Some of the most important habitats for wildlife are the ones closest to your home! Domestic gardens make up a huge 18% of urban land use so the things we plant and build there can really affect species numbers.
Our top five tips for creating a beautiful wild garden habitat are:
- Put some water in! This doesn't have to be anything as big as a pond, something as small as a shallow bowl can be enough to provide drinking water for mammals and birds! Bird baths will be used regularly by many garden bird species to wash, while a shallow tray can be home to insects such as dragonflies. If you have the space a pond can contain lots of different habitats and will be the focal point for wildlife in your garden, and you may get visitors such as frogs and newts! We are very lucky on Alderney and when our Wildlife WATCH group went pond dipping we found 160 newts in one small pond! Have you been pond dipping before? What did you find?
- Compost! If you have the space an open compost heap is a great way to get rid of food and garden waste, improve your soil and provide a habitat for reptiles, hedgehogs and insectivorous species. A closed in heap can still be great as worms and other insects will love this habitat. Can you think of some reasons why compost heaps are such good habitats for wildlife?
- Flowers - make sure the things you plant in your garden are good for pollinators! These species, such as bees, butterflies and moths are in decline worldwide so plants that provide nectar and pollen are very important for their survival. Even a patch of nettles can be great for insects as many caterpillars feed on them. Growing plants up a wall or trellis creates a vertical habitat, providing food and shelter for mammals and a nesting habitat for birds. A variety of flower species is best - can you think why?
- Get creative! Sometimes garden species need a little help, and you can create habitats for them! Making bird, bug or bat boxes and hedgehog or toad/frog homes is a great way of helping the wildlife in your garden and getting outside. Here is some advice on making a bird box from the RSPB. If you can't make a bug box then a pile of dead wood and leaves can be just as good for invertebrates. Wherever you put your creation think about what the species it is made for will need from its habitat - does it need water? Shade? Quiet? You can also feed you species with scraps, seeds or make fat balls in winter to help them in the colder months!
- A lot with a little - even small gardens can support plenty of habitats and provide a wild space for nature! If you have a lawn you could leave a patch uncut or sow some wild flower seeds there. Lots of gardens now have been paved over or covered with decking/gravel. There are still way to provide a wildlife habitats here, using the ways above but you might just have to think a little harder and get creative to get some diversity in your garden! Finally when you are planting make sure that the things you plant are native to where you live - invasive species can be very destructive in a habitat, especially watery ones so avoid them!
Does your school have a wild garden? Are they following all of our tips and if not what could they do better?
Why not send us a photo of your class enjoying learning in your garden or you could try some persuasive writing and convince your headteacher to make space for nature in your school