Aside perhaps from Uncle Wally and his bottomless lager cans, lawns are usually the thirstiest part of your garden as well as requiring the most upkeep and equipment. They also don’t do the birds and the bees much good, offering no nectar they can drink or anything like a natural habitat.
For this reason we may be slowly saying goodbye to the traditional lawn as experts encourage us to let gardens grow wilder, which will not only help save Britain’s dwindling bee population, but also encourage endangered “red-listed” bird species sparrows, bullfinches and dunnocks which all help keep pests at bay.
The ‘wild’ garden is a haven for wildlife both in cities and in the countryside, where land may be increasingly built up or farmed offering little in the way of food or shelter for birds, bats, bees, hedgehogs and other pest-eating animals. It is also something you can do yourself without hiring expensive landscapers or designers.
Ponds for Breeding
If you have space, putting in a pond is ideal as it offer drinking water for all species as well as attracting frogs, toads and newts as well as dragonflies and water boatmen. Britain’s natural ponds have been disappearing for decades, and an amphibian friendly garden will provide food, shelter and hibernation as well as breeding sites. It is important, however, for pond surroundings to be as natural as possible. Clipped lawns are not at all suited, because cold blooded friends want to leave or enter the water in peace and prefer their privacy in rough, longer grasses. For small spaces, a simple birdbath or rain-water catching stone or ceramic bowl can still assist in providing landing places or watering holes for birds and dragonflies, which add their own glittering and colourful magnificence to any garden.
Logging In, Stepping Lightly
A log pile created in an undisturbed, shady spot, such as under a hedge, will attract invertebrates which are the perfect food source for frogs and toads which need moist, cool conditions for hunting prey as well as shelter from the sun and as potential hibernation sites. Just make sure the logs are at least partly buried in the soil so that they stay damp underneath at all times.
Another effective way of providing shelter and hibernation sites for turtles and toads is to scrape out a shallow pit in the soil, again in some less-trodden garden area, and place a large paving slab on top of it. Many animals prefer hidden sanctuaries to sleep or hunt without being seen, and you will be pleased when you know you have pest-eaters resting during the day so they can crawl about at night and catch those slugs, aphids, Japanese beetles and spider mites plaguing your basil and other tender herbs. In mild weather, you and your kids will also have fun lifting the slabs to see what nocturnal visitors have made a home there.
Garden stepping stones from outlets such as Easy pave are easy to lay by yourself and also help make sure you don’t step on a wild friend as you tippy-toe outside in the evening. They also lend a woodsy feel to your new ‘all-natural’ garden, and with mosses, ferns and pollen-rich wildflowers strewn among them, you can say goodbye to that lawnmower and its infernal buzz forever and say hello to the happy tweets, hums and hidden wildlife now taking up residence there.