In the Garden
If you have a garden, you have an opportunity to contribute to protecting the natural world.
Green Fact: The UK’s gardens cover a combined landmass that’s bigger than the Lake District and Peak District put together.
This is a huge area of land and means gardens can offer vital space for wildlife, with opportunities for planting trees and shrubs to help tackle climate change.
Green Fact: 97% of our wildlife meadows, vital habitats for bees and insects, have been lost since the end of the Second World War.
Trees and Plants
There are lots of ways you can help tackle climate change and increase wildlife and biodiversity in your garden.
- *** Planting trees, shrubs and plants is one of the most effective and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere to tackle climate change.
The UK will need to plant 1.5 billion trees if it is to meet its pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Check out the New Leaf Tree Information Sheet for advice on when, how and what to plant and how to take care of your tree.
- Introduce bee-friendly plants to support our bees. These tend to be native species, purple coloured and with open flowers. It’s important to try to have a range of plants so there is something in bloom during each of the seasons. You can start small by planting up pots and hanging baskets. For more information visit https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/plants-for-bees/
- Allow ivy to protect your fences. Ivy helps filter out air pollution and provides a habitat for insects and birds. You could also plant other climbers to provide more vertical habitats.
- ZZZ Keep a wild area in your garden with longer grass and wildflowers. Even just allowing your garden to be naturally messy helps maintain bee populations and supports valuable biodiversity. Learn to love weeds - nettles, daisies and buttercups are important sources of food for many insects, including butterflies and moths. The best option is to let your wild area of garden develop naturally but if you opt to use a 'wildflower' seed packet then use a mix of perennial and annual species that are native to the UK. Make sure the seeds originate from the UK to avoid polluting the gene pool of plants that have adapted to our local conditions.
- Install an eco roof. Eco roofs are becoming increasingly popular. They provide extra space for planting, improve biodiversity and air quality and help control water run-off, as well as being very attractive. There are lots of products available and these can be retrofitted onto existing garages and sheds.
- Help protect trees and shrubs locally. If you observe management of trees, hedges, shrubbery and verges that you don't feel is sympathetic to nature make sure to challenge your council on their approach. They are often happy to revise strategies. Non urgent tree work should not be carried out between February and August, while birds are nesting (advice from Natural England) - the busiest time for nesting is from the start of March until the end of July. You can check for Tree Preservation Orders and Conservation Areas on this map.
- Container Gardening
If you have a tiny garden, or no garden at all, you might think that you can't offer anything to wildlife. Not so! Planting up containers or window boxes with plants loved by insects such as marjoram, lavender and thyme is a wonderful way to contribute - and as a bonus you have fresh herbs to use in the kitchen.
- Identify an unloved piece of verge nearby and apply to the council to allow you to manage it for wildlife.
- Have an allotment. Unfortunately there is a long waiting list for allotments in our area
Encouraging wildlife to your garden makes it far more interesting, provides natural pest control, and is vital for pollination of plants. Hedgehogs will eat slugs and birds help with caterpillar control. There are many things you can do to encourage more visitors and protect our local wildlife.
- Feed birds during the colder months. Seeds are best for attracting smaller birds, song thrushes love dried fruit and blackbirds like rotten apples.
- Install swift boxes or house martin nests.
Bees and insects
- Providing a special bug or bee hotel offers a perfect nesting site for solitary bees.
- If you have unexpected bee ‘visitors’ which nest and need relocating, contact a local ethical beekeeper who will come and collect the bees free of charge.
- Cut your grass less often. A highly maintained, closely cropped lawn is not good news for wildlife or biodiversity. If possible, it is best to restrict mowing to 2-3 times per year, and on a gentler setting, so that the grass is not cut short. This reduces soil compaction, increases aeration of the soil (because the grass is working harder and has better root systems) and is excellent insect habitat. Unwanted weeds can be taken out individually.
Hedgehogs and small mammals
- Keep gaps for hedgehogs under your garden boundaries, creating a ‘wildlife corridor’.
- Leave piles of logs and leaves. These provide an ideal location for hedgehogs to hibernate as well as attracting insects and foraging birds.
- Install a bat box.
Create a pond
Create a pond (small children permitting). A pond is a wonderful boost for wildlife. If you have a small garden you could even use a buried bucket but make sure there are stones and branches to allow wildlife to get out. Ponds are best filled with unchlorinated water from a water butt. Avoid locating in full sun or shade.
If you are interested in recording flora and fauna, which is essential for up-to-date science and conservation, find out how you can contribute and current surveys and schemes here. It is also extremely important to report any suspected animal poisonings or abuse of pesticides. Call the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme on 0800 321 600.
Check out the Animal Welfare section of the New Leaf Company Directory to see where you can buy some of these products, and locate local beekeepers.
Conserving water is as important in the garden as it is in the home. There are a number of things you can do.
- Install a water butt on a downpipe to collect rain water and use it to water your garden.
- Don't use a sprinkler - they use huge amounts of water. Water by hand, or automated watering systems are a better alternative to sprinklers as they directly hydrate the roots of plants.
- Don't cut the grass during dry spells, this will expose the ground to drying out and cracking. Despite looking brown lawns nearly always survive and recover without watering.
- Repair leaky pond liners.
Cut back on chemicals
Use natural methods to control pests rather than chemicals, which can be washed off and become pollutants.
- Knock greenfly off plants by using a strong jet of water.
- Use copper slug rings for slug control.
- Pick young caterpillars off vegetables and use garden fleece or netting.
- Grow dill and fennel to entice greenfly-munching hoverflies.
- Encourage wildlife in your garden as natural pest controls.
- Onions and chives grown around roses will help combat black spot.
- Grow carrots and leeks together - each will repel the other's pests.
- Pungent smelling French marigolds will keep aphids away from tomatoes.
- Plant horseradish near potatoes to increase their resistance to disease.
There are several things to consider when buying gardening products.
- Choose plant pots, hoses and watering cans made from recycled plastic.
- Check out eBay and Freecycle for tin baths and buckets, clay pipes and old scaffolding boards which can be put to good use in the garden.
- Furniture and decking: choose products made from recycled plastic or FSC certified wood.
- Patios and driveways: try to source reclaimed materials rather than new. Try to choose local materials with less 'miles' and therefore a lower carbon footprint. Use permeable surface materials for patios and driveways to stop water run-off causing localised flooding.
- Choose peat free products at the garden centre. Undisturbed peat bogs function as a carbon sink and provide a unique natural habitat. Removing the top layer of a peat bog allows this stored carbon dioxide to escape and contribute to global warming.
- Avoid garden lighting - or ensuring directional lighting only, with LEDs, will reduce light pollution. Value the dark night sky.
Composting is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your garden waste into a nutrient rich food for your garden and provides a habitat for worms, woodlice, frogs and slow worms. You can buy a composter online from Hampshire County Council for £24.49 or better still build your own by reusing some old wood.
For a guide on setting up your composter, advice on What to Compost and What Not to Compost and recommendations for ratios of brown and green materials for a healthy compost bin, visit the spruce.