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Gardening for wildlife

Bumble beeBumble bee

By Debbie Greenwood

Do you think about having a wildlife friendly garden but are not sure where to start?

When it comes to gardening for wildlife, it is up to you: you can do a little, or you can do a lot. But you can create your own wildlife reserves in your outside spaces and gardens. These are so important as they provide vital corridors linking our urban, suburban and country landscapes, allowing wildlife to move safely from one environment to another. Your garden or patio is a nature reserve in waiting and you can be the reserve warden!

Trees are the high-rise hotels of the wildlife world, providing nesting places, hidy holes, food sources, nesting materials, shelter and shade for hundreds of species of insects, mammals, birds and reptiles. If you only have limited space, try trees in containers ; go for native yew, holly or box which can be pruned and kept small, try a small berrying variety of rowan or hawthorn (the birds will love the berries) or dwarf apple and plum trees which bees love in spring.

Any size of pond will attract wildlife. If you have limited space, a half-barrel lined with polythene, or even a bucket, makes a great home for wet-loving plants. I have grown yellow flag iris and water mint successfully this way and many pond invertebrates have made their homes here. You’ll be surprised how quickly wildlife will make it their home. A small area of water provides a home for pond skaters, water beetles, water snails, passing dragonflies, and birds will love to have drink from it. A larger pond needs a shallow area so that hedgehogs, mice, voles and other land animals can safely get to the water to drink.

Compost heaps, piles of logs, heaps of grass and leaves, and mounds of branches and twigs are great places for hedgehogs, slow worms, grass snakes and mice to shelter and hibernate. Wrens, robins and many other birds will love to hide or hop about on these piles looking for insects. Dead, dying and decaying wood provides a marvellous ecological resource, with beetles, flies, solitary bees, wasps, insectivorous birds, and mammals, fungi, lichens and mosses depending on this habitat directly or indirectly.

British gardens cover approximately 270,00 hectares, providing important feeding and hibernating areas for bees and butterflies, which are so important for pollinating our crops and flowering plants. Herb flowers are perfect for bees, bumble bees, solitary bees and hover flies. Try fennel in a patio pot; it is a fantastic nectar resource for late summer insects. Marjoram, any species of mint, chives, thyme, rosemary, lovage, borage and, of course, lavender constantly attract buzzing bumble bees. Try all these outside your front door for a fresh supply of herbs for cooking. 

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