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Wildlife gardening: why is it important and how do you make your garden wildlife-friendly
June 6 to 12 is Garden Wildlife Week, which is all about recognising the natural goodness our gardens offer, including the creatures that live in our gardens, which are vital for the ecosystem.
“If you want birds in your garden, you gotta have bugs for them to eat. No bugs, no birds. I know my garden is a success when I see holes in the leaves of the plants, because I know I’m feeding the birds.”
– Neil Diboll
Gardens are filled with a variety of wildlife, be it birds, animals, or insects. By encouraging wildlife into your garden, you can contribute towards the wellbeing of the local ecosystems. The plants you grow, the layout of your garden, and the way you manage it, are among some of the factors that impact how you attract wildlife to your garden, providing them with sources of food, water, and shelter. Read on to learn more about why wildlife is important for your gardens, and what you can do to make your garden more wildlife-friendly.
Why is wildlife gardening important?
UK’s wildlife has continued to decline over the years, amidst factors such as loss of habitats, increased urbanisation, climate change, pollution, and the use of pesticide. Hedgehogs, sparrows, song thrushes, and stag beetles, are among some of those declining species in the UK. Amidst such decreases, gardens have become increasingly important habitats for wildlife. Although each garden is small on its own, they contribute towards balancing the health of the environment around you. Therefore, the way we manage our gardens can impact the local wildlife.
Wildlife is important for our local ecosystems, providing balance and stability to the different processes of nature. Encouraging wildlife to your gardens not only helps with pollination, but also helps enhance biodiversity. The more diverse the ecosystem of a garden is, it helps produce more oxygen, clean air, and water. Out of over 22,000 species of insects in Britain, it is just a relatively small number that are garden pests. So making those green spaces truly natural is also a great way to re-connect with nature, while both enjoying and learning more about plants, animals, and birdlife.
How do you make your garden wildlife-friendly?
Making your garden wildlife-friendly does not need to take too much effort. It could be as simple as growing trees, hedges, or plants to help attract wildlife. For instance, birds love sunflowers, while bees are more attracted to lavender. Butterflies are often attracted to buddleia, which are important sources of nectar for adult butterflies as well as moths.
If you like to do more, you can also create bird feeders and birdbaths. Birds often look to clean their feathers as well as being on the watchout for food, and a birdbath is ideal. In the meantime, ponds provide a breeding place for frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies, and other such aquatic fauna. Green woodpeckers and blackbirds often search for ants and earthworms in short grass, while letting unwanted dandelions and clover flower in between cuts can provide nectar for pollinating insects as well as seeds for birds. Long grass can help feed caterpillars in the summer.
Flowering trees and shrubs are important sources of nectar and pollen for insects. Large leaf surfaces support various aphids and caterpillars, which themselves form a large part of the diet for birds. Trees and shrubs with dense branches and natural cavities can become good nesting sites for birds and bats. In addition, while forest trees such as oak, although great for wildlife, can be too large for home gardens, planting cherry, crab apple, goat willow, hazel, and wild roses, among others, can be beneficial.
Planting flowers is another simple task that can be done in gardens, which is especially beneficial for bees, butterflies, and other creatures. Some useful flowers include sunflowers, wallflowers, honeysuckles, sedum, marigolds, and hawthorns, as well as a range of native flowers.
If you don’t have a big garden space, a small area would still be useful for creating a wild-friendly environment. Plants can be planted on pots and hanging baskets, attracting wildlife. There are different ways to attract different species, and this would also depend on the time and space you have available. Therefore, it would be worthwhile to do some research before you start.