Gardens - do your bit to save species

Hedgehog by Darin Smith

Hedgehog by Darin Smith - Credit: Archant

Gardeners and community groups across Britain are being urged to unite in an effort to halt the decline of UK wildlife species – here’s how you can do your bit for Hampshire.

Could gardens save Britain’s wildlife? The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) are spearheading an initiative to help halt the decline of animals such as hedgehogs and butterflies, and are calling on the public to get involved in a campaign called ‘Wild About Gardens’.

Back in May, the State of Nature report, compiled by 25 wildlife organisations, found that 60% of the 3,148 UK animal and plant species assessed have declined in the past 50 years for a range of reasons including loss of habitat. For example, hedgehog numbers have reduced by a third since the millennium and tortoiseshell butterflies, once common in gardens, have declined by 77%.

In reaction to this, the RHS and TWT have teamed up to raise public awareness of the problem. Whether private or public, gardens offer a wealth of habitats for wildlife. A pond is one of the most effective ways to attract garden wildlife, and wildflowers provide essential food for insects such as butterflies and bees. Throughout the campaign the public will be asked to ‘Do One Thing’ – whether this is to create a pond, build a hedgehog house or simply put out some bird seed.

Natalie Light of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust says that what’s most alarming at the moment is that many of the ‘common’ garden species – hedgehogs, house sparrows, starlings and common frogs are becoming much less common. Historically these species have done well in our gardens and so their sudden absence is something we really need to sit up and take notice of. This is where gardeners can make a difference and help to halt the declines we’re seeing, by making their gardens more wildlife friendly. This should be a wake-up call to all of us.

Our gardens are hugely important for wildlife and as a habitat network they are second to none. Balconies and courtyards, the suburbs’ hedgerows and lawns, and the orchards and allotments of market towns and villages all have the potential to be incredibly rich habitats for wildlife. There are many simple ways in which we can make our gardens naturally richer. Nest boxes, birdfeeders, log piles, nectar plants, fruiting shrubs, wall climbers and ponds all improve the life chances for many garden creatures; and, as each of us improves our garden habitat for wildlife, the plants and animals that we attract will bring more pleasure in return.

The onset of winter is a sign to many gardeners that it is a time to reach for the loppers and ‘rake’ and tidy everything up. November and December are usually quiet gardening months but there is still plenty that you can do in your winter preparation to make your garden a wildlife haven. For example, you can help hibernating mammals and other garden visitors by not being quite as tidy in your garden throughout the colder months and by providing a range of tasty treats for them to fatten up on in the weeks leading up to the hibernation period. Rake up your leaves into a pile but don’t collect them up, stack up your winter cuttings in a shady corner and put out chopped nuts, muesli or meat leftovers to make your garden a haven for hibernation.

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For birds, natural food is scarcer during the winter months and so bird feeders and artificial feeding can become a vital resource for them. By putting out a variety of seed, suet and mealworms, you can attract a wide variety of species. Trees and shrubs that produce winter berries will also attract less common species such as fieldfare, redwing and waxwing.

For more information, the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust website is a great starting place to find a range of gardening factsheets, hints and tips, and how to apply for your own wildlife gardening award. TWT and RHS are also offering free advice and resources via the website,