No matter where we live, how small our outdoor space or even if we don’t have any outdoor space we can all do small things to help wildlife thrive. It is in all our interests to do so as we depend on nature & it depends on us. Even if you live in a flat in a city you could become a guerilla gardener. The smallest of spaces is an ecosystem within our larger planetary system & we must allow them all to thrive.
In our garden, we have been changing the way we work in order to give wildlife a secure home so we can live side by side. There are a number of things we can all do, & stop doing which don’t require money or much time or effort. These small measures can have a large impact on insects, amphibians, mammals & or course, birds. It may seem early in the year to start talking about gardening but this is the perfect time to start planning & thinking about what you can change before you start the gardening year.
I think the most important thing for us was a change in attitude. Instead of seeing our garden as a place to tame & keep tidy we started to look at it as an ecosystem. There are layers of life everywhere from the tiny microbes in the soil to the larger foxes & badgers who visit at night to forage for food. An ecosystem is a web of life where everything is interdependent. We started to think about what all these things need & how we could make sure that all types of life would thrive in our garden.
WHAT IS AN ECO-SYSTEM?
An ecosystem is a complex thing & we are only just beginning to understand the one which surround us here in Derbyshire. Each day we spend watching the plants, animals & birds is a joy but also an education. You can do the same in your space. Check out what is happening at different times of year. See how the activity changes through the day & into the night time. What do the birds eat? Where do they live? Are there weeds & flowers you haven’t identified? Check them out find out why they are growing where you live. Nature is endlessly fascinating & inspiring when we engage with it.
To start with here are a few things to bear in mind if you want to garden for wildlife.
Our first step was to stop mowing & tidying. That’s not to say we don’t do any at all but we have dedicated areas to wilderness. Frankly this is a blessing for us as our garden is pretty huge but even small patches of bramble or heaps of sticks in a tiny garden will provide a home & food for lots of creatures.
Over the winter we didn’t clear up sticks & leaves which had fallen on our beds & they are now providing nest material for birds. We left a patch of brambles in a corner & that houses a family of mice. As spring gets going & things start to grow again we will leave these wild areas alone, undisturbed so that the insect & mammal residents can get on with their lives in peace. The leaves left on soil also provide food for the bugs & microbes in the soil thus enriching it.
We also leave areas of lawn unmowed. We do mow some of it but not much so that as the summer progresses we get wildflowers (some refer to these as weeds) & different species of grass. Birds love to eat grass seeds so this is valuable wild food for them. Doing nothing at all can make a big difference. Laos be careful about when you trim hedges & prune trees. Check out what is the best time of year for each species & during fledgeling season keep garden activity to a minimum so the baby birds can grow up in peace.
THINGS TO DO
Leaving areas alone has given us more time to spend on other garden activities. We have a couple of vegetable beds & personally I would rather grow food than worry about clipping edges of a lawn. Growing food is great for wildlife as long as you dont mind sharing. I must admit I was rather annoyed when the mice ate every one of our strawberries last year but we did leave them without a net so I guess the mice just couldn’t resist.
Growing some wild flowers is a great way to encourage butterflies & bees. This is so easy to do. Just buy a couple of packets of wildflower seeds (they are not expensive) & scatter them on some soil then leave it. Simple! Bees of all kinds need nectar but solitary bees find this especially helpful. They need places to stop off & refuel & we have unfortunately lost a lot of these spaces as councils mow hedgerows & hedgerows themselves disappear. You can make sure there are nearly always wild flowers in your garden by planting twice a year so you get early growth as spring is starting. You could also grow thistles & sunflowers as many birds love their seeds & they are really nutritious.
As well as leaving wild areas you can install nest boxes, bird baths & insect hotels. These things all mimic the natural spaces which have been destroyed by development. They are all cheap to buy or easy to make yourself. Check out our birdbath made from tyres & an old dustbin lid we found. The birds love it & we get to watch them.
Wildlife will thrive generally if left alone but unfortunately in our modern world it is not left alone enough. Many species are suffering sharp declines in number & as everything is connected this is bad news for all living things. However, we can all do things to help & provide food, homes & safety for creatures big & microscopic.