Gardening for a #WilderFuture

Photo credit: Rebecca Neal

Gardens are a huge opportunity to make a difference for wildlife, and the great news is that even the smallest change can help. 

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire is a wildlife conservation charity with action at its heart. We believe that landscape-scale conservation is the key to supporting our wildlife through the challenges of climate change, and that this involves protecting special places and ensuring the bits in between are hospitable.  In partnership with other Wildlife Trusts, and our members and supporters, we are calling for at least 30% of our land and sea to be connected and protected for nature’s recovery by 2030. Making more space for nature will allow for healthier and more mobile populations, and create opportunities to store carbon and help to tackle the climate crisis. 30% is the minimum that nature needs to start recovering and we need your help to reach this ambitious target.

You can be an important part of this Nature Recovery Network by ensuring the habitat that you look after is as good for wildlife as possible. Whether you have a windowsill, a yard, a small garden, or grounds to a mansion, the principles are the same and you can make a difference. A garden for wildlife doesn’t have to look untidy (although this can help!) and even if you did just one thing, you would be helping to make things better.

Check out our videos from Wildlife Trust BCN staff member Katie and superstar Wildlife Ambassador Naturetastic Henry below for some great tips:

Here are 8 general ideas around making a difference for wildlife using your garden:

1. Go wild

This could mean just leaving a corner of your garden to do what it wants, encouraging native species, or, my favourite, mowing less often. It is amazing how quickly clover can grow in a lawn if you leave it to do its thing, and bees love clover!

Photo credit: Andrew Chapman

2. Add water

You can do this on many levels and it is the most useful thing you can do in your garden for wildlife. Just a bowl on the floor could provide water for birds or hedgehogs. If you have space you could put in a bird bath, or look at creating a “bucket” mini pond (using any container that will hold water). For bigger gardens, ponds without fish or bog gardens are both great for all kinds of wildlife and may even attract amphibians.

Photo credit: Rebecca Neal

3. Connect

Animals like hedgehogs and frogs will walk miles to find what they need. You can reduce the distance they need to go and open up access to more habitat by connecting your garden to your neighbour’s. A hedgehog needs a gap of around 13cm.

Photo credit: Jon Hawkins, Surrey Hills Photography

4. Grow nectar, pollen, fruit and seeds

Plants are at the heart of all garden food chains, so if you can provide the basics, the rest will follow. A good tip for choosing what to grow in your garden is to look and see what the wildlife in your local park uses. If I were to pick five plants, I would choose: lavender and honeysuckle for nectar (and because they smell great), cherry and blackthorn for the fruit and beautiful blossom, and sunflowers for the seeds. If all you have is a wall, you can create a vertical garden and even with only a windowsill, you can have a small pot of wildflowers and feed a bee!

Photo credit: Zsuzsanna Bird

5. Create hiding places and homes

Just a simple pile of leaves, logs, stones, or sticks provide a great habitat for mini-beasts. Rockeries will provide lots of nooks and crannies for bugs and amphibians to hide, as well as walls made using un-mortared stones or bricks. You can provide more targeted homes by making your own bird boxes, bat boxes, hedgehog houses and bee hotels.

Photo credit: Vaughn Matthews

6. Go organic

One way to cut the amount of chemicals you use in your garden is to have a compost heap which reduces your reliance on chemical fertilizers (and unsustainably harvested peat compost). Conditions in your garden will gradually change as our climate alters, so you could consider switching to more hardy or drought or flood tolerant species (depending on your circumstance), which will be less prone to disease and therefore need less chemical treatments.

7. Grow your own

You can cut your food miles by growing your own veggies. Many herbs are good for pollinators as well as providing flavour for our cooking. If you don’t have beds, you can grow a variety of veggies in pots, and tomatoes and potatoes in grow bags. You can grow herbs in a pot on your windowsill.

Photo credit: Tom Marshall

8. Record what you see

Submitting wildlife records is really important in order for ecologist to be able to study trends and therefore target resources. You can get help in identifying your garden wildlife through our Monitoring and Research Facebook page and can submit your records using the iRecord app or by connecting to your local biological records centre. You could also take part in a citizen science project like our swift survey.

Photo credit: Rebecca Neal

Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire is a local wildlife conservation charity, part of a wider network of trusts across the UK. Together, they aim to build bigger, better and more joined up habitats for wildlife and people through managing nature reserves, working with landowners, carrying out and facilitating research, delivering inspiring education, and providing ideas and support for people to take action. They are campaigning to restore 30% of land for nature in order to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change.

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