Wildlife Gardening During Lockdown

(c) Paul Harris/2020VISION

Our outside spaces have never been so important while we’re in lockdown. Whether you have a big garden, a small courtyard, a balcony or even no outside space at all – there’s always opportunities for gardening for wildlife during this time.

Think of your outside space as a link between all the green spaces around you: the gardens, parks, roadside verges, fields, woods and nature reserves. There are an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK and if we can all join our gardens together, wildlife can use them as a corridor and thrive. The garden centres might be closed but there’s still plenty you can be doing for wildlife with little to no budget.

Flowering Plants for Wildlife

We all love the summer display of bedding plants in our gardens – but it’s worth remembering that while plants such as petunias might brighten up your garden, they often have very little value to wildlife. They have been bred for their unusual multi-petalled flowers which make it hard for insects to reach their nectar. Many have also been sprayed with chemicals such as neonicinoids and may actually harm insects. Try to choose plants with simple flowers and are labelled as good for pollinators. The best flowers for your garden are the ones you’ve grown from seed and are naturally occurring. So let a bit of your garden go wild and see what flowers appear!

Chimney Flower Pot

(c) Tim Hill

Container Gardening

Pots and containers are perfect for smaller area like window ledges, patios and outside your front door. Herbs, in particular, make good container plants and attract lots of wildlife, as well as being useful in the kitchen. You can get creative and plant a wildflower meadow in a container or use an old colander or wellington boot to hang from a wall.  Don’t throw anything away before you’ve considered planting it and using it outside!

Garden Lawn

(c) Tim Hill

Wildflower Lawn

While the temptation is to get the lawnmower out and achieve the great traditional British striped lawn, leaving some of your garden to go a little more wild can be a surprising experiment during lockdown – what wildflowers will appear seemingly out of nowhere? Take part in Plantlife's “No Mow May” with a citizen science survey to record what wildflowers have appeared in your unmown lawn by the end of this month. So instead of pushing the mower around, put your feet up and watch your grass grow!

Water

All wildlife, from the smallest insects to the largest mammals requires water to survive. Amphibians like newts, frogs and toads use water as shelter and breeding grounds. Butterflies get valuable minerals and salts from slightly muddy water, and birds use water to bathe and remove parasites.  With the driest April for many years and increasingly dry summers, the provision of water in your garden is incredibly important. You may not be able to dig a new pond, but do put out a small container of water each day – and keep your birdbath topped up. You’ll be rewarded with a variety of visitors to watch out for!

Small tub pond

Container pond © Froglife

Log and Stick Piles

With many council waste sites currently closed, our garden refuse may be piling up. Instead of longing for a re-opening, why not make a feature of your cut branches and sticks? This will create the perfect habitat for a variety of interesting creatures such as toads, beetles and more. Your log pile will also provide a suitable place for hedgehogs to hibernate in the autumn.

Compost Heap

If you have a shady spot for a compost heap, you’ll be able to create wonderful organic content to add to your soil and also provide a habitat for a range of minibeasts. The community of minibeasts who live among the waste help the decaying process, and in turn, these beasts are a delicious food source for hedgehogs and other animals. There are three components to creating a successful compost heap – waste, air and water! Creating a compost heap will reduce the amount of kitchen waste going to landfill, help a variety of invertebrates and improve the condition of your soil for better flowers!

Bug Hotel

(c) Emma Matthars

Make Nature a Home

There is a variety of animals you can help by making homes for them in your garden. Bird and bat boxes can be made from spare planks of wood. Big bug hotels can be made from old pallets, wood, tiles, old carpet, logs and foraged natural materials such as twigs and pine cones. Drill holes in old blocks of wood (or fence posts) to give solitary bees a home – watch them come and go, plugging up the hole with a variety of materials when they’ve finished.  If you’re feeling adventurous, make a hedgehog a home and tuck it away in a corner of your garden.  Check they have access to your garden. Cut a “hedgehog highway” in the base of your fence to let them in if you can’t find any suitable gaps (13cm x 13cm is big enough for a hog but small enough to deter other unwanted visitors).

Hedgehog in feeding box

(c) Gillian Day

Sit back and enjoy your garden!

Taking time to sit in your outside space and observe nature is wonderful for your mental wellbeing at this time. If you don’t have a garden, open your windows wide and you can still listen out for the birds singing, watch a bee busily flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar and observe the emerging of buds, leaves and flowers. Gardening with wildlife in mind is incredibly rewarding – give it a go!

Wild At Home - minibeasts

Wild At Home

We want to help everyone enjoy wildlife and connect with the wild places around them. Our #WildAtHome project aims to help bring you closer to wildlife in the safety of your home. Each week we'll be sending you ideas and inspiration on how to stay wild whilst remaining safe at home.

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