Gardening for Wildlife

Penny and Peter Brook were awarded Gold by Wild about Gardens in 2012 and since then they have worked as volunteers for the scheme. They love gardening for wildlife and want to encourage others to do likewise to reap the personal benefits of a greater connection with nature and to help create a Wilder Kent.

Our wildlife needs you

If you love wildlife and want to do more to support it, your garden, courtyard, balcony or window box are ideal places to start. Any space, large or small, can be managed for the benefit of wildlife; you are sure to enjoy it even more if you can attract butterflies, bees and birds to share it with you.

Small copper butterfly on verbena bonariensis

Small copper butterfly on verbena bonariensis ©P Brook

Why not start now and create something of long-term value during your enforced isolation at home? Connecting more with nature will help us all to cope better with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic and all the other challenges life throws at us.

We all know that wildlife is struggling, and a major cause of this is habitat loss. Kent Wildlife Trust's ‘Bugs Matter’ survey recently revealed that there were 50% fewer insects found in Kent in 2019 compared to 2004. The effects are devastating for insect-eaters such as swallows whose chicks each need 200,000 insects to reach fledging age.

However, this is not a time for despair but to take action for insects. Gardeners can come to the rescue of our beloved wildlife. They can develop their gardens as a habitat for wildlife and provide valuable corridors to enable creatures to move around to find food or a mate. Even in a small space, you can still make a difference, especially if you talk to your neighbours and encourage them to garden for wildlife. Together, you can provide all the features wildlife needs, which are essentially water, food and shelter.

Water will support wildlife in your garden even if you only have room for a bird bath, though a pond is ideal.

Common Frog

Common frog ©Mark Robinson

You can provide food by growing pollen and nectar-rich plants and shrubs with berries.

Healthy soil will encourage the wonderful creepy crawlies that are such an important part of the food chain. You could put bee and bug homes in your garden or make a log pile to shelter invertebrates and other creatures.

We are not trained horticulturalists or ecologists but have long been enthusiastic gardeners. Gradually we have made our garden more welcoming to wildlife. At first our main source of inspiration was Chris Baines’ pioneering book, How to make a wildlife garden, which was published in 1985. Since then we have learnt by experience and by our involvement in Kent Wildlife Trust’s Wild about Gardens scheme which offers advice to people wishing to turn their garden into a haven for wildlife. We have learnt so much, and been so inspired by other volunteers and from the people whose gardens we have been privileged enough to visit as part of the scheme that we want to share all the knowledge and ideas.

Hopefully you will be encouraged to turn your own garden into a haven for wildlife. Current restrictions on shops opening should not be an obstacle as you can order so much online and some nurseries and garden centres have started delivery services.

Further information

Kent Wildlife Trust’s Wild about Gardens scheme  is offering advice by telephone this year. You can enter your garden into the scheme online and our trained Wild about Garden volunteers will do their best to answer your questions.