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What is a Wildlife Friendly Garden
28th September 2018
It’s estimated half of all UK households put bird food out at some stage during the year, and this is certainly bird friendly, but is there a difference between this and a wildlife garden?
I’ve always been a passionate believer in measuring the diversity and abundance of species as indicators of wildlife friendliness. Whether in my own garden, a nature reserve or a National Park, I count species to rate their friendliness. The higher the friendliness the higher the likelihood of my return and time I’m likely to spend there.
In comparison to my little garden National Parks and SSSI’s obviously have the advantage of size and scale to attract diversity and abundance, but in my own garden I have the ability to carefully manage the space to maximise habitats and resources to achieve the same. Of course, I’m not going to be playing host to beavers, ospreys or herds of roaming deer (I wish!) but there are a host of things I can do to attract an abundance of wildlife, albeit on a smaller scale.
A wildlife garden is said to be a space dedicated to attracting local plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and mammals. Size is not mentioned. It can be a single plant pot or window box, it can be a single bed or border, or a corner of a traditional garden. Or it can extend across a whole garden just like mine. Size isn’t important attitude is.
Now a wildlife friendly garden doesn’t need to look untidy, or exclude any other garden uses. My kids play happily on the lawn and my veg plot routinely fills the larder. However, I plant wildflowers as well as herbs in pots around my patio, which look and smell great and attract swarms of buzzy bees. My little pond with its stony shallow end is both bath and refreshment to countless birds, is visited nightly by hedgehogs and home to numerous frogs and newts. Summer evenings are transformed by water, attracting flying creatures of all sorts including dragonflies and even swooping bats. The back of my garden is planted with native shrubs and trees which are home to endless butterflies, moths and their caterpillars, which while fascinating, also attract other predators and birds too. I tend to allow self-seeding plants grow where they please, unless clearly in the wrong place, in other words, not too many nettles and no trees on the lawn! Otherwise, I add what pleases me and let nature determine the rest.
The benefits of a wildlife friendly garden are clearly demonstrated in Jennifer Owen’s book: A Wildlife Garden in which she recorded 2,673 different species in her small urban garden over a 30-year period. Therefore the 30 or so birds we regularly see and feed, are just a tiny fraction of the overall good we can offer nature in our gardens. Now please excuse me while I pop out the back and add more friendliness to my own patch.
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