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In an English Country Garden.

Updated on August 4, 2015

An English Country Garden


Notes from a Lancashire Countryman


Gardens are often overlooked as wildlife habitat. As a nation we care for a staggering 2 million acres of gardens that come in all shapes and sizes. They can serve as vital green spaces for our wildlife no matter how big or small. To help encourage wildlife into our gardens the Wildlife Trusts gave out 10 gardening tips to give us a nod in the right direction.

1-by encouraging garden wildlife " green corridors" are created which help link up urban green spaces with in the wider countryside.

2-encourage more predators such as hedgehogs and frogs and you will not need to rely so much on pesticides to keep control, thus helping wildlife and saving money.

3-a mass of life can be attracted to ponds. An old bath or sink is ideal, but remember to include a shelf for emergent plants and as an escape route for frogs and other animals.

4- break ice regularly in winter. Hibernating frogs at the bottom of ponds may die if the ice covers the surface for more than four days.

5-Animals have their own "motorway " system. Hedgerows form sheltered corridors along which small animals can travel in safety.

6- Peat is not the best product for growing seeds and pot plants, products such as coir and composted wood waste give excellent results. {coir is the outer skin of the coconut shell} and is used to make compost. Help to protect peat lands and their wildlife by buying peat-free compost, or try making your own

7- don't use water worn limestone for rockeries as they come from irreplaceable, wildlife rich limestone pavements. Why not try making your own "eco-rocks" from a mixture of sand cement and coir compost?

8- take a break from tidying, lady birds love dry plant debris, loose bark and hollow stems for their winter homes. A pile of leaves provides an ideal hibernation hot spot for hedgehogs.

9-nettles may be seen as weeds but they attract spring and summer butterflies to the garden. The caterpillars of the red admiral, peacock and small tortoise shell butterflies all munch on nettles.

10- wild flowers provide a beautiful splash of colour and attract some beautiful butterflies. Try nectar rich species such as buddleia , scabious and ice plants in a sheltered spot.

This advise was given almost a decade ago and is even more apt today. development and other land uses have destroyed or fragmented much more wildlife habitat since then. So what has garden environments had on wildlife in the last decade? { gardens in this sense include allotments}. Individual gardens are likely to have differing habitat such as lawns, flower beds, ponds, rockeries, shrubberies, compost heaps, long grass areas, wood piles and walls. There are probably more ponds in gardens than in the wider countryside. This is certainly beneficial to many species that lost natural habitats. One survey of garden ponds revealed that 79% of garden ponds had common frogs, and over 80% had dragonflies present. Ponds also played host to many aquatic species of plants.

Not surprisingly, 85% of gardens survived fed birds regularly with wild bird seed or peanuts. Indeed the R.S.P.B. estimate that half of all house holders feed birds regularly throughout the year and two thirds do do through winter. The British Trust for Ornithology has one survey that reveals that 62% of house sparrows, 54% starlings, 38% green finches and 33% of blackbirds breed in gardens.

Top. Nettles. Middle Hegde Bindweed. Bottom. Pear tree

nettles are important to wildlfe.
nettles are important to wildlfe.
hedge bindweed would not be tolerated in many gardens but they tend to grow in the boundary hedges of allotments.
hedge bindweed would not be tolerated in many gardens but they tend to grow in the boundary hedges of allotments.

Good Habitat or Not so Good?

Many of our natural grasslands have been lost forever due to development and changes in farming practices, thus , lawns, which are probably the dominant habitat in gardens becomes important places for many wild species. However, this is not the case should fertilisers or/aand chemicals are used. In our neat and tidy gardening society as is the fad in modern gardens the lawns are trimmed to short, to often for them to be of much benefit to wildlife including native plants. This is a great pity for many thousands of potential wildlife habitat is lost.

I know neighbours who spray chemicals such as insecticides and weed killers almost on a weekly basis. This is almost fanatical. Slug pellets too, are employed regularly. All of these things are detrimental to wildlife.

Many of the gardens surveyed reported species such as Lady birds, butterflies, moths , hover flies and many other invertebrates many which could not be identified by the householders. Grey squirrels were recorded in 86% of gardens with bats, foxes, badgers, rabbits, wood mice , shrews and voles all recorded.

ALLOTMENTS----Allotments tend to have more wild flora than the tidier gardens. Not many allotments are without a few nettle patches tucked away in an unused corner of the plot. Nettles are important as they do attract species of butterflies, moths and invertebrates. Grasses which abound between the cultivated plots are also utilised as food to many species of caterpillars. Ivy is the larval food plant of the second brood of holly blue butterflies.

