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Frog in pond

wildlife garden

How to create a

There is so much you can do in your garden to encourage wildlife. We suggest four different actions that could make a world of difference

When people think of important habitats for wildlife, they will probably conjure up images of woodlands, moors and other wild, open spaces.

  

But some of the UK's most important habitats are right under our noses: our gardens.

  

Whether your garden is a huge green space or a tiny paved patio, there's plenty you can do to make it a welcome refuge for all kinds of creatures.

  

Gardens play a vital role in the survival of many species. As well as offering food and shelter, they form corridors that allow species to travel safely between built-up areas and open spaces.

  

And some specific habitats – such as ponds, nectar-rich flowers and bird nesting sites – may be far more readily available in your garden than in the wild.

  

There are around 15 million gardens in the UK, covering an estimated 270,000 hectares – more than all the country's National Nature Reserves. Each individual garden may only be a small – or even tiny – wildlife haven. But together our gardens form a huge network of green spaces that wildlife increasingly relies upon.

There is so much you can do in your garden to encourage wildlife. It can be hard to know where to start if you have never tried wildlife gardening before, but there are lots of quick and easy things that you can do.

  

In fact, something as simple as leaving a few empty terracotta pots turned upside down in the flower border will soon create a mini habitat that is teeming with life. And often, having a wildlife garden can actually save you time.

  

So what can you do to make your own little green space attractive for wildlife? Here are a few ideas – include as many as possible!

Garden daisies

Trees

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, so planting a tree is a positive step towards protecting the environment. But trees also support an enormous range of different species – and can provide food and fuel for humans, too.

  

Planting a single native, broadleaved tree will create a habitat that could benefit wildlife for hundreds of years. And there are all sorts of trees to suit the space you have available: big trees include oak and beech; small trees include holly, hawthorn, wild cherry and rowan.

  

Or you could plant an orchard tree. Apple, plum and pear trees are fantastic for wildlife – bees love the blossom, and birds like thrushes and redwings will enjoy the fruits in autumn. Including local and heritage varieties such as Newton Wonder, Ashmead's Kernel and Egremont Russet can help with tree conservation too. In small gardens, or on patios, try a dwarf fruit tree variety that can be grown in a container.

Beach tree branches
Frog in pond with pond plants

Water

Installing a wildlife pond is one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden. Ponds are great for frogs, toads and newts, of course – but they'll also attract many airborne insects that in turn will attract bats, swifts and swallows. Other animals rely on ponds too – mammals such as hedgehogs and foxes will stop by for a drink, and birds will bathe in the water.

  

You can buy a pre-formed plastic pond, or create your own natural-looking shape using a liner. A pond doesn't have to be huge to benefit wildlife – but make sure the sides are not too steep, and that you place a few large rocks or stones in strategic positions to allow creatures access into and out of the water – hedgehogs, in particular, are at risk of drowning in garden ponds.

  

Fill your pond with water, include a couple of oxygenating plants and leave alone for wildlife to discover! Once a balance of plant and animal life is established, and with the help of a little sunlight, the water should remain clear without needing further attention.

Wild area

An undisturbed, wild corner where a few weeds are left to grow (nettles, thistles, dandelions and teasels are good) can become a haven for wildlife.    

  

Stack up a few empty terracotta pots for bumblebees to nest in, and perhaps include a hedgehog house. You can buy one ready-made or make your own – the British Hedgehog Preservation Society has a great leaflet at www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk.


Invertebrates love rotting wood, and small mammals such as wood mice will nest in log piles. Any damp corner that's not doing a lot else is great for a log pile – under trees, where nothing else will grow, is ideal.

  

No logs? Piling up a heap of branches, twigs and other plant material will create a fantastic habitat for hedgehogs and toads – and is a more wildlife-friendly option than lighting a bonfire.

Plants

Plants are an essential part of any garden – and by choosing carefully you can make your outside space beautiful and help wildlife at the same time.

  

A bee and butterfly border containing nectar-rich perennials, annuals and spring bulbs will attract insect pollinators to your garden. Butterflies and bees love buddleia, sedums and field scabious. Hoverflies particularly enjoy marigolds and daisies.

Bumblebee on scabious
Dandelion seed head

You could also try growing a mini wildflower meadow in your garden – even a small area of uncut grass creates oxygen for humans and food for insects. Leaving a patch of grass to grow long will allow wild flowers to appear, which will attract hoverflies, butterflies and bees. Frogs and small mammals will shelter in the long grass, and the increased insect activity will attract insect-feeding birds and bats. Also, you'll have less grass to mow, which will save you work and allow more time to enjoy your garden!

Long grass with clover flower

Many of these plants are easy to grow and need little maintenance. And if expense is an issue, seed packets of annuals such as cosmos, borage and love-in-a-mist can be bought for just a few pounds.


Herbs are great for wildlife – and tasty for humans too! Try lavender, thyme, sage and rosemary. Sunflowers are also great for bees, and birds love the seeds.


For interest through the winter months, evergreen climbers provide shelter for birds and hibernating insects. Ivy is ideal, and can be grown over a building or trellis.

Harebell

Little Green Space April 2018