In our last blog of this series on wildlife gardens we’ll look at how to enrich our garden habitats, whether existing or newly designed. Whether you’re having a garden newly designed and built, or have a long-established garden, there are a few simple ways in which we can enhance its value to wildlife. Cambridge gardens are often pretty small, so for many of us this is where we can sometimes get quick and easy wins.
These fall into two categories: things we can add, or things we can do.
Some additions to the garden that you might like to consider include log piles, bug hotels, bird boxes and bird baths. Feeding birds in winter with both seeds and fat balls is a good start, but remember to clean your feeder regularly to prevent disease transmission. One key element that is often overlooked in gardens is a pond – few things enrich a garden habitat more than a pond stocked with native water plants. This is especially true in Cambridge which is the driest part of the country (we get less rain than Tel Aviv!) and where natural ponds and damp spaces are in short supply. Short on space or have young kids? No problem, make a raised pond from a generous sized water bowl (keep it topped up with rainwater) or better still a large trough shaped planter. We often include raised ponds in our designs, particularly in houses with children, as they are safer than in-ground ponds and allow young kids to get up close to the action.
There are also ways in which we can we modify our usage of gardens to increase their value to wildlife. Leaving your lawn to grow a little longer between cuts, or participating in No Mow May will really help. Even simple things like leaving hair from brushes out for the birds to use as nesting material helps, as does designating a corner of the garden as an “undisturbed” area that is allowed to grow a bit wild and is left alone. Small changes add up, so even small city gardens can be a valuable addition to the wider Cambridge habitat.
Of course, probably the single biggest change we can make is to cut out, or radically cut down on, the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers. Being more tolerant of some chewed insect leaves, the odd weed in the lawn or plants that grow slightly slower are all small concessions to the natural world that so clearly needs our support.
Here at Cultivate we have expertise in wildlife gardens, so get in touch if you have a project in mind.