All good things come to an end. Oh, and this blog must, too! After over 13 years, this will be the last of my weekly offerings.

My thanks to all of you who have followed it, with sometimes over 10,000 readers per blog. And special thanks to those who have been devoted readers of what has been 700 blogs, 2500 images and about a third of a million words!

All the way through I have tried to ensure that I share my own real, of-the-moment experiences and photos as I doggedly try to improve the lot of wildlife in my garden. I hope I’ve offered some inspiration and insight along the way.

I thought for my parting shot, it was worth a quick reflection on the changes in wildlife-friendly gardening since I started this blog 2009. And they have been pretty immense.

So here is my Top Ten countdown, in no particular order:

10. Pollinator prominence. Who would have thought that so many people would come to care so much about whether or not there are lots of insects in gardens visiting flowers. And I never thought I’d see so many people putting up solitary bee hotels. Bravo!

9. Big projects. While my wildlife-friendly gardening work has always been in a voluntary capacity for the RSPB, at last the RSPB has a full-time project running, with paid employees, engaging as many people and communities as possible. Nature on your Doorstep hopefully has all sorts of information and advice and ways to get involved. I will be helping out with their monthly blogs, as well as continuing to advise the project.

8. Wildlife-friendly products. In 2009 you could buy bird boxes, bird food, wildflower seeds. But now there are so many more things you can buy, and garden centres and the web are stuffed with them. Some are decidedly dubious (don’t buy a butterfly hotel expecting it to be used, for example!), but there are excellent products to be found. I’ve been delighted to help expand the RSPB’s range, such as my bespoke seed mixes (I really love the Best for Bees mix) and simple pond kits.

7. Pop-up meadows grow. When I started gardening, the idea of turning your lawn into a meadow was seen as weird, or rejected as impossible, or both. “Too rich in nutrients to work,” was the frequent cry. True, in poor soil you are likely to get the greatest diversity of meadow flowers. But now people realise that there is still so much value for wildlife in letting the lawn grow long, whatever your soil. If you haven’t, please try it! I've made all sorts of different mini meadows in the last 13 years, with amazing wildlife coming as a result. Our online guide is here, and my RSPB Gardening for Wildlife book has a comprehensive section about it.

6. Wildlife winners and losers. In the last 13 years, there have been some dramatic shifts in some garden wildlife populations. Those doing well include Hedgehogs, at last showing signs of an increase in urban areas, while Wood Pigeons are going great guns and House Sparrows may at last be turning the corner. But who would have thought that Greenfinches and Chaffinches would go into such freefall due to this nasty disease called trichonomosis. The need to keep bird feeders clean is now right up there on the ‘must do’ list. And taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January is a great way of helping continue to monitor bird trends.

5. Growth of the Wildlife Gardening Forum. This little charity with no paid staff, the only one solely devoted to wildlife gardening in the UK, now has 100,000 people on its Facebook group, and a great website to browse through. And membership is free. Go to www.wlgf.org.

4. Health booster. In the last 13 years, more and more research has emerged showing the benefits of being in nature, seeing wildlife, feeling greenery around you. And where do many people get their daily slice of nature? In gardens and local greenspaces, of course. However, appreciating that people can get geunine connections with nature in their gardens has taken a long time for authorities to appreciate. The UK government's Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment annual surveys excluded gardens from its definition of the natural environment, yet habitats such as farmland were included. Doing things to help wildlife where you live is good for body and soul, as well as the planet. But we must be ever more mindful of the alarming inequality in the access to gardens, greenspaces and nature according to various factors, especially ethnic background and also for many on lower incomes. It is now getting recognised for the major problem it is, but much still needs to be done to redress the situation.

3. Wildlife-friendly gardening goes mainstream. Yes, in the last 13 years, the shift has been incredible, from a topic that was still rather niche and specialist to something that is mentioned in seemingly every gardening programme by every presenter and is now included in almost every Show Garden at every flower show. Long may that continue (and not just as tokenism).

2. Gardens in a time of the climate and nature crisis. The last 13 years have seen a gradual shift in the public recognition that we are in a combined climate and nature crisis. And with that the realisation that the outcome if we continue on this trajectory isn’t going to be great for humans or the planet. In an RSPB/World Wildlife Trust/National Trust poll in September this year, 81% said they believe nature is under threat and that more needs to be done urgently to protect and restore it. We have seen a sea-change in attitudes towards single-use plastics; in 2024, sale of peat-based bags of compost to gardeners will at last be banned; lockdown prompted so many people to take up gardening. But at the same time we are seeing the boom in plastic grass, more gardens are getting paved over, and there is still a long way to go to turn understanding and concern into action. The more we can realise that we are part of nature, not separate from it, the better.

1. Recognising the value of gardens. Not so long ago, gardens were seen as a pretty rubbish place for wildlife – it was the place for bog standard ‘common and garden wildlife’. But then when people started to look, like Sheffield University’s Biodiversity in Urban Gardens project plus many more since, they found that gardens can be fabulously rich in wildlife. In fact, they can be better than many habitats in the countryside for all sorts of species. Equally, a garden that has been paved over and blasted with chemicals is one of the worst places imaginable for wildlife. The conclusion? Do the right things in your garden or local greenspace and, cumulatively, we can make a huge difference. A huge difference.

Thank you to all of you who are making a difference.

And with that, I bid a fond farewell to this blog, which has prompted me to observe so much and learn so much. Don’t worry, I’m not turning my back on wildlife-friendly gardening. No way, Jose! I’ve got so much to do you would not believe, and you’ll hear lots more from me!

But for now, it’s time I headed off into the garden….

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