Nature is very sadly in decline, due in the main to urbanisation, agricultural practices, pollution and climate change. By working together as a community we can play a part in getting nature back on track and where better to start than right here in the Surrey Hills!
Gardens are a wonderful refuge for wildlife and with a bit of thought can become a safe haven for birds, mammals and insects.
Here’s our top tips to make wildlife welcome and do your bit for nature recovery!
Grow your grass!
Don’t be too tidy in the garden and let the wild flowers in your lawn bloom, providing a feast of nectar for our hungry pollinators. Longer grass also allows for a better shelter for creepy crawlies and provides habitats for amphibians and small mammals.
Join legions of gardeners and say “no” to the mow during May as part of the Plantlife Every Flower Counts campaign. It’s simple, lock the lawn mower away for a month let your lawn provide a feast of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other insects.
Build a bug or bee hotel
It’s simple and fun to attract bugs to the garden. Find a quiet spot, and pile up rocks, bricks, logs, twigs and leaves. Then do not disturb. This will become home to all sorts of important insects such as beetles and spiders. The Woodland Trust have got some great ideas on how to attract and create the perfect home for all wildlife, from Bug hotels and Log pile lodges to Pine cone palaces for ladybirds!
Solitary bees are important pollinators and a gardener’s friend. For those wanting tips on how to build a bee hotel The Wildlife Trust have got great advice on just what our ‘Buzzy’ friends like!
Care for local birds
Birds are an important part of your garden’s ecosystem, and creating bird boxes and putting out food will help them thrive. Putting out a variety of different bird feed is a great way to attract different birds to your garden and help out bird populations at the same time. With nearly 30% of birds in Great Britain being threatened with extinction and the likelihood of extreme weather events to increase due to climate change, providing extra food could really help local bird populations flourish. The RSPB have got some great ideas on what to feed birds, watch this short video from wildlife gardening guru, Adrian Thomas.
If you’d like to help the birds in your garden, why not have a go at making your own nestbox? Download this simple step by step guide.
Flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects that perform the vital task of fertilisation – seed and fruit production would drop dramatically without them. Grow as many varieties as possible to ensure colour from spring through to autumn. Go for native species, if possible. The RHS have produced a great guide to the best plants for pollinators to give you ideas on what to plant.
Build a pond
A pond is a real boost for wildlife and doesn’t have to be huge. You could simply use a buried bucket or trough. Make sure there are stones and branches in there so creatures such as frogs can get in and out. The pond should be filled with rainwater, so use a water butt. Build it in a part-sunny, part-shady spot so it doesn’t go stagnant. Grow waterlilies in it to keep it oxygenated. The Wildlife Trust have a great step by step guide for building a pond.
‘Mind the gap’!!
Make sure your garden fence has holes along the bottom so creatures such as hedgehogs and frogs can pass through. Hedgehogs are one of the nation’s favourite mammals, but it is estimated that hedgehog numbers have declined by 98% since the 1950s – they desperately need our help. One way to help our beloved hedgehogs is to make a hedgehog highway through fenced gardens in your neighbourhood. Working with your neighbours you could create a clear pathway for your local hedgehog population so they don’t get stuck in urban gardens! Hedgehogs can travel upwards of one mile per night, so having the ability to travel freely through our gardens hugely helps them go about their nightly business. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society have a great fact sheet with tips to encourage hedgehogs into your garden.
Compost bins use up waste and also feed your soil, which keeps plants healthier. They are also a habitat for worms, woodlice, fungi, frogs, grass snakes and spiders. Put food waste in – raw only unless you have a bin that keeps rats out – and turn it every week with a fork. When it is ready (this can take anything from a few months to a year), spread it across your beds. Never use peat – peat bogs are special habitats and should be protected. The Wildlife Trust have great tips for composting – all you need is waste, air and water!
Bats are a sign of a green and healthy environment, so creating a garden that’s good for bats will also be good for people. These small and fascinating creatures often live in close proximity to us, using our gardens as an important source of food, water and shelter. As their natural habitats become more scarce, our gardens are playing a more important role in securing a future for bats. The Bat Conservation Trust have a step by step guide to building your own bat box to encourage these wonderful creatures to your garden.