If you are thinking of encouraging more wildlife in your garden next year, now is the best time plan projects that you can begin over the winter, ready for spring (and perhaps start thinking about things you can put on your Christmas present list to help you!).
Encouraging residents who want to do more for wildlife in their gardens is one aspect of the Green Plan for Watlington aimed at increasing biodiversity in the Parish, which several organisations have come together to develop.
Here are some ideas for enhancing garden biodiversity next year to think about:
Providing access – have a look at your garden boundaries and consider if you could improve access between your garden and surrounding areas. For example, where can a hedgehog get under or through?
Making safe spaces – bushes provide cover for small birds, whilst log and rock piles, and more formal rockeries provide habitat for all sorts of creatures. Managing parts of the garden as semi-wild areas offers a wide range of opportunities for species to thrive.
Providing food and water – this can be done either using feeders and water bowls or more permanently through adding food-producing plants (berry bushes, flowers that produce seed heads, and fruit trees) and water features or ponds. If you’ve considered adding a pond, creating one now means it will be ready for plants, amphibians and other animals to begin inhabiting it in spring.
Providing more nesting sites - birds will be looking for nest sites during the winter so adding boxes now is a quick win. There different box designs to consider for different species, apart from the traditional one e.g. open-fronted boxes for robins, communal boxes for sparrows and a range of devices to fix high on the house for swifts. For the longer term, you could consider adding climbing plants against the house, creating a hedge or adding trees – birds can make nests in all of these.
Building from scratch – many garden wildlife enhancements can be purchased ready-made – such as hedgehog boxes, insect hotels, bird and bat boxes. But all these can be DIY projects over winter – there are many guides for making these online.
Rethinking your planting – when you are considering new plants for next year’s garden, keep in mind adding more diversity, and consider which plants offer food and cover for animals, and particularly those more attractive to pollinating insects.
Rethinking the lawn - long grass is currently very rare in gardens throughout the country. However, you could think about managing your lawn differently – perhaps by allowing wildflowers and grasses to grow longer in certain parts? A patch of wildflower meadow can be an attractive addition to the appearance of a garden, whilst simply allowing shorter flowers like clover and daisies to flower on part of the lawn provides more sources of nectar.
Rethinking waste management – could you do more composting next year? Is there something you could use waste materials to create wildlife boxes and habitats in the garden?
Rethinking how you tidy, dig and manage your garden this winter – so as not to disturb overwintering animals.
For more information on any of these topics just search online as there is a wealth of advice available from reputable sources like RHS, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts and specialist organisations that focus on particular animals and plants.
Eliza Naismith & Iain Naismith
Watlington Environment Group