Being aware of our natural surroundings is so important and that means being mindful of the natural habitats that are in our garden. We explain why some of those common garden jobs could be disturbing habitats in your garden and how you can work around them, encouraging more wildlife to make a home in your garden.
For too long, as gardeners, we were ‘told’ that the best gardening attitude was to minimise unruliness in the flower beds. Weeds were to be picked, pests to be eliminated and the garden kept tidy. But there is evidence to suggest that some of the less well-kept gardens are the ones buzzing full of wildlife, big and small.
With the environment under constant threat from our actions, how can you make your garden a better place for wildlife? What habits and gardening jobs do you need to ditch because they interfere with the natural habitat of some animals, birds and insects?
Less synthetic materials - wood instead of plastic
Plastic is a material we are falling out of love with but not before we have furnished the home and garden with plastic components and accessories. Cheap and hardwearing it may have been, but plastic gardening components are no friend of wildlife.
ACTION – when its times to replace garden furniture, for example, recycle the old plastic stuff and welcome natural materials back in the garden such as the beauty of natural wooden benches.
A weed is any plant or flower that grows somewhere that we don’t want it to. They may have a shallow rooting system and a virulent spread that means one day they are a small plant lurking in the corner to taking over the flower bed by the end of the week.
From weed killers to weed control mats, there are many ways to keep weeds under control. But by eliminating weeds from our garden, we are eliminating a valuable food source for many insects.
ACTION – ditch chemical weed killers. Pull a few weeds but allow them to flourish too.
Woodlice in the compost to field mice in the vegetable patch, we lay such importance on the garden that we forget it not just about us.
Not all pests are bad. Insects bring in garden birds who eat them and some insects also feed on other creepy crawlies. Get the balance right and you won’t need chemical pest control.
ACTION – ditch chemical pest control unless there is a risk to human health such as rats in the basement or mice in the attic. Slug pellets are potentially fatal for pets and wildlife too. Simply pick off slugs encourage more wildlife in the garden with bird feeders and so on.
Being too tidy
After a winter storm, leaves fall, twigs lie on the grass and branches can also be found lying on the ground.
Our reaction is to ‘tidy up’ and that might mean getting the leaf blower out and placing everything in the green kerbside recycling bags.
The problem is, you’ve just removed important components of nesting materials from your garden. And it’s not just birds;
- Twigs and leaves are used by many birds to ‘feather’ their nest over winter and ready for their eggs to hatch in the spring
- Piles of rotting leaves are also great for insects to lay their eggs to over winter. The emerging larvae will eat the surrounding leaves. The leaves will also rot into the ground, giving it a boost of natural fertiliser.
- Twigs and branches are also the natural habitats of ‘good’ insects such as ladybirds, brilliant in the garden for eating green and white fly.
- Rotting wood also gives rise to different fungi, all of which are important to the ecological balance of a garden.
ACTION – don’t be too tidy. Allow the garden to flourish along the lines that nature dictates, not what glossy gardening magazines tell you.
There are many examples but the bluebell is a great example. The English bluebell is a purple-blue flower, its hanging trumpet a source of fantastic perfume and one that evokes memories of childhood. It is a woodland flower, at its happiest in the shade of trees and the damp ground of woodland.
The Spanish bluebell is a similar looking flower but not as aromatic in smell and with a bigger flower. The pips of this flower flooded the market with many people planting the Spanish bluebell thinking it was the English bluebell.
Slowly, as woodlands declined, so too did the English bluebell and now, we have gardens full of its Spanish cousin but not the English, native variety.
ACTION – opt for native plants as these provide the habitat and food that our local wildlife need.
How do you make your garden more wildlife friendly?