Wild About Gardens Week

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I enjoy the wildlife in my garden. There’s one little robin who follows me round as I water the plants and then comes up really close to me when I sit on the edge of the raised beds with a cup of tea. I’m always glad to see the big bumblebees heavy with pollen and I still get almost as excited about butterflies as I did when I was a child. Although we live in a newly built house on land that used to be arable, the developers included a badger copse, bat barn and other wildlife friendly areas on the estate so as to displace as few wild creatures as possible. We pay towards the care and upkeep of these areas and it’s worth it alone to watch the bats swoop over our garden every night as they head out from the bat barn a few streets away in search of supper.

Over the past fifty years two thirds of British plant and animal species have suffered marked declines in their numbers. Wild About Gardens is a joint initiative by the Royal Horticultural Society and The Wildlife Trusts to encourage people to support local biodiversity in their gardens in an effort to halt the slide.

It worries me that there has been such a sharp decline in many of the animals who used to be regular visitors to our gardens. In Britain, house sparrows, starlings, frogs and hedgehogs, all are becoming less and less common. And of course there is also the issue of  the decline in the number of bees. Sadly, similar results are being found all over the world. But it’s not too late to help.

What we can do
No matter where you live, there are things you can do to stop wildlife decline all year round. Even very urban areas can be made wildlife friendly, like the garden pictured below. Raised beds planted with plants rich in nectar, potted plants and trees, and wall climbers are all ways of making even the most concrete of jungles wildlife friendly.

An Urban Garden

Feed the birds
It’s hard for birds to find enough food these days, as man slowly encroaches on to more and more of the spaces that used to be green. Feeding the birds year round is a great way to help them top up their resources and can bring some delightful visitors to your garden. By choosing the type of food and the location of your feeders carefully, you can even help select the sort of visitors you receive. My current bird feeder is on a fairly thin branch far away from a tree trunk, inaccessible to all but the tiny birds I want to welcome to my garden. I no longer put out suet balls as these tended to attract larger, more aggressive birds who would greedily fly away with whole balls – even when they were in metal dispensers!

Avoid Paving Front Gardens
This is a particularly tempting thing to do in England, where not all houses have driveways. I know it’s easy for me to say as my house has a large driveway and garden, but paving over front gardens wrecks havoc on the ecosystem and banishes wildlife. If you must pave, try to leave at least a bit of green, or incorporate lots of planted pots in the new landscape you create.

Build a Butterfly Larder
While butterflies love any nectar filled plant, caterpillars have different needs. And without caterpillars, there’s no butterflies. Visit the Wild About Gardens website for a list of plants that sustain butterflies throughout their life cycles.

Be Less Worried About Being Tidy Over The Winter
I struggle with this as I like a tidy garden. However by “cutting back on the cutting back” and leaving the dead stems through the winter, you can protect your plants from frost, feed the birds naturally and provide a haven for beneficial insects like ladybirds over the winter. This will help to populate your garden with wildlife in the spring.

Photo COPYRIGHT: © RHS CREDIT: RHS / Jerry Harpur

Photo COPYRIGHT: © RHS CREDIT: RHS / Jerry Harpur

Plant some wildflower seeds
This is the perfect time of year to plant wildflower seed in weed-free sunny patches of your garden. The seeds will flower in the spring. (Wildflower seeds can also be planted in April -May.)  You can get packets of mixed wildflower seeds at your local garden centre or nursery. If you haven’t got much space, you can plant wildflower seeds in pots.

For more ideas on how to stay Wild About Gardens all year round and make your garden a haven for wildlife, visit the Wild About Gardens website.

This is not a sponsored post.

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Article by April Harris

April has written 1237 great articles for us.
April is a food, lifestyle and travel writer who lives in Berkshire, England. She shares inspiration, tips and trends for anyone who loves food, cooking, entertaining, fashion, travel and the finer things in life at her blog, AprilJHarris.com.
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Comments

  1. I recall regular hedgehog visits to my parents’ garden when I was younger. I’m not sure Mrs Tiggywinkle visits quite so often now, although my Mum probably has one of the most nature-friendly gardens in her village. Some days, she feeds the birds before the family 🙂
    Since moving to California, I’ve been enjoying seeing different wildlife outside, including raccoons which I find very cute. Not so thrilled about skunks though!

    • It really made me smile when I read what you wrote about your mum, Pauline. I’m often out in the garden really early to fill the bird feeder so I can relate 🙂 We had a couple of hedgehogs in our garden in the Midlands, but I haven’t seen any now we are down south. I love raccoons – I saw one for the first time in years in the suburbs of Toronto while visiting our cousins recently. I do miss chipmunks…my Dad used to feed them from his hand in our garden when I was growing up.

  2. Fiona Derges says:

    Starlings and sparrows are still very prolific in our garden and surrounding hedgerow. A couple of weeks ago I counted more than 50 starlings that had descended on the elderberries in the nearby hedgerow. If you want to attract the smaller birds, I recommend sunflower hearts. I now have two feeders just for this, and we have up to 12 goldfinches feeding on a daily basis. They are so beautiful and lovely to watch. The sunflower hearts also attract greenfinches and chaffinches, as well as blue and great tits.

    • It’s wonderful you are getting so many birds, Fiona! That is good advice about the sunflower hearts. I agree, the smaller birds love sunflower hearts, plus there’s the added bonus that you don’t have shells from the seeds left all over the garden 🙂

  3. I struggle with leaving the dead flowers in my flower beds over the winter, too, even though I’ve seen goldfinches eat them during the winter and spring.

    A long time ago, we planted dill in our vegetable garden. Thanks to the birds, the dill comes up every year all over the yard. I leave the plants because the butterflies like to use them as host plants. I’m drawing a blank on the name of the butterfly, however.

    • It sounds like your garden is a real haven for wildlife, Barb. That is wonderful! It’s nice to know someone else feels the same way I do about leaving the dead flowers 😉

  4. I agree! We have 2 hanging dishes that we keep filled with fresh water for the wildlife and use natural pest control as often as we can (like buying ladybugs instead of using chemicals on the roses).