Whether you've got a balcony, a small patch of grass or a large garden you could be setting up a vital refuge for wildlife! Here are some tips from us on gardening for wildlife to help get you started or to expand on what you're already doing.
Gardening for wildlife
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, whatever its size, and wherever it is, you’re also lucky enough to have the potential for your very own nature reserve.
Gardens can provide a vital refuge for all sorts of wildlife looking for places to feed, rest and raise a family. Often, it doesn’t actually take that much effort to make nature feel at home either. Even in the most built-up areas of a city, wildlife can thrive in green spaces.
Putting up nestboxes and feeding the birds is a great place to start, but you can also install boxes for bees, or homes for butterflies and ladybirds, numbers of which have been dropping in Scotland. Flowers rich in pollen and nectar are another great way to encourage a visit from these fluttering, buzzing species - with some growing well in pots or even in the shade! The best types for insects have blooms made up of many very small flowers, like borage or sunflowers.
Before you grow anything though, it’s a good idea to start by thinking about your soil. With a few exceptions, most garden plants are going to do best in nutritious soil with lots of organic matter. You’re far better adding things like peat-free compost and well-rotted manure than pouring on fertilisers. Healthy soil is better for nature too, and more resilient to both droughts and heavy rainfall.
Go potty for herbs!
If you only have a balcony or a little paved area outside your backdoor, you can still grow herbs in pots. Many, such as thyme and rosemary, produce beautiful flowers that are as good for pollinating insects as they are for your culinary creations!
Let nature take its course
Admit it, you’re looking for an excuse not to mow the lawn aren’t you? Well now you have one! Longer grass is better for wildlife, creating a great environment that’s perfect for all sorts of creatures. It doesn’t actually need to look messy either - you could mow paths or even shapes into the grass and still bring benefits.
Don’t use pesticides!
It can be really frustrating to get an infestation of something creepy and crawly on your favourite flower or vegetable. But many of the chemicals you can buy to get rid of them are harmful to the environment. It’s much better for your garden in the long term, if you can say nay to the spray, and try to get nature to do the job for you. Most bugs have natural predators, whether they have feathers, spikes or spots. So if you can encourage blue tits, hedgehogs and ladybirds into your garden, then you’ll probably have fewer caterpillars, slugs and aphids to worry about.
Getting kids involved
With a little encouragement, most children will love the opportunity to go outdoors and get muddy. Try starting them off by gardening together and setting them up with their own (child-safe!) tools; letting them grow simple vegetables, like salad leaves and peas; or plant their own flowers such as sunflowers and nasturtiums. Or why not introduce them to the wonders of worms? You can make a temporary ‘wormery’ with a plastic bottle cut in half, and layered with soil, sand and waste vegetables - just add worms!
For more information about giving nature a home where you live visit: www.rspb.org.uk/homes