Question: We have just moved to a new house and we want to create a garden for wildlife. Is there anything you have researched or discovered that would help us to choose the right plants for an environmentally friendly garden that is safe for my baby brother to play near?
Anna Gardner answered on 12 Jun 2019: last edited 12 Jun 2019 2:34 pm
It is fantastic to see that you want to help the wildlife, whilst also looking after your brother!
The type of plants you want depend on the type of garden you have (sunny parts or shaded parts) in your garden but any plants will be greatly appreciated by the wildlife you have. There are lots of simple ways to make a wildlife friendly garden such as having a lawn with corners of uncut/longer grass, plant borders filled with flowering plants, trees and hedges (to provide protection for wildlife) and even having small log piles for insects. Having a bug hotel and bird feeder will also encourage wildlife and will be great fun for you and your brother to watch. You can teach him so much!
Plants that might be good include; edible flowers (such as pansies, violas, cornflowers, borage), herbs (such as mint, parsley and rosemary) and medicinal plants (such as lavender). Trees that are always loved by wildlife include many fruit trees like apple or pear. These help provide food in autumn when many other plants have died down for the year. All of these plants are great for wildlife but are also non-toxic if your brother did happen to put his hands in his mouth.
Here is a list of plants that are potentially harmful, so are best to avoid: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=524
I hope this helps and I hope you have lots of fun creating your new environmentally friendly garden.
Emma Markham answered on 12 Jun 2019:
This is a great question!
OK, firstly it all depends on the direction your garden is facing, the type of soil, the acidity, how well drained it is etc. This will influence the types of plants you can grow. Obviously you will need to avoid plants which are poisonous, so no foxgloves or plants with poisonous berries.
Generally, if you want to create a wildlife garden the best thing you can do would be to dig a shallow pond, as most wildlife needs water and this would draw hedgehogs, birds, insects and more to your garden. You will need an area you can keep ‘messy’ so a pile of branches and leaves and ‘weeds’ and this will be a home for insects. I would also encourage you to remove patio or decking