08 April 2007

Going wild in the garden

It's been a very warm and pleasant Easter weekend , the time that usually marks a nation's renewed interest in things horticultural. It is estimated that Britons will spend over £2bn on plants and garden and patio accessories this weekend.

There are around 15 million gardens in the UK, covering two million acres (800 000 ha) - more space than all of Britain’s national nature reserves combined. The Ponds Conservation Trust believes that 75 per cent of Britain's frogs now live in back gardens. The Wildlife Trusts, which represents the UK's 47 local trusts, is running a joint project with the Royal Horticultural Society that is designed to help gardeners protect our native wildlife species. Called Wild About Gardens, it offers advice on the inexpensive and simple steps that could make a crucial difference.

"Domestic gardens are increasingly important for native wildlife as natural habitats in the open countryside diminish and weather conditions change. All gardeners can help protect species such as hedgehogs and robins by taking a few simple steps to create conditions in which they can thrive. Even a small piece of lawn is teeming with wildlife if you look beneath the surface. That in turn will draw in birds which are attracted by the mini-beasts, so one tiny patch can count for a lot." explained Morag Shuaib, gardening for wildlife project officer at The Wildlife Trusts.

"Some people think that if their neighbours aren't doing anything to encourage wildlife, there is no point them doing anything. But the chances are there will be another creature-friendly garden nearby, which helps to create a patchwork of plots. Obviously, what we're aiming for is to have a whole corridor of habitats. And it's worth remembering that some creatures are so small that your garden is their whole world."

It’s not a case of growing lots of nettles or brambles (I can assure you, letting a load of nettles grow right outside our shed was not one of our more inspired ideas!). A lot can be achieved from easing up of mowing and tidying up: A small pile of dead wood in a shady corner, can provides both food and shelter for toads or hedgehogs. Just a few bee and butterfly friendly plants in the border can make a huge difference.

The not-wife and myself like to think that our garden is wildlife friendly but there is more we can and will do. Watching crab spiders (saw the first of the season the day before yesterday_ Bumble bees, Leaf cutter bees and so on is a reward in itself. Meanwhile the cats have been asking us to make the garden more bird friendly... I wonder why!

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