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How wildlife friendly is your garden?
You might see your garden as an isolated entity, but the local hedgehogs, frogs, birds and bees view it differently. As long as there are holes under fences for animals to get from one garden to the next, yours is just one piece in the varied jigsaw of plots on your street, in your town, and up and down the country.
But do we do enough to attract wildlife to our gardens? To find out, Gardeners’ World Magazine got together with the RSPB and came up with an audit, published in the November issue. Broken down into 10 categories based on the best wildlife-friendly garden features, the audit invites you to rate your garden’s value to wildlife. All you need to do is tick the description that best matches your garden and tot up the results at the end.
A score of 80 and above earns you the coveted title of ‘Wildlife Champion’, while anything below 60 indicates room for improvement. It’s bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously, and we’re not suggesting that your garden is bad for wildlife if you have a low score. We just want you to take stock of your outdoor space, identify areas that could be improved, and be in a better position to consider the needs of your garden’s wild inhabitants.
Naturally, I made the Gardeners’ World Magazine team take the audit. High scorers included Adam Pasco and Lucy Hall (78 points each), who narrowly missed being Wildlife Champions because they don’t have ponds. David Hurrion came second with 70 points, being let down by his formal fish pond and lack of lawn. Tamsin, Ross and Emma all scored in the mid 60s, while Cat scored a miserable 26 (she’s just moved into a flat with a bare garden). I’m happy to announce that by the skin of my teeth I beat them all – with a Champion’s score of 80.
I pretty much garden exclusively for wildlife. Building the garden from scratch, I was able to choose the best nectar- and pollen-rich plants for insects, put in a pond for my frogs (it’s in a tin bath but it still has different depths and a variety of native plants), a compost bin and various log and leaf piles. I measure my success by the wildlife I find using the habitats I have created for them – frogs in the leaf piles, a mouse in the compost bin, beetles and centipedes in the log pile.
However, I fall down in two areas – one of which I was aware of, the other I wasn’t. As I have written before, I need to sort out my walls. They are still quite bare, but I’m hoping the ivy seedlings will work their magic in the coming years, transforming them into valuable habitats. Strong and sturdy, the walls have no holes for creatures to travel safely between plots, but there’s nothing I can do about that. The garden backs on to a very busy cycle path, but I take comfort in the knowledge that the mouse made it in, so others could follow.
The other feature my garden lacks is fruiting shrubs. I have an ornamental cherry tree donated by a neighbour, but I’ve yet to see if it produces fruit (it’s single-flowered though, which is promising). There’s a redcurrant and a native honeysuckle, and I’ll plant some hawthorn and holly for the birds in winter. My ivy seedlings are a long way off flowering.
Of course, each of our gardens forms just one piece in the jigsaw puzzle. So if you don’t have a pond, but your neighbour does, don’t worry. Just make sure the creatures in your garden can access it. But do make yourself a log pile or two – they make fantastic wildlife habitats.
Have you taken the wildlife audit? How did you score?
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