A plethora of insects were recorded from allotments. Slugs and snails of many species were recorded in huge numbers. It is worth stating that only a few species of slugs and snails do great damage to vegetation. Many are beneficial , only eating plant debris and rotting vegetation or algae. Yet, slug pellets do not differentiate between those that are detrimental and those that are beneficial. Secondary poisoning from the pellets do damage to declining bird species such as the song thrush that take slugs and snails. The toxic builds up over time and the birds may well die.

allotments tend to be much more varied with the number of micro-habitats that are found there. These include hedge boundaries, untidy borders and edges, compost heaps are also more numerous which attract species such as the slow worm. Many wild plants that would stand little chance of surviving in our tidy flower beds, or sprayed arable fields, are much more likely to succeed around allotments, these will produce seeds that will attract birds.

Let us not forget the value of trees and shrubs in the gardens and allotments. Many species of birds will not visit gardens unless they have trees and shrubs in them. They provide protection from potential predators, especially cats, and they utilise the tree branches as observation points before they slip from cover down to the ground.

All in all our gardens and allotments are of great value to many species of wildlife in general and they return the effort of our work with many hours of entertainment as we watch their antics. A garden in spring time would be much duller without its blooms and how sad a garden would be without bird song.

Top Common frog Below Hedgehog

hedgehogs rid the garden of slugs and snails. picture courtesy of Olaf 1541
hedgehogs rid the garden of slugs and snails. picture courtesy of Olaf 1541


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      tim-tim nice to meet you. I am glad you love nature. All flowers will attract at least some wildlife.Thank you for reading and for your appreciated comments.

    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 

      10 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      I love nature! I have some wild flowers in my back yard such as Triliums, Blue Bells. Don't know if that will help the wild life but we have Ground Hogs and Garden Snakes too. Thanks for sharing. Nice hub.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Poetlorraine, thank you for reading and for your appreciated comment.

      IzzyM-thank you.

      Justin McCrory--thank you also for reading and for your comment. A pleasure to read your hubs and your welcome.

    • profile image

      Justin McCrory 

      10 years ago

      That is so true. We don't protect our gardens and care for them enough. I mean a beautiful resources and people just look it over and walk away. I love taking the time to stare in gardens exploreing the different kinds of things there are. From flowers to carrots its an array of colors. Good informative poem. oh and thank you for the comments you leave on my poem and hubs your very nice for taking the time to read them and write what you think. Thank you =)

    • IzzyM profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      Another good and informative hub. Thanks DAL:)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      once again a wonderful hub, put them all in a book, it would surely be a best seller,

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Thanks Nell good to hear from you.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hiya, I didn't know that about the nettles and butterflys, but I have watched a hedgehog make his 'nest' at the bottom of my brothers garden! He is having to move as he has to pay inheritance tax, and now he cannot afford a place with a garden. He is mad, which I don't blame him. My brother, not the hedgehog.... cheers Nell

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      2uesday thank you for reading.You are quite right the balance of nature is easily disturbed. and thanks for your kind comment.

      BkCreative. thanks, I concur with your comment about borrowing the land from our children a good adage.

      Money Glitch--thank you for reading. Wildlife in this day and age needs all the help it can get.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      10 years ago from Texas

      Wow, I grew up in the country and did not know all the ten tips. Thanks for sharing you knowledge on the little things we can do that will help wildlife... :)

    • BkCreative profile image


      10 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I love visiting friends in England because they have these magnificent gardens - unlike in America where we have been taught to have ridiculous grass lawns that have no value to wildlife (including the humans)- are are maintained with noisy gas guzzling machines, and treated with toxic chemicals.

      As the First People here on the continent continue to say 'we have not inherited the land from our ancestors, we have borrowed it from our children.'

      Thanks for a great (and necessary) hub! We have to do better!

    • 2uesday profile image


      10 years ago

      This is interesting as well as informative. I intend to leave a wild zone - brambles, tree, wildflowers and sheltered areas at the back of my allotment for birds and animals and wild plants to flourish in.

      I believe the best thing to do usually is to leave well alone and we need to understand that nature has a balance that we upset when we spray chemicals and use slug pellets.

      Thanks D.A.L. for the chance to read this excellent hub.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Thank you jayjay40 I know you are as keen on nature as I am. Thank you for your appreciated comments.

    • jayjay40 profile image


      10 years ago from Bristol England

      love this hub, i so agree with everything you have written. The garden is so important to native wildlife wherever you live.


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