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!).
I have a very suburban garden about ten minutes walk from the town centre. When I bought it about 5 years ago, it was just easy care lawns and shrubs with a large, rather neglected pond. I got rid of all the grass and cut out or reduced some of the shrubs. I now have a large variety of flowers, flowering shrubs, fruit bushes and vegetables. This year I've already seen 26 different birds. At the moment my feeders are being emptied every other day by lots of sparrows, various tits, blackbirds, starlings, woodpigeons and robins. The biggest thrill is the regular appearance of a pair of bullfinches (rarely seen in the past), a pair of greenfinches, jays and a greater spotted woodpecker. Very occasionally a grey wagtail comes to check out the large pond, which is full of fat tadpoles and, I think, a few newts. I spend a lot of time just watching the 'show' outside my kitchen window!
A 'show' indeed. So many people I speak to get huge amounts of pleasure as reward for their efforts - I do like a win-win!
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654