Wildlife Gardening for Beginners: The Basics

Wildlife gardening Tom Marshall

Un-green-fingered Rebecca Neal, Communities and Wildlife Officer, took a website dive into wildlife gardening advice to research for a presentation, and wrote a series of blogs based on what she found.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I am not a gardener. I love a garden, I have even had gardens in the past, but my fingers are definitely not green! I was always more your emergency tidier when it came close to a visit from the letting agent! Now I have a yard where I do what I can with pots and grow bags.

I challenged myself this year to give a talk on wildlife gardening, and whilst I have the opportunity to spend more time with my laptop, I have put something together (do please get in contact if you want to book me for later in the year). For research, I went on a colourful journey through websites and books, and thought it might be worth using my newfound knowledge in a blog.

You are probably already part of a Nature Recovery Network, so thanks. The Wildlife Trust movement is trying to encourage people to think about how all different kinds of land can be used to connect wildlife. Many people will not be in a position to influence how their local park is managed, or how the new housing estate is designed, but most people can improve their garden for wildlife.

When I started to write up my research, there was so much, that I have written a series of blogs. Hopefully they offer simple advice for people new to wildlife gardening. This one just includes some very basic tips. More specific advice can be found on our website or in future blogs.

Here are some general tips:

Go native:          

If you can include native species in your garden, it is likely to meet the needs of more wildlife

Be more wild:  

This is an easy one! Just don’t tidy up as much. What some people call weeds, wildlife calls dinner

Add water:        

It doesn’t have to be a pond to have value for wildlife, even a bowl on the floor will help a hedgehog, or keeping a birdbath topped up in extreme weather will help birds

Aim for variety:

Different species require different conditions and sometimes the same species require different things at different times (like my favourite, toads). If you can provide a variety in your garden, this will provide conditions for more wildlife and your garden will be less attractive to pests.

Leave seed heads:

Some birds rely on seeds in the winter and things like teasel and sunflower heads will do the job. It all goes back to being less tidy.

Be peat-free:    

Peat for your compost is dug up from peat bogs, mires and moors around the world - but this devastates these important habitats. Peat is only recreated at a rate of 1mm per year, and this is if the habitat of moss and vegetation that grows on it is left undisturbed. These vital habitats for wildlife are also massive carbon stores, and digging them up releases all this carbon dioxide into the atmosphere again. You can help stop the destruction of this habitat and reduce your carbon footprint by choosing peat-free compost (or even making your own). The results can be just as good.

Match your environment:

If you grow the things that like your soil type, it’s less effort, and you’ll use less chemicals. (This one is something I am sure most gardeners do already). It’s not just about soil type though, you might also consider the microclimates across your garden, and how things might be affected by variable conditions caused by climate change going forward (longer hotter summers, warmer winters, rain concentrated over shorter periods…). If something doesn’t thrive, try something else.

I will be expanding on some of these points in future blogs. I hope my new-found knowledge helps.