18 May Gardening For Pollinators & Wildlife
With a few small changes, your green space can become a refuge for pollinators, beneficial bugs, birds, and more. Here are some tips and tricks to help you to invite natural life into your garden (while saving yourself a lot of work).
Habitat & Food
If you build safe spaces for wildlife, they will call your garden home. Planting a diverse pallet of plant material helps build resilient and happy plant communities. First, choose a wide variety of plants that are adapted to your growing conditions – this way, they can work together to create a flourishing ecosystem that includes bugs, fungus, and soil micro-organisms.
Just like humans, pollinators look for easily accessible food. So, include some native varieties for specialized insects and look for simple open flowers, where nectar is easy to reach. Try to include year-round food sources as well – winter-flowering species are especially welcome.
Consider adding shrubs and trees or hedgerows where birds and insects can safely nest. Wood piles, logs, rocks, debris piles, and even dead hedges (piling green waste in a hedge-like structure) are all great housing options, too.
Water is an essential element in a wild garden. Insects and birds need access to freshwater to drink and bathe in. Don’t worry if you haven’t got space for a fountain; birdbaths and water dishes work just as well. Just be sure to clean them when needed and add a few pebbles or marbles in a shallow area – bees have short legs!
Work with nature, rather than against it. A healthy ecosystem requires less work on your part.
It’s great to be a bit messy and wild in a pollinator-friendly garden. Leave the leaves, and delay spring clean until temperatures are greater than 10 degrees; many caterpillars and insects overwinter in ground-level debris.
Seedheads and plant stems are not only beautiful but also act as a great food source and habitat all year long. Try to leave them on plants if possible, or ‘chop and drop’ if a clean-up is needed. If the material is weed and disease-free, why not simply chop it into smaller pieces and leave it on the soil’s surface to compost in place. It’s easier on you and is great for wildlife and soil.
Encourage healthy soil by limiting disturbances (this will help with weeds too), using mulches (fewer weeds and water loss), and avoiding compaction. Try to away from harsh chemicals whenever possible, as they can harm not only the wildlife but the organisms living in soils. Go for organic fertilizers and amendments instead, like the ones that you can get at Urban Roots from Sea Soil and Gaia Green.
You can encourage many plants to continue blooming all season long by cutting or pinching them back. Try doing this one section at a time, and rotating sections each time you do a quick weed every few weeks. This means that some part of the garden is always in bloom and nectar is always available.
The best part of a wildlife garden is sitting back and enjoying it. Look up local species of butterflies, bees, and birds, and get to know them when they visit. There are some great checklists available online. Also, an inexpensive magnifying glass is a fantastic tool to get up close and see the details of your visitors; leaves, seedheads, and insects can be tiny, and you don’t want to miss out on anything.
And of course, take some time to really smell the roses. Take a break from your daily life and take in all of the sensory experiences that come with a lively garden. Try considering 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can smell, 3 things that you can hear, 2 things you can feel, and 1 thing you can taste (safely).
Come and visit one of our 11 Urban Roots Garden Market pop-up locations to get everything you need for your Wild Garden!