hedgehogs and countless others that are hurting for somewhere to go. It might seem like quite an undertaking, but it’s important to try and is easier than you might imagine. Here are a few simple ideas to help make your garden as welcoming to the natural world as it is to you.
Build a Pond:
One of the happy coincidences of nature is that we all like a good pond, so if you already have one your garden is probably a lot more wildlife friendly than you might think. Ponds are great for relaxing by but they also provide a much needed habitat for all sorts of wildlife including frogs, toads, grass snakes, damsel flies and many others that come for the water or a chance to catch dinner. As long as the pond isn’t too deep, or at least has a shallow bit for a toad to sit in, you’ll get all sorts of creatures coming to use it as a place to propagate and feed.
Now we all love imported plants, frequent readers will know of my almost obsessive love of Japanese and American trees for example. There is a whole world of plants out there and there is certainly a place in any garden to showcase it. That said, let’s not get carried away, there is a reason why wildlife campaigners are trying to get more people planting native plants all the time and it’s a simple one; British bees don’t know what to do with a South American rubber tree. The animals of these British Isles evolved alongside their vegetative counterparts after all, pollinators are attracted to certain plants and know to avoid others. Non-native plants however are an unknown, so if you fill your garden with them you may find they are ignored by pollinators. Add a few native, pollinator friendly plants such as cornflowers and daisies to the mix and the Creatures will flock in.
Build a Compost Heap:
OK this might seem like I’m labouring a point from a previous post, but the truth is plants aren’t the only ones who love compost. A good compost heap is not just a mound of rapidly stewing plant cuttings, it is teeming with all kinds of garden life. Everything from woodlice to worms to spiders, even some species of frog will all come from miles around to live in what is essentially a warm, moist, extremely nutritious pile of loveliness. The presence of so many insects and invertebrates will of course attract all kinds of other wildlife to the garden who are interested in eating them. Now obviously you will have to turn your compost regularly, that’s just good composting, but don’t worry, the little beasts that set up shop in the heap will not be fazed much by this and will rapidly make themselves comfy again so just go about maintaining your compost heap, happy in the knowledge that just by being there it’s helping the environment!
Build an Animal Hotel
You can buy these from catalogues or larger garden centres but it is much more fun to build one yourself. A simple wooden tent like structure stuffed loosely with straw can be a real haven for a hedgehog. Bamboo canes cut and tied in bundles will be a welcome sanctuary for all sorts of insects. Do remember that in hard frosts one of the things that birds and small creatures require is water. So if you can include a source of water that doesn’t freeze up will have a friend indeed.
A few ideas here on how to make your garden more wildlife friendly, any one of which will do wonders, but if you fancy doing more there are always tips on the RSPB and Wildlife Trust websites.