Gardens, whether private or communal, are important habitats for wildlife, and there are many ways we can make them better still. Even formal gardens can benefit wildlife if we choose plants that provide food, shelter and places to nest. The Wild About Gardens website provides information on which plants will benefit wildlife in any situation from a meadow to a herbaceous border or container, and is endorsed by the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society.
To help you find out how you can help the wildlife in your garden, the London Wildlife Trust and Tower Hamlets Council have produced a FREE wildlife gardening pack. You can download the wildlife gardening pack here (PDF 3MB).
10 things you can do in your garden
- Plant native trees, shrubs and grasses to attract and feed native birds, and remove non native weeds and garden plants that could invade natural habitats.
- Replace some of your open lawn with garden beds and wild flower meadows, and plant nectar-rich flowers for bees and other pollinators. Local bee expert Mark Patterson of Api:Cultural has produced a list of the best garden plants for bees, and a matrix showing the flowering times and colours of good plants for pollinators. Further lists of good nectar plants for pollinators are available on the Royal Horticultural Society and London Beekeepers’ Association websites. The Royal Horticultural Society also has a list of night-scented plants which are particularly attractive to moths (and hence to bats, which eat moths).
- Make hiding and sunning spots for insects by using half buried stones and logs and mulch placed close to shelter and food. As well as providing homes for beetles and worms, which in turn are food for birds and insects, natural mulch also helps to save water.
- Create a wildlife pond. Let frogs, newts and other water mini-beasts move in by themselves. Never take them or their tadpoles and spawn from the wild. See Froglife’s easy guide to pond creation (PDF 2.4MB).
- Attract butterflies by planting nectar-producing plants and caterpillar foodplants such as buckthorns, birdsfoot-trefoil, ivy and nettles in sunny spots of the garden.
- Provide shelter, nest and food sites for small birds by planting clumps of locally native shrub species such as hawthorn, blackthorn and ivy, or install a specially designed nest box if your garden contains a medium to large tree without a hollow. Well-designed nest boxes for a variety of species are available from many suppliers, or you can make your own using materials you might have around the house – this website provides a number of ideas for making your own nest boxes. Always make sure your home-made box is suitably weather-proof.
- Avoid use of chemical pesticides. Insecticides don’t just kill pests, they kill beneficial insects such as bees. Slug pellets can poison birds, amphibians and hedgehogs that feed on the poisoned slugs. Try using alternatives such as copper strips or coffee granules to deter slugs, and encourage natural predators such as birds, frogs and hedgehogs. For other ways that you can help hedgehogs in your garden, see this very informative web page.
- Keep your cat inside at dusk and dawn or consider building an outdoor enclosure connected to the house. Cats deter birds from visiting your garden.
- Compost your waste. As well as helping to recycle waste and reduce the use of peat, decaying plant material provides habitats for insects, worms, mites and other invertebrates and will be important feeding areas for birds and insectivorous mammals, such as hedgehogs.
- Avoid using peat. While peat won’t harm the wildlife in your garden, its harvesting damages important upland habitats and also releases stored carbon, contributing to climate change. Always use peat-free compost.
And, of course, read our Gardening for Wildlife page!