Ruth suggests ways of turning your garden into a haven for wildlife, birds and insects
The release today (July 30, 2020) of the UK’s first official ‘red list’ cataloguing native species at ‘imminent risk’ of extinction is a serious cause for alarm.
The document by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists 11 mammals on the brink – a quarter of native species. These include the Scottish wildcat, red squirrel, water vole, hazel dormouse and Britain’s ‘favourite mammal’, the hedgehog.
Five other mammals, including the mountain hare are deemed as ‘near threatened’ and more data is needed on a further four including wild boars and whiskered bats before they can be categorised.
Blame for this worrying decline has been laid at the door of destruction f natural habitat, introduction of invasive species and persecution. In more modern times you can also add the trend of tarmacking over front gardens for parking and laying artificial grass.
Both these have the added problem of increasing the risk of localized flooding caused by rain run-off.
Professor Fiona Mathews, chair of the Mammal Society, said: “While we bemoan the demise of wildlife in other parts of the world, here in Britain we are managing to send even rodents towards extinction.
“Things have to change rapidly if we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the wildlife we take for granted.”
We may not expect to see wild boar and wild cats outside the back door, but hedgehogs used to be regular visitors and as more natural habitats disappear, gardens are increasingly becoming a haven and salvation for many mammals, bird and insects.
If we all act now the UK’s gardens – which make up an area of land the size of Norfolk – can be instrumental in keeping species alive for our benefit and for the benefits of future generations.
Here are some simple ideas for creating a wildlife garden:
Installing a pond, even a small one, is a sure-fire way of attracting wildlife. Hedgehogs and birds will drink from it, and the dragonflies, frogs and toads that come will help keep insect pest numbers low.
Grow plants that appeal to pollinators. Many highly-bred varieties are useless as insects can’t get to the pollen in their elaborate petals, so choose native and single blooms and make sure you have flowers from early spring through to late autumn.
If you have cats, keep them in at night and make sure they wear a collar with a bell. Hang birdfeeders where they are not surrounded by shrubs where cats can lurk.
Compost heaps attract worms and hibernating amphibians, insects come to feed on discarded fruit and peelings, which in turn attract birds to the garden.
Provide hedgehogs with fresh water and meaty pet food or proprietary hedgehog food and cut a CD-sized hole in your fence so they can travel. Never feed them mealworms.
Don’t mow a bowling green lawn. Let it get a bit long and scruffy, filled with daisies, buttercups and clover for bees and other pollinators.
Plant a tree. Even a dwarf one in a patio container will help attract insects and birds flocking to your garden, especially if it has scented flowers and berries or fruit.
Keep an untidy area where wildlife and insects can hibernate and seek refuge, forage for food and nest. Compost heaps are also perfect hiding places so take care when forking them over.
Feed birds with seeds, sunflower hearts, fatballs, leftover potato and mealworms. Clear away leftovers before they go mouldy and avoid fatty food in hot weather as they go rancid.
Install insect hotels and bee houses. Site them somewhere sunny and sheltered and you’ll soon have solitary bees and many other insects living in the garden.
Aim to control pests and disease without chemicals. Attract natural predators and follow AG’s advice for keeping plants healthy naturally.
Let’s keep gardening!
One of the great things about lockdown was that more people discovered the joy of gardening and growing things and we greatly hope that this won’t wear off now that ‘normal’ life has resumed.
This blog is an insight into what the AG team is up in their gardens, what we like to grow, what we pick and harvest, what’s worked for us and what hasn’t – because like everyone, things go wrong for us too!
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