Supporting wildlife is one of the most crucial parts of creating an eco-friendly garden. In this article, I’ll take you through why it’s so important for the environment, and how you can support wildlife in your own garden.
In recent years, the statistics for global biodiversity loss have been quite alarming. According to the Living Planet Report 2022, we have seen a global drop of 69% in species populations since 1970.
This has been a huge problem in the UK in particular. “Britain has lost more of its natural biodiversity than almost anywhere else in western Europe”- Professor Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum.
Biodiversity is crucial for functioning ecosystems, but it is being lost for many different reasons. One of these reasons is habitat loss.
A by-product of our modern way of life is the loss of habitats for wildlife. With so much land being covered with towns, cities, and fields for farming, there are fewer functioning ecosystems that can support wildlife. By gardening with wildlife in mind, you can help to provide habitats and therefore boost biodiversity in your area.
How does wildlife gardening help?
Supporting the wildlife in your area can help to give loads of different species a better chance to maintain their populations. If a lot of people with urban gardens could use them with wildlife in mind, biodiversity in towns and cities could get the boost it desperately needs. Even if you live in a rural area, supporting wildlife can have a positive impact and be incredibly rewarding.
On top of all of the environmental reasons to support wildlife, there’s also the personal reward that comes with it. Knowing that you’re doing something good for the planet is a great feeling. Spending time in nature is also proven to be good for our mental health, so the work you put into your garden to support wildlife will improve your overall well-being.
Another reward of wildlife gardening is getting to see the creatures that are benefitting. Looking into your garden and seeing different birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife is so rewarding when you know you’ve put effort in to support them. “Seeing birds and bees enjoying my garden is one of my favourite parts of gardening” – Chris Bonnett, CEO of Gardening Express.
How can you support wildlife in your garden?
Mix native and non-native planting
Growing native plants is one of the most effective ways of supporting wildlife. Native plants are often the best at providing food and shelter for native animals, and at providing nectar and pollen for pollinators.
Depending on which ones you grow, native plants can provide a large supply of flowers for pollinators. They can also produce food -such as berries and seeds – for birds and other animals. Click here for our recommendations of UK-native plants to grow in your garden.
Despite the importance of native plants, it’s also great to mix in non-native species in your garden. Mixing native and non-native plants will help to provide food, shelter, and pollen for more of the year. “Domestic gardens with their greater plant diversity […] offer sustenance and shelter to wildlife from March through to November” Alan Titchmarsh told a House of Lords Horticultural Committee while discussing rewilding.
Having a mixture of plants also helps to boost biodiversity; not only will you have more plant species, but they may attract and support different types of insects.
It can be difficult for birds, bugs, and animals to find water in urban areas, especially in the summer heat. For birds, you could put out a bird bath or a hanging ‘water feeder’. Pollinators like bees and butterflies need to be more careful, as bird baths will be too deep for them. For these smaller creatures, line a bird bath or tray with stones before filling it with water. Make sure the stones aren’t completely submerged. This will give bees and butterflies somewhere safe to rest and get some water.
In heatwaves, regularly check how much water is left and make sure it’s topped up as regularly as possible. All wildlife will feel the need for water more intensely in a heatwave, and birds especially will benefit from having birdbaths around; they can bathe themselves and cool down. If you don’t have a birdbath, any shallow dish that birds can access will do.
While the summer heat might remind you to put water out, it’s equally important in the winter when natural sources of water might have frozen. Leave water sources in sunny spots to help keep them from freezing. This can also help to make them more visible for birds and other wildlife. It’s a good idea to add stones to winter bird baths – as we would for bees and butterflies – so that birds don’t submerge themselves in the cold water. This will also benefit any bees and butterflies that are still out and about in the colder months.
Giving creatures a safe place to rest and raise their young can make a huge difference. Providing shelter for wildlife comes in many different forms. For example:
- Birdhouses, to provide a safe place for nesting
- Insect hotels, to provide safe places for anything from tiny bugs to hedgehogs
- Log piles, in which a whole range of creatures can find hiding spaces
- Butterfly houses, to protect them from bad weather and predators
- Trees and shrubs, which act as a natural shelter for birds and other creatures
These options are great for providing year-round shelter. If you’re planting to provide shelter, evergreen plants are a great start. Keeping their leaves all year let’s evergreen plants protect small insects well. However, there are also deciduous trees and shrubs that are good for year-round shelter. The RSPB specifically recommends blackberry bushes, for example, which provide pollen, nectar, berries, and shelter to a wide range of species. Many birds and small animals will nest in blackberry bushes because they give good protection against predators.
Supporting wildlife is a big part of creating an eco-friendly, sustainable garden. There are many different ways you can help birds, bees, and other animals to help boost biodiversity and battle against habitat loss.