Did you know the UK’s gardens cover a combined landmass that’s bigger than the Lake District and Peak District put together? That’s a huge area and means gardens can provide vital space for wildlife in a human-dominated landscape. It’s a new year, so why not try something new in your garden and make it that little bit greener?
Whether your garden is big or small and whatever your experience level, there’s always something you can do to make a difference. Here are our top ten tips on how to ensure your garden is environmentally friendly.
1. Go native
One of the best ways to attract wildlife to your garden is to fill it with as many native plants as possible. Native wildflowers are easy to grow and maintain, and are often more resistant to pests than non-natives. They are also ideal for attracting bees and butterflies, which need all the help they can get with numbers declining across the country.
2. Plant a tree
If you have space, why not plant a tree? Research has shown that gardens with trees are more attractive to wildlife than those without. They can provide additional benefits like shade and reduced noise pollution too. Once again, native species will deliver the greatest benefits.
It’s understandable that you want to keep your garden neat and tidy, but an overly-manicured space leaves little room for wildlife. Allow a section of the garden to become overgrown and, by letting nature take its course, you’ll have created a more attractive environment for all things wild.
4. Make homes for wildlife
You can give nature an extra helping hand by providing some man-made shelter. From bird boxes to bug hotels and hedgehog homes to bee hives, there are plenty of ways you can make your garden that little bit more comfortable for wildlife.
5. Grow your own food
Why not devote a patch of your garden to growing your own food? It’s cheaper, reduces your environmental impact and tastes that little bit better knowing you’ve grown it yourself. There’s plenty of food you can grow, be it vegetables like carrots and potatoes or fruit such as apples and berries. Cherry and crab apple are just two of the native trees you could plant in order to grow your own fruit.
6. Reduce waste
It’s easy to create unnecessary waste when gardening, but, thankfully, it’s just as simple to find more environmentally-friendly alternatives. For example, you can save water by collecting rain instead of taking it from the tap. Rather than gathering fallen leaves into plastic bags - which may take decades to decompose - and throwing them away, why not store them in thisbiodegradable leaf sack? The leaves could provide a warm winter refuge for small animals and, once they’ve decomposed, you’ll be left with natural leaf mould – a perfect fertiliser.
7. Make your own fertiliser
Natural leaf mould is just one way to make your own fertiliser. You can use everything from leftover food to pulled-up weeds and grass cuttings to create a natural means of helping your garden grow. Soaking weeds in a container for a few weeks creates a nutrient-rich solution that can be used to water plants. You can also try ‘grasscycling’, which involves leaving grass trimmings on the lawn after mowing, providing a natural fertiliser. Always avoid using peat in your compost, as removing this organic matter can destroy unique ecosystems that have taken centuries to form.
8. Get composting
Compost heaps are a surprisingly valuable habitat feature for wildlife and may help to attract a wide variety of creatures into your garden, ranging from earthworms and frogs to hedgehogs and lizards. Always avoid using peat in your compost, as extracting this can destroy unique ecosystems that take centuries to form.
9. Add a water feature
If you have the space, adding a natural water feature to your garden can make a real difference. A pond provides a home for amphibians and insects, as well as drinking and bathing water for birds and mammals. If you don’t have room for a whole pond, abird bathis a good option, while even a shallow dish of water placed on the ground may still be used by wildlife.
10. Improve access
Modern gardens are increasingly enclosed with large walls and fences, making it difficult for ground-dwelling creatures, such as hedgehogs, to get around. A hog only needs a gap around 13cm by 13cm to get in and out of your garden, so consider cutting a small hole in your fence to give this declining species a helping hand.