The David Attenborough effect has made us all think again about our waste, and conserving wildlife. We now realise we can make a big difference with small steps and that’s true of our gardens too. Your garden, natures natural haven.

It’s estimated that there are over 20 million domestic gardens in the UK. One report* puts it as high as nearly 23 million gardens. To quote this report “Multiplying garden numbers by average area gives a total UK garden cover of 432,964 hectares, which, using the standard area measure, is one fifth the size of Wales”.

How you can help?

Garden birds need a refuelling station during winter. Siting a bird table or feeding station near to your home is an excellent place to start. Small birds need high energy food for winter. They very quickly cool down, so your supply of suet and dried grubs could save their lives.

Birds will come to rely on you to feed them in the coldest months and they will reward you too in spring and summer by continuing to visit and eating the bugs and grubs on your plants.

Plant a variety of berrying plants will attract birds in autumn and early autumn. A small Crab apple tree will give you flowers, leaf colour and colourful fruit for your enjoyment and a late winter treat for birds such as Blackbirds and possible Waxwings. Pyracantha berries are also popular with blackbirds. Ornamental varieties of Berberis, Cotoneaster, Holly and Honeysuckle are all derivatives of native plants and produce berries that your garden birds can eat.

Site nest boxes on the shady side of trees, or your house to encourage birds to nest but ensure they are not next to feeding areas.  A hedgehog shelter for hibernation is worth considering. Tuck in a ‘quiet’ corner of your garden. Ponds also help birds with a drinking source and provide habitats for amphibians such as newts, frogs and toads. Ensure your have steps for them to walk in and out of your pond and an area that birds can perch level with the water surface.

Growing lots of ‘simple’ flowers in your garden will allow pollinating insects and butterflies to feed. A ‘simple’ flower is one that is open, usually not double flowers. A good example of a simple would be a daisy. Start with ready mixed packs of bulbs or seeds to attract beneficial insects to your garden. Site ‘Bug hotels’ in your garden too and provide a hide away for solitary bees and other insect such as lacewings to overwinter

Reduce land fill and harmful gases like methane buy composting garden waste in a well-run compost.  You get free soil improving compost too. Onto every 6” layer of garden waste scatter over it a trowel full of your border soil. This provides the bacteria required for successful composting. Collect red small worms during soil cultivation and throw them into the bin too. They will breed and produce the best compost you’ve had.

Growing your own food reduces ‘food miles’ and when you relax in the evening and need a touch of heat use an infra-red electric heater that only heats you and not the air. They have very low running costs. Burning hard wood logs on a chimenea or fire pit is better than burning fossil fuels like propane.

There are many ways a thoughtful garden can make a small difference. Collectively we can make a big difference.

*http://www.wlgf.org/The%20garden%20Resource.pdf