Get Growing For Wildlife

Kate Nightingale

Every space, whether it’s a patio, garden, or field can be made into a wildlife haven. Read on to find out some tips on how to make your garden wildlife-friendly!

Our gardens can bring us closer to nature, having our own personal green space does wonders for our wellbeing and sharing it with wildlife can bring so much joy.  

Not only that, but gardens have enormous potential to act as mini-nature reserves. There are an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK and if we all do a few small things to help wildlife it can make a big difference for the natural world. 

You can help local wildlife by introducing simple changes that will attract local species to your garden and get it buzzing with life! 

Here are ten simple things you can do in your garden to turn it into a wildlife haven.

snail Gardening

WildNet - Tom Marshall

1. Let the grass grow

Leave your lawnmower in the shed! Long grass is one of the rarest habitats in our gardens and is incredibly beneficial for wildlife. By letting some or all of your lawn grow you will encourage different plant species to grow, which will help insects to thrive including butterflies, beetles and bees. 

Mowing the lawn only once every four weeks gives ‘short-grass’ plants like daisies and clover a chance to flower which boosts nectar production. 

You could turn either a small patch or the whole garden wild - its up to you! 

Find out more about creating a wild patch here. 

2. Stop using pesticides

We are at great risk of losing our insects, and insects are the key to healthy, thriving ecosystems.

Harmful pesticides are a huge threat to our insect populations so opting for a natural pesticide or cutting the use completely would be extremely beneficial to wildlife. 

A great natural alternative to use to keep insects off your plants and veggies can be found in your pantry, and won't cost a penny. 

Most insects in the UK avoid any spicy, peppery, or citrus scents so combining ingredients such as garlic, onion, hot pepper, horseradish, and vinegar, and placing the mixed concoction around your plants will deter insects from nibbling on your plants but won't harm them or the environment.

Vegetable Patch

Use natural, non - toxic pesticides to protect your veggies

3. Install a bee hotel

Solitary bees, unlike the familiar bumblebee and honeybee, do not make colonies but nest alone. The female spends much of her life searching for suitable nesting sites. Some will nest in holes in the ground, while others will look for old beetle holes or hollow stems in which to lay their eggs. 

You can help them by providing a suitable home. 

Find out how to build your own bee hotel here. 

4. Compost

A compost heap is a win-win. Making and using your own compost will naturally enrich your soil. It will also provide a habitat for worms, woodlice, and many other insects, including frogs and slow worms. To avoid attracting rats, only add raw, not cooked food.

Find out how you can make your own compost heap here

5. Grow Flowers

Flowers look beautiful and bring colour and scent into your garden. They produce pollen and nectar which is a vital food source for many insects. 

Ivy is a very useful plant for wildlife later in the year, as it flowers September - November. Nectar, pollen and berries of ivy are an essential food source for insects and birds during autumn and winter when food is scarce. Plus, it provides year-round cover for nesting birds and insects. 

If you only have a small space, flowers in pots and containers are a great way of introducing wildlife features. Find out how to start a container garden here

Elephant hawk moth in garden

Tom Marshall

6. Have a break from weeding

Plants such as nettles, daisies, dandelions and buttercups are important sources of food for many insects, including butterflies and moths. They flower for a long time, whatever the weather and provide food when other sources might be absent.

If you do choose to weed your garden or outdoor spaces, avoid using pesticides and opt for manual removal. If you pull from the roots and crush where the plant was this should stop the plant from growing back without harming the underground habitats for worms, woodlice, ants, and spiders. 

bee and dandelion

 Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

7. Plant fragrant flowers for bats

Just like the daytime, the evening can bring lots of life to your garden, even if you're not awake to see it.

Honeysuckle and evening primrose are night-blooming flowers that release their scents after dark, attracting insects, which in turn, attracts bats. 

There are 18 species of bats living in the UK and night-flying insects are an attractive meal for these insectivores.

The best time to try and spot bats in your garden is just as the sun is going down in the summer! 

Find out more about planting for moths and bats here. 

Evening primrose

Primrose in daylight and evening bloom 

8. Go peat free

Going pea free is an amazing step that you can make to help support our environment and protect the planet. 

Peat has used in compost is dug out of wild places, damaging some of the last remaining peatlands both in the UK. This process also releases carbon into the atmosphere accelerating climate change. More than 94% of the UK's lowland peat bogs have been destroyed and this vital habitat isn't easily replaced. 

You can help by choosing peat free compost or using peat-free alternatives, such as bark chippings, wood-fibre and composting.

If you purchase your soil bagged, look out to see if the soil is 100% Peat-free. Many brands advertise that they are ‘organic’, ‘natural’, and ‘environmentally friendly, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are peat-free.

Find out more about going peat free here.

9. Add a pond 

Ponds, rivers and streams are disappearing at a rapid rate, adding a wildlife pond to your garden is one of the best things you can do to help local wildlife.

Your pond needn't be big; an old washing up bowl, large plant pot or disused sink could all be repurposed as ponds. A small pond can be home to an interesting range of wildlife including dragonflies, newts and frogs. 

Find out how to build a pond here

10. Feed the birds

Help attract birds to your garden by putting out food for them. Providing food all year-round will help them out during the winter when food sources are scarce. 

Water is just as important for birds as food, not just for drinking but bathing as well. So put out a clean bird bath or small shallow dish of water with your feeders. 

Find out more about feeding birds here. 

When you shop Vine House Farm for bird seed, they will donate a portion of your purchase to your local Wildlife Trust. Find out more here. 

bird feeder

Janet Packham