From barn owls to butterflies, once common animals are now a rare sighting, with more than one in seven UK species facing extinction and over half in decline. The biggest impact on UK wildlife has been the intensification of agriculture, pesticide use and pollution. Many feel that soon there will be no room for nature, but we can support wildlife right now, starting in our own gardens. No matter how big or small your space, a few simple steps will help.
Sometimes less is more
- Leave wild patches in your garden as a haven for butterflies. Keep a small ‘no-mow’ area, or sow borders with nectar-rich wildflowers like clover, greater knapweed, foxglove and field scabious.
- When perennial plants develop seed heads in autumn, put off cutback until early spring – wildlife will love the seeds and hiding places.
- Cut down on digging and let the worms, bugs and beetles keep the soil healthy.
Be insect and bee friendly
- Choose pesticide-free gardening – Garden Organic have some easy advice for getting started if you are a beginner.
- Grow bee friendly plants and build some shelter for them too. Make a simple bee hotel – even if bees don’t take up residence, other insects will make their homes there.
- Encourage ladybirds (fantastic for organic pest control if you grow veg) by tying a bundle of plant stems such as cow parsley together and placing in a tree or cracks in a wall.
Help hedgehogs, frogs and toads
- Known as the gardener’s friends, these guys love eating slugs. If you have a fence, remove a small section at the base (about 5” square) to allow them in.
- Leave a tepee-shaped log pile, or pile of fallen leaves undisturbed in a shady corner to provide a home if they do visit.
- Create a small wildlife pond to encourage frogs and toads. This can be just a bucket or bath, but even a small one is possibly the best resource for all your garden wildlife. Make sure it has shallow edges and a simple ramp of stones or wood to allow easy access and a safe exit for animals.
- Climbing plants such as roses, ivy or honeysuckle grown against walls or fences make ideal nesting habitats that provide food, plenty of insects and a hiding place from predators.
- Put up bird boxes or shelters. If you want an easy way to provide a warm roost for smaller birds like robins, wren and dunnocks, nesting pockets can easily be tucked into a climbing trellis or in bushes.
- Provide clean water for bathing and drinking – even a plant saucer with a textured finish and a stone in the middle will do.
- Create a bird table or hang fat balls full of seeds and nuts to provide energy rich food – the RSPB has a handy feeding guide if you need advice on what’s best to feed and when.