Wildlife and biodiversity
evolved in a myriad ways to produce a complex web of interactions from the
insects that pollinate the flowers, to the birds that help control their
numbers and the worms that recycle the nutrients - all have a part to play and
more mutually beneficial relationships with the plants and wildlife that share
our environment also contributes to our own mental health and general
From large scale
rewilding projects to individual back gardens, there is a recognition that
biodiversity is crucial.
Be less tidy - Piles of logs, prunings and leaves make ideal habitat for a variety of wildlife, including ground beetles that eat slugs. Seed heads left standing over winter provide refuge for insects and also a valuable food source for birds. Reducing mowing allows wildflowers and grasses to flower and seed.
Provide homes for breeding and hibernation by installing bird and bat boxes as well as hedgehog homes in appropriate locations. Creating a diverse range of habitats will allow life to flourish.
Aim for variety - from trees and shrubs to climbers and wildflowers, there are flowers and fruit to offer all year round nectar and forage for a range of insects and wildlife. For example, winter-flowering honeysuckle and mahonia provide valuable nectar for winter active bumble bees.
Reassess what you consider to be a weed - many have a vital role in your garden's ecosystem and can be attractive in their own right.
Install a pond or other water feature and keep them topped up with rainwater. This not only increases the diversity of plants and insects, but creates a refuge and breeding spot for amphibians as well as somewhere for birds and other animals to bathe and drink.
Soil matters - ‘look after the soil and the soil will look after you’. We now know that it is the incredible diversity of life within the soil that nourishes the plants we want to grow. This balance can be upset with artificial fertilisers so organic growers use natural processes to enrich the soil . See our article on 'living soil'.
e also need to consider the wider implications of what we do.
Reduce or where possible eliminate the use of plastic, particularly single use plastic. As we all know, plastic persists in the environment and can end up in the food chain.
Do not use herbicides or pesticides - they inevitably kill off beneficial wildlife. If your plants need additional feeding, use natural organic fertiliser or ideally make your own liquid plant food from comfrey or nettles. Apply with care as excessive use can upset the balance of life in your soil and in extreme cases can leach out to pollute waterways.
Do not buy peat based products. Peat bogs are a major natural store of CO2 and provide unique habitat that is vital for many species. They are disappearing at an alarming rate and need to be preserved.
Source materials for your garden responsibly. Only buy FSC certified timber and avoid toxic preservatives. Use natural paving materials preferably local and recycled if available. Consider alternatives to hard paving - wood chips are often freely available and can make an attractive informal pathway.
Create connections - think of your wildlife area as part of a network with undisturbed corridors and edges that connect with the wider environment. This is particularly relevant when it comes to boundaries where gaps under fences help hedgehogs move about. Better still a hedge provides shelter and security as well as allowing wildlife to move between properties. Thinking about these connections opens up a whole world of opportunities and may then encourage you to explore how your street or wider neighbourhood can be made more wildlife friendly.
As we consider our responses to climate change it is easy to become focussed on a single issue, such as a reduction in carbon emissions. However natural systems are not that simple and it is clear that there are many other issues like biodiversity loss, pollution, overconsumption and health that are all connected. An organic garden recognises these connections and therefore making space for wildlife is an important part of our gardens - one that will have related benefits for our health, education and well being.
For further information on wildlife gardening
see links below: