Written by Geoff Johnson
We can create amazing wild habitats right here, in and around Wiveliscombe, in which nature can thrive.
Our natural world is in crisis. We are living in a time of mass extinction, the last being 66 million years ago when an asteroid ended the dinosaurs. This is a terrible tragedy in itself, and extremely dangerous for humankind; we depend on a healthy ecosystem. We’re not finished yet, but a mammoth effort is required.
Here are some simple things we can do in our gardens:
- Create a pond. Even a mini pond using a washing up bowl or old bath can be valuable. Put a plank or rocks in so that creatures can climb out.
- Stop using bonfires or sending green waste to the council. Mulch lawn clippings. Establish ‘beetle piles’ by putting cut garden waste, twigs and branches into a chicken-wired contained area, or just a pile.
- Create insect and small mammal ‘hotels’ – hollow stalks in bundles, logs with drilled holes or old air bricks.
- Establish permanent ground covering plant ‘corridors’ throughout your garden to enable animals to move around. Create holes in your fences and walls so small animals aren’t trapped and can move to different environments as needed.
- Turn off exterior lighting as this badly affects moths and other insects.
- Put bells on your cats, and keep them in at night. 55 million birds are killed in the UK annually by cats.
- Encourage areas of lawns to be wildlife gardens, or simply not cut until autumn. This can be just a strip in a small garden.
- Establish a wildflower garden rather than a lawn.
- Put up bird boxes. Make your own from cheap off-cuts.
- Leave untouched logs piles for hedgehogs and reptiles. …and fungi.
- Don’t cut down your ivy. Contrary to belief, it does not strangle trees! The nectar, pollen and berries are essential for insects and birds during autumn and winter when food is scarce. It also provides shelter for insects, birds, bats and other small mammals. The high fat content of the berries is a nutritious food resource for birds and they are eaten by a range of species including thrushes, blackcaps, wood pigeons and blackbirds.
- Put up bird feeders – for seeds and nuts.
- Cover your walls and fences with climbing plants including ivy.
- Host a ‘Wilding Rave’ where party goers create a wild habitat.
- Choose plants that provide food and nectar for as many months of the year as possible. Choose ‘pollinator’ plants as named on the package. Choose British native plants such as lungwort, purple toad flax, cow parsley, cow slips and lavender – the bees love it!
- Plant hedges to replace or be next to fences. The variety of plant species in the hedges should be chosen to benefit wildlife; native plants with fruit, berries and nuts. Why not make your whole hedge edible!
- Don’t cut your verges until mid-September, and then sweep up and compost the clippings.
- Don’t use peat – it is a carbon store. (Check the label of any compost to see that it doesn’t include peat.)
- Harvest all apples, store those not being eaten, and put piles of them on your lawn every fortnight throughout winter for blackbirds and other wildlife.
- Have an untidy garden.
- Plant trees that flower and provide food e.g . cherries or plums.
- Provide drinking water with lots of bowls and buckets with rocks in them – some sunk to ground level.
I’d love to hear your ideas. Perhaps you have questions or are willing to help others. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources and References
Ponds and mini ponds
Homes for bees, hedgehogs, toads, bats, moths, and butterflies
Meadowmania.co.uk Company specialising in wild flower seed
Plantlife.org.uk UK Conservation Charity dedicated to saving wild flowers and spaces
Naturescape.co.uk Wildflower seeds and bulbs
Creating Wildlife Corridors
Cutting and not cutting lawns for wildlife
Ivy and why it is great
Bird Tables and Feeding
Covering walls and fences with climbing plants
Garden Hedges – which plants and how to plant and keep
General Tips on Gardening for wildlife
USA Book – Bringing Nature Home; How You Can Sustain Nature With Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy.
Natural Bee Keeping
Private and community nature reserves