How to create an award-winning wildlife garden
PUBLISHED: 15:50 25 November 2015 | UPDATED: 15:50 25 November 2015
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust member, Matt Watson, shares his tips on how to achieve an award-winning wildlife garden
About a fifth of the land in our towns and cities is gardens. Not only do gardens prevent flooding, keep our air clean, and make us healthier and happier – but they are, of course, great opportunities for us to create a network of green spaces for wildlife right in the heart of our communities.
Matt Watson moved to his Southsea terraced house in spring 2010. It was the first time he’d had a garden, and even though it was almost entirely concrete, he was pleased to have a space he could put his stamp on…and create a home for wildlife. Here he shares his story of how he turned his concrete jungle in to a green haven for nature.
“Stretching east to west meant the garden got lots of sun, so in the first summer we put in a ‘bee corner’ with pots and plants from friends. We sought more inspiration from a Wildlife Trust gardening course and from their website.
Having volunteered for the Trust, my wife knew about their Wildlife Gardening Award scheme, so we also used the award checklist to help us focus on things that would support a whole range of wildlife. The first big job was to remove the paving slabs. We recycled as much as possible by using some of the slabs to build a raised bed. I also put in a path down the shady side of the garden, because we knew we would need to walk up and down to the end of the garden often, and we didn’t want to create a muddy track.
The back of the garden became our ‘wild area’, and we were keen to get some colour into the flowerbeds. We planted spring bulbs, forget-me-nots and cowslips. We also put in some sweet peas as we knew they would grow quickly and provide nectar and flowers for bees and other insects in the first year. Under the shade of the southern wall we planted snowdrops, narcissus and violets to provide early season nectar. While our planting was a little over-exuberant, it turned out really beautiful and these small changes made an incredible difference. We saw a huge increase in the number and type of insects in the garden from moths and butterflies to ladybirds and spiders.
We decided there was still too much concrete and knowing we wanted to create a mini urban wildflower meadow, we hired a concrete breaker. It was a big job and we found muscles that I never knew existed, but it was worth it.
We reclaimed another few metres for the lawn and installed an attractive patio on a porous base of recycled glass to allow water to soak through to the ground rather than just run off.
In 2012 we planted our wildflower meadow. We chose turf so that we could access the washing line, compost heap and flowerbed (that garden design course paid off) and sowed the rest with wildflowers and native grass seed mixes. People say that growing a wildflower meadow from seed is difficult, and they’re not wrong. The lawn has been a bit of a labour of love, but worth it.
We’re really pleased with how our garden looks. We have plans for a larger shed with green roof and a small pond. In our experience, having limited garden space doesn’t have to be a barrier to creating an urban wildlife haven.
Find out how you can turn your green space in to a wildlife garden at hiwwt.org.uk/wildlife-gardening
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