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Why Garden for Wildlife

There are many good reasons to garden for wildlife. You will:

  • attract more birds, butterflies and other fascinating creatures
  • add extra interest and pleasure to your surroundings.
  • help wildlife to survive in your garden – when it often struggles to thrive elsewhere.
  • you might also save yourself some hard work and money!

But also the way you garden affects the environment beyond your boundaries. For example, water shortages are serious problems for people and birds, and the wildlife garden can be used to conserve water, rather than pumping water in through a hose pipe. Avoiding the use of peat helps ensure the survival of a rare national habitat. And rather than carting off unwanted garden waste to landfill sites, the garden can be used as a natural recycling site.

A wildlife garden doesn’t have to be an overgrown, unkempt garden - far from it. Nor does it have to be large – a great wildlife garden can even be created in a window box. What wildlife gardening does do, however, is give you a different perspective; no longer do you garden just for the way things look, you also enjoy things for their wildlife value. Things that you might otherwise have regarded as weeds may now be tolerated because they are the foodplant for a butterfly’s caterpillars or their seeds are favoured by birds.Wildlife Gardening:


The Basics

All the rules of wildlife gardening can be summarized in two bits of advice to bring the biggest range of wildlife into your garden.

  1. Your house and garden obliterates a piece of landscape that would once have been wild countryside. This countryside would have had its own natural vegetation and wildlife, adapted to the soil, climate and location. Much of this natural wildlife will still survive in pockets of habitat somewhere near where you live, so the closer you can mimic the natural habitats that would once have existed, the more wildlife there is ready to easily move in.
  2. All living things occupy a ‘niche’, which is the set of environmental conditions: for example, some living things live in water, some where it is dry. But niches can be very precise indeed: of those creatures that live in water, some live in shallow water, some live in deep; some live in shady water, some in sunny; some live in nutrient-rich waters, some in nutrient poor. The more variety you can create in your garden, the more creatures you will attract as you will be creating lots of ‘niches’.

The skill is then in design your natural mosaic so that you have an attractive and workable garden. It is likely that you will not be managing your whole garden exclusively for wildlife: your garden is probably as much a place for you to relax or a place for your kids to play, you may want to still grow some exotic plants, or you may be using your garden to grow vegetables. That is where your skill as a gardener will come to the fore.


'Information supplied by RSPB, August 2002'



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