How to Garden for Habitats

Meadow Lawn

Taking a conservation approach to gardening

I have developed a simple five-step process to appreciating and enhancing your garden as habitat which anyone can use.

You can create your own, bespoke garden conservation plan by following these five easy steps:

DISCOVER  -  PROTECT  -  ENHANCE  -  SHARE  -  REPEAT!

DISCOVER: Conduct a simple survey or two to discover what habitat your garden currently offers. This could involve looking at what native plants are in flower each season or sitting quietly to note what birds are visiting the garden. Or it could just be a 'back of the envelope' list of all the wildlife you have noticed to date while gardening. The chances are your garden will already support an astonishing array of biodiversity! Map what habitat features you currently have (log piles, compost heaps, rockeries, ponds, bog gardens, floriferous areas, long grass, banks, mature trees, orchards and hedges). It's also worth noting what habitats may be near by; are there any ponds or rivers in the neighbourhood? Or railway embankments, woodland, farmland, parks or meadows? Could wildlife from these areas use your garden as a refuge or corridor?

PROTECT: Once you have identified the valuable habitat your garden already offers, it is time to take steps to protect it. This could include reviewing how sustainable your gardening practices are or planning how to protect habitat features identified in step one. For example, if you have a pond you could plan to restrict the use of chemicals in that part of the garden, grow a hedgerow along your boundary to help buffer the pond from spray drift from neighbouring fields and only clear pond vegetation during the winter months.

ENHANCE: This involves improving the habitat you have, linking it to other habitats, or adding additional habitats. The aim is to better support existing species to complete their life cycles in your garden or encourage new species to the garden. It could include connecting a hedgerow to your neighbour's hedge, adding native marginal plants to a pond, enhancing lawns with flowering bulbs to offer pollinators an early source of pollen and nectar, building a rockery for lizards or creating access and adding a leaf pile for hedgehogs.

SHARE: Become a champion for habitat gardens by sharing your garden conservation plan with others on social media, by opening your garden to the public or by speaking at your local Horticultural Society. Contribute to the science of garden ecology by participating in citizen science surveys. See the links page for further details of organisations you can help.

REPEAT: Regularly observe and monitor your habitat garden and the wildlife that visits it. Continue to record and enhance your garden as habitat for the species you see and for those you would love to attract.