Welcome wildlife into your garden and reap the benefits
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Gardens are valuable spaces not only for us but a wealth of wildlife too. It’s estimated that the millions of gardens in Britain cover around 10 million acres – an area bigger than all the country’s nature reserves combined.
Viewed from the air you can see how they link together into green corridors, providing wildlife with a range of habitats and the ability to move from one area to another to feed, breed, shelter and hibernate.
Every garden can be enriched to become a home for local birds and wildlife, planting flowering meadows for butterflies and insects, hedges for nesting birds, and blossom and blooms throughout the year to bring in bees, butterflies and insects.
To encourage wildlife, try developing ponds and bog gardens for frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies, sow annuals and meadows to feed hoverflies and insects, provide shelter for ground beetles, and put up bird feeders, baths and nesting boxes.
There are many ways to make wildlife welcome, and most of these creatures are the gardener’s friend, feeding on pests like slugs, snails, caterpillars and greenfly to control problems without the need to spray.
Planting a wildlife-friendly garden is also a great way for children to watch the antics of birds and insects up close, interacting with the natural world around them. Many gardening activities will encourage kids outside, such as sowing flowers and crops, building log piles and insect homes, photographing flowers that bees and butterflies visit, feeding birds, or keeping a diary of garden visitors and seasonal changes.
Gardens bring us closer to nature, allowing us to nurture and protect our small piece of the environment that really makes a difference to local wildlife. They also have valuable restorative qualities to help improve our physical and mental health. Just looking out onto a garden can significantly decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, reducing stress and anxiety, raising our mood and increasing our feeling of wellbeing.
So this month get planting to create a wildlife-friendly garden, and reap the benefits of surrounding yourself with nature.
Did you know?
Experts believe we have an innate need to connect with the natural world – something they call ‘biophilia’ – bringing with it better physical and mental health.
People who interact with nature tend to feel better, exercise more, eat better, and connect with others. Being out in a natural environment is relaxing and restorative, helping to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
Gardens and therapeutic landscapes around our homes, schools, hospitals and communities play a valuable role in both our physical and mental health and wellbeing. They connect us with nature, improving our knowledge and understanding of environmental issues, and providing opportunities for outdoor activities that help increase biodiversity in our area.
10 things to do to make a wildlife garden
1. Grow fruiting and berrying trees and shrubs for birds
2. Plant year-round flowers for bees and insects
3. Feed the birds all year round
4. Make a pond, water feature or bird bath
5. Plant native hedges around the garden
6. Put up bird nesting boxes
7. Sow annual flowers, meadows and crops
8. Build log piles at the back or borders
9. Install bee boxes, insect hotels and hibernation homes
10. Plant wildflowers, native plants and meadows
Plants of the moment: planting with nature in mind
So many of the plants we love, wildlife will too. Start by choosing shrubs, trees, herbs, perennials and other plants that produce flowers in each of the four seasons, providing a ready source of pollen and nectar for honeybees, bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects.
Many flowers go on to form fruits and berries, both valuable sources of food for birds and other creatures.
Ornamental grasses, annuals and perennials often end the season by forming attractive seedheads, which in turn provide food for garden wildlife. Shrubs, climbers and hedging plants also help create protective habitats for birds and wildlife to shelter, nest or hibernate.
Plants with fruits, berries and seedheads include:
- Beauty berry (Callicarpa ‘Profusion’ AGM)
- Skimmia japonica ‘Nymans’
- Gaultheria (Pernettya)
- Ornamental grasses eg Miscanthus, Pennisetum, Stipa.
Late-flowering plants for late-flying insects:
- Japanese Anemones
- Ivy (Hedera)
- Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica AGM)
Plant ornamental garden trees that produce fruits and berries including varieties of rowan, cherry and crab apple.