22 Jun 2020

A guide to wildlife gardening

A guide to wildlife gardening

According to The Wildlife Trusts, there are approximately 24 million gardens in the UK and naturally, this abundance of outdoor space forms an important part of our modern-day ecosystem. In recent years, campaigners have been raising awareness amongst gardeners and homeowners of the importance of making their gardens ideal homes for British wildlife, and many people have been getting involved. With that in mind, the Glee team have compiled a guide to wildlife gardens and the things you can do to help your customers make ideal homes for the UK's wildlife.

What is wildlife gardening?

Wildlife gardening is largely what it says on the tin. It is a method of gardening, and cultivating outdoor space, that makes ideal habitats, breeding grounds and/ or feeding spots for local wildlife. In our increasingly built up and urban world, gardens are becoming important havens for wildlife, that provide natural shelter for animals in cities. In fact, when combined the area of garden spaces within a city makes up about a quarter of that city's total area.

But wildlife gardening doesn't have to be limited to gardens. Allotments and green spaces are just as important and there are simple things gardeners can do to encourage wildlife wherever they are.

Why is it so popular?

With consumers' increasing awareness of issues surrounding sustainability and the environment it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that many have chosen to start closer to home in their bid to live a greener lifestyle.  

However, there is also a wellbeing element to wildlife gardening; another important factor that's been changing consumer behaviour in recent years. Wildlife gardening is as much about creating a haven for the humans that inhabit the space as it is for the nature.

There's plenty of evidence that shows that just getting out in nature is beneficial for mental wellbeing, so the motivation to have a natural haven on one's doorstep is clear. Creating a space for wildlife is the perfect way to nurture both flora and fauna and feel both a sense of responsibility and achievement. For many, it's also a relaxing space to be in and at one with.

What animals can be found in UK gardens?

Of course, there are far more creatures in UK gardens that we can list here. But, some of the focal animals include hedgehogs, bats, sparrows, song thrushes and stag beetles, all of which are in decline in the UK, as well as bees, butterflies and frogs.

What plants are great for wildlife?

For pollinators, like bees, and other insects, wildflowers are the perfect solution. Marigolds, sunflowers and daisies are favourites for bees and butterflies for pollen and nectar, and also provide seeds for birds like finches. Other flowers recommended by the RSPB for cultivating wildlife include:

  • Common knapweed
  • Yellow rattle
  • Field scabious
  • Harebell
  • Cock's-foot
  • Sheep's fescue
  • Yorkshire fog
  • Wild thyme
  • Lady's bedstraw
  • Chamomile
  • Red clover
  • Common spotted orchid
  • Common bird's-foot trefoil
  • Bulbous buttercup

It's not just flowers that are popular for wildlife though. Hedgerows also provide habitats and shelter for animals, with popular plants including rosemary and heather for smaller hedges and hawthorn and beech for larger ones. Small trees like rowan and crab apple also provide shelter and food for animals and can be incorporated into hedges whilst birch and holly are good standalone options.

What other products to consumers need to make ideal habitats?

It's not just the plants that make a garden wildlife friendly, though. Birdboxes, bat boxes, bee houses and hedgehog homes are all popular choices to bring more animals into the garden. Ponds, water features, woodpiles and compost heaps also make choice habitats for amphibians and insects.

Naturally, many animals will find food from the plants they are provided with, but bird feeders and tables are also popular choices with many consumers as a way to encourage more feathered friends into their gardens.

You'll also need to consider stocking products that are not harmful to insects or animals. Avoid chemical pesticides and make sure to educate environmentally-minded customers on the most wildlife-friendly options.

Rainwater troughs and butts will also mean pond life in your customers' gardens will thrive as natural water is better than chemically treated tap water.

And it's worth considering the environmental effects for your own supply chain as well. Peat extraction can wreak massive damage on natural habitats, so consider looking for non-peat-based products. Equally, ensure any wooden furniture or charcoal that you stock is FSC approved to ensure it is sustainable to wildlife.

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