Many species of wildlife throughout the world are threatened by loss of habitat. In the UK about 30% of species have lost half their population numbers in the last 50 years. Most gardeners love to see wildlife such as reptiles, birds and butterflies using their gardens.
So designing and making changes to garden designs is a 'win win' outcome:beneficial for the wildlife and the gardeners.
It may seem a trivial ideal, but the 15 million gardens in the UK cover a total area of 270,000 hectares, which is a land area greater than that in all the National Nature Reserves in the UK. Of course the area is highly fragments and the plots of land tiny, but it does make a difference.
This article show you how you can make your garden for friendly for wildlife with some simple tips and design ideas.
Garden debris in the form of dead leaves, branch trimmings, old plants you remove and even lawn clipping can provide great habitat for wildlife if it is kept in the garden as mulch. The garden areas don't have to be bare to be nice, debris-free to be tidy. Mulch encourages insects and this in term encourages reptile, birds and small mammals that feed on them. Many birds make use of plant stems and other debris as materials for building nests.
Ponds attract all sort of wildlife that use it for drinking and as sites for catching insects. Ponds encourage frogs. You can introduce local fish and pond life into your pond by collecting water and insect life from a local stream or natural pond. Local fish will control mosquitoes and other pests. You can add fountains, water falls and other water features that add to the pleasure you get from the water feature. These features help to keep the water moving and stop it from becoming stagnant.
In Australia, and elsewhere, people are encouraged to turn their unused swimming pools into wildlife ponds. This is lots of advice on making wildlife pond and garden water features on the Internet and from your local nursery. Ponds add value to your property.
Many new varieties and plants and many hybrids either don't flower at all, or their flowers don't provide much pollen or they are not really suitable for insects to gather the pollen. Similarly if all your flowering plants produce pollen at the same time there will be long period of time when no pollen is available. Using plants that are good pollinators and flower over a longer period of time not only helps the pollinators by provides a consistent smorgasbord for the insects and birds that feed on the pollen. Check the internet for lists of plants for pollinators and check with your local nursery.
Check on the internet to find out what the local birds need for nesting sites. If you cannot provide natural habitats then it is worthwhile adding suitable nest boxes for the local species. You need to consider where the nest boxes should be placed and try to provide a suitable environment surrounding the boxes. Simply dotting next boxes in bare areas with no surrounding cover is unlikely to be successful. You may also need to provide shade for the next boxes. Many gardens can be flat and have only two dimensions. Gardens for wildlife work best when the multiple layers found in natural habitats are present - the grass, herb, shrub, tall shrub and tree layers.
Small reptiles and frogs need cover in the form of logs, large branches, rocks and various nook and crannies. You will need to add these to you garden and let it become 'untidy'. These material can become very attractive features in the garden and they certainly don't need to be eyesores. Once again you need to think in three dimensions and add vertical variety and complexity to the garden.
Obviously if the entire garden is planted to annuals or series of plants that are dug up and removed after flowering there will be long periods of drought and bare ground that is unsuitable for wildlife. If you can include some ares of the garden that is plant with permanent shrubs and herbs than provide wildlife refuges.
While many gardeners hate insect pests and wage constant battles against them, there are ways of encouraging the non-harmful types of insects such as the butterflies, bees and plant pollinators. Gardens that encourage birds and reptiles tend to have less problems with insect pests because the birds and reptiles food upon them. Similarly there are many friendly insects that prey on other insects such as the lady bird beetles that feed on aphids. However, without insects none of the fruit trees in the garden will be pollinated and the birds will have nothing to feed on.
If you want to keep the insect population healthy and have something for the birds and reptiles to feed on then you will need to garden organically. You will need to avoid using of synthetic chemical pesticides and weedkillers which can kill the wildlife friendly plants in your garden.
There are many books and websites created by local authorities which outline how to design gardens for your local wildlife. They will generally include list of plants and local wildlife and their habitat requirements (see example1 ). So if you are designing a new garden or a major make-over it is worth checking these sources of information.
Wildlife gardeners often forget to include themselves and their families in the design. Family and friends should feel more like spending time in the garden enjoying it, not only because the wildlife is encouraged but because it is a good place to be. This is where a good design is essential that includes all users of the garden. The wildlife in the garden will certainly be a great asset for everyone to enjoy.