The best and easiest ways to make your garden a haven for wildlife

Proud of your pristine lawn and tidy garden? Then you need to loosen up a bit.

A wild patch in your outdoor space is not only bang on trend — it’s also crucial for wildlife.

In his inspiring new book, A Greener Life, TV presenter and regenerative landscape gardener Jack Wallington creates diverse ecosystems that are stunning to look at and benefit nature.

‘An area of grassland has a relaxing air of lightness, capturing the movement of wind and lifting mood,’ says Jack.

‘Just a quarter of a square metre of wild grassland can be home to as many as 30 flowering plant species. This rich habitat houses a huge range of wildlife and is easy to incorporate into gardens, no matter how small.

‘The most visible users of grasslands are pollinating insects such as butterflies, bees, hoverflies and moths. Grasses left over winter provide shelter for ladybirds and grasshoppers thrive.

‘Spiders form webs between the strong stems and mice feed on seeds. Reptiles including snakes and lizards prey on insects and small mammals, while soil-dwelling species such as worms and ground bees make burrows between the grass roots.

‘Birds in turn feed on the insects, reptiles and mammals living among grasses and also incorporate blades of grass in their nests.’

Here, Jack shares some tricks to creating wildflower meadows and grasslands in your outdoor space, big or small. Just sit back and watch the wildlife flock.

Lawns

Even a neatly mown lawn has wildlife value. The charity Plantlife found that lawns mown less regularly — every four weeks — attracted ten times the number of bees because lawn plants had a better chance of flowering.

‘A lawn is useful for subterranean beasties like worms that are eaten by birds, and short grass is actually necessary for burrowing solitary bees and leatherjackets (crane fly larvae.) But you can make the lawn more valuable for wildlife by allowing some flowering plants in it.

‘I encourage them because I prefer the look of a lawn dotted with daisies (bellis perennis), dove’s-foot cranesbill (geranium molle) and self-heal (prunella vulgaris),’ Jack says.

Wildflower meadows

Turning an area of your garden into a wildflower meadow is a beautiful way to help wildlife and add breath-taking colour, aromas and movement to your garden, Jack says.

‘Meadows work best in areas of full sun for most of the day and with free-draining soil.

‘They are also great cover for areas in the garden like slopes and scrappy areas of ground as less fertile soil helps to keep grass vigour down, allowing the flowers enough room to do well.

‘You can start a meadow by leaving a weedy lawn (or a section of it) to grow naturally in the spring and summer or by adding wildflower meadow seeds.

‘Local wildflower mixes are the best seeds to use — they can be found online or try speaking to local meadow owners who might let you take some seeds when the hay is cut in summer. These will best benefit local wildlife.

‘You must rake the ground heavily first to expose soil for the seedmix (a process called scarifying). Then spread the seeds thinly by hand.

‘Fertility of the soil doesn’t matter because meadows naturally occur on nutrient-rich and poor soils, but it will dictate the plants you grow depending on the condition they prefer.

‘Meadows are human-made grassland and are only semi-wild, because they rely on us cutting back annually to prevent shrubs and trees from taking hold. They are also used by a vast and complex web of life.

‘Cut back two or three times a year, usually in early spring, midsummer — after seeds have fallen from plants — and autumn.

‘To maintain a wildflower meadow, cut back two or three times a year in early spring, mid-summer (around mid-August) and possibly again at the end of autumn (early October) if grasses have grown long and are taking over.’

Mini grassland

Grasslands naturally grow in areas with little rainfall or shallow soils, preventing the growth of trees that might shade out the sun-loving grassland species, says Jack. And you don’t need a large garden to cultivate grasslands or attract wildlife.

‘One or two grasses make an instant impact. Some grasses will be evergreen, others deciduous, though even these usually hold their shape for most of winter.

‘A garden grassland area can be made more colourful with swathes of tall verbena bonariensis but while the flowers grab our attention, the tufts of grass leaves are just as important to wildlife for food and shelter.

Source: Read Full Article