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Put nature first for the new year and the new decade

The start of a new year is always a time for resolutions and commitments for the coming twelve months, and with this year seeing the beginning of a new decade, any new commitment can have even more significance. So with that in mind, why not commit to making your garden more wildlife-friendly for the coming year and decade?

The justification for looking after wildlife has never been stronger as the pressure, brought about by the climate emergency, has never been more significant. Add to this the loss of habitat due to changes in farming practice and the never-ending need for more space for housing, and you can see why we all need to do as much as we can to look after the wildlife in our own back yard - quite literally.

Some may think that making changes to the way you tend your garden will make little or no difference to the wider natural world, but the Wildlife Trusts estimates that our gardens cover an area of around 10 million acres spread between 24 million gardens. That’s a larger area than is covered by nature reserves! This is a vast area, so if we can make changes on that sort of scale, we can make a significant difference to the plight of our native plants and animals.

Changes need only be simple, like creating a log pile, planting insect-friendly plants and including water to the garden. But what could be the biggest challenge is not making physical changes, its changing attitudes. Many of us have been brought up to look upon unkept lawns and weeds in flowerbeds as wrong and something to change, when in fact the truth is quite the opposite. Longer grass provides habitat, and ‘weeds’ provide food to insects which in turn feed birds. 

But it’s not just birds that will benefit from these wild areas. Bees are under threat from pesticides and the loss of wildflowers. These vital pollinators often go unnoticed, but without them, we would starve, so it is essential that we do whatever we can. Bats too will be more than happy to see more flying insects in your garden, and during summer months swallows, swifts and house martins will also appreciate the additional food source. With a number of neighbouring gardens going a little wild, your local area will soon become a haven for more wildlife. We need to encourage the insect population as the decline has been happening for many years. Not that long ago the summer would mean we all needed to clean our windscreens regularly to remove dead flies. When we the last time you needed to do it?

If you want to provide even more opportunities then bug hotels, hives for solitary bees and ladybird homes are all low-cost additions that can help diversify the range of insects that call your garden home. As mentioned before, the addition of water plays a major factor in encouraging wildlife into a garden. These need not be significant excavations creating an ornate pond, just a modest-sized container partly submerged can be all that’s needed. And if that’s not for you, then a birdbath will be very welcomed providing, as they do, both drinking water and water in which to bathe. Food is the most obvious enticement for both birds and a wide range of animals such as hedgehogs and badgers. The wider the variety of food on offer, the better. 

As we start the new year and a new decade, during which we must tackle the climate emergency, or it will be too late, it’s vital that we make some real changes. Changes to our gardens will require both a small amount of physical effort but maybe an even more significant change to our habits. It may not be easy, to begin with, but the results couldn’t be more critical.

© Phil Pickin 2020