The wild ones: discover how to make your garden a haven for nature

Girl kneeling by bucket on a lawn

An easy to create bucket pond will be home to frogs and newts - Credit: Surrey Wildlife Trust

We get the lowdown on how to encourage wildlife into your garden. 

Award-winning ecologist and Gardener's World Garden of the Year Award judge Claire Gibbs is appealing for Surrey’s residents to participate in Surrey Wildlife Trust’s new wildlife garden survey. Open to everyone, no matter how big or small your outdoor space, complete beginners or advanced gardeners, the study can reveal in a matter of minutes how your garden scores for wildlife. 

The quick and easy online survey measures gardens on five essential features: food, shelter, water, connectivity between gardens and natural solutions. It also reveals that no matter what type of gardener you are, there are easy ways to encourage wildlife back to your garden. 

‘It can be easy as planting a washing-up bowl in the ground and putting some water in,’ says Claire, who, as well as her judging responsibilities, is also SWT’s principal ecologist. ‘That’s a great way to attract frogs and newts. You don’t need to do anything else; they will find you.’ 

One of the aspects of this year’s survey is connectivity, which Claire says is vital to help wildlife flourish across the county.  

‘We have to make it easier for the birds, insects, small mammals to get around and protect and provide a habitat. People’s gardens are the obvious places to link up. They are a great stepping stone for nature. For example, just 12 per cent of Surrey’s gardens are equal to all of the county’s nature reserves put together. We would love it if everyone could just make one small adjustment to the way they garden. The easiest way is to basically just get messier.’ 

Claire says one idea is to get the whole street involved, building not just a community for residents, but also for wildlife too: ‘Creating street-wide wildlife groups to encourage wildlife gardening and maybe some wildflower sowing on road verges is fun and builds a great community spirit. Everyone will enjoy the beautiful array of flowers, and even more importantly, it will enable wildlife to move and thrive.’ 

Woman kneeling by a bug hotel in a garden

This bug hotel is the bees knees - Credit: Surrey Wildlife Trust

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There are plenty of other ways to get involved, such as taking part in #NoMowMay. If you can give the lawnmower a rest for the whole month, your garden will soon become a rich habitat for insects and spiders, which the birds will love too. Even if you only leave a small patch of your lawn to grow, it will help wildlife tremendously. 

‘People have become a lot more interested in nature and the outside world over the past year, and we need to keep that going,’ Claire says. ‘The study only takes two to three minutes and will really help to give us a picture of what’s out there and where.’ 

If you would like to take part or find out more about the wildlife on your doorstep, visit: surreywildlifetrust.org. The trust is also offering free online workshops for anyone interested in discovering more about wildlife gardening. More details and times are on the website. 

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