Regular readers will know that I’m on something of a mission: for the past 20 years, I’ve been beavering away trying to make my garden as wildlife-friendly as possible, and sharing my experiences in regular blogs and articles and books.
I believe that gardeners can have an amazing impact for wildlife, and by getting your hands dirty you also better understand the natural world and the threats it faces in the wider landscape. It tunes you in to nature.
However, every now and then I like to take a step back and ask myself an important question: are the thing I am doing in my garden truly bearing fruit? Honestly, objectively, am I saving nature?
So here are the headlines, warts and all. To start, here is a quick resume of what I’ve done in my current garden, which I’ve had since December 2014.
So far, I have:
Gosh, put like that, it doesn’t sound very much, and in fact the removal of so many trees to start with, while wholly necessary, actually removed a lot of cover from the garden (the winter roosting Wood Pigeons were probably not too pleased!).
But, being more kindly to myself, I can think with pride of the effort to hand-dig the pond, which is 15 metres (50 foot) long.
And I’ve increased the plant diversity in the garden from just over 200 species to just under 500, and all of them chosen because of their wildlife value.
The proof of the pudding, however, is how nature has responded. Well, I’ve been recording several of the groups of wildlife that visit my garden each week so that I am better able to answer that question. I can’t tell you if my woodlouse population is booming (they seem to be very happy, but I haven’t been counting them), but I can tell you chapter and verse on my bats, butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, grasshoppers, stag beetles and birds.
So has anything gone down? Well, yes, the Frog population seems to be struggling. It could be the boom in Smooth Newts; it could be the Grass Snakes. Also, the loss of the leylandii means that Goldcrests and Coal Tits now visit a little less frequently. And I still have no Starlings.
There’s lots more still for me to do: the area of meadow will eventually be four times the size, I’m going to put in another pond, my Bee Borders are yet to mature, and I want to make a Bat Cave (I’m not sure how, but it’s there on the wish list). These first four years have largely been about getting the layout in place, the heavy-lifting; from next year, the focus will shift to plants and growing lots of flowers from seed, and I’m predicting a big growth in my butterfly population
So, that’s me, but what about you? What successes – and challenges – have you had in your garden or local greenspace? We’d love you to respond to this blog and tell us your story. And don’t worry if you don’t have a big garden; little achievements in small gardens all add up across the country (in fact, I always say that each triumph in a small garden is all the sweeter!).
Thanks for sharing, Firecrest. Your woodland bulb display is going to look so wonderful, and a fitting response to your conditions. And the suite of garden birds you have visiting sounds very rewarding. Shaded ponds are indeed often poorer for wildlife than sunnier ones (although they can contain different species, so they can be valuable in their own right). But perhaps the best feature of shady ponds is that it usually takes longer for them to freeze in winter, which can be a lifeline for wildlife needing a drink or bathe
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