Your garden is your nearest nature reserve: a haven for London’s wildlife! Private gardens form a significant proportion of urban greenspace, playing a valuable role in forming wildlife corridors between larger areas of habitat, such as parks, commons and open spaces.
There are lots of different things you can do in your garden to benefit wildlife. They will not take up much of your time, but have the potential to make a real difference. You can increase the wildlife value of your garden by trying some of the following tips or simply setting aside an area of your garden for wildlife:
- Don’t automatically tidy it up! – Allow brambles, nettles and ivy to grow over piles to create shade, moisture and humidity. Brambles are essential nectar source for many butterflies and ivy provides food and shelter for birds.
- Build a pond or a bog area – Ponds provide a habitat for amphibians, including frogs, toads and newts. Many species of invertebrate, such as damselflies and dragonflies, depend on open water to complete their lifecycle. Bog areas contain plant species which support dragonflies and damselflies.
- Let your grass grow! – Simply leave one part of your lawn to grow long, as this will support a variety of invertebrates. Alternatively, sow a wildflower meadow to give your garden a splash of colour.
- Feed the birds – This is a very easy way to encourage more wildlife to visit your garden. It is especially important to feed birds over the cold winter months.
- Install a log pile or loggery – Retain as much dead timber as possible as piles of dead wood and leaves are an important habitat for hedgehogs, insects and fungi. Place fallen timber in dappled shade and if possible, partially bury it (about 60cm into the ground). Decaying wood is an essential habitat, supporting an array of fungi and decay invertebrates including stag beetles.
- Fit bird and bat boxes to trees or buildings – If there are no natural tree cavities for birds and bats to use, provide them with some artificial ones by attaching a box.
- Plant nectar rich flowers – This will encourage bees and butterflies to your garden. Retain as many native flowering trees, shrubs and wildflowers as possible, as these provide a valuable source of food for many invertebrates, birds and small mammals.
- Save some money, don't use pesticides or fertilisers! – It is far better to encourage the natural predators of garden pests, such as frogs, hedgehogs and ladybirds.
- Create your own compost from kitchen and garden waste – This has the two-fold benefit of diverting waste from landfill and providing you with nutritious compost for your garden.
- Collect rainwater using a water butt – Using rainwater to water your plants and top up your pond saves using tap water and is better for the pond.
- Use sustainable materials – Recycle the amount of material you produce by re-using the materials, such as reclaimed timber, where possible and avoid unsustainable resources, such as compost containing peat.
To find out more about wildlife gardening visit the London Wildlife Trust’s wildlife gardening pages or the Space for Nature wildlife gardening forum (created by RHS and Wildlife Trusts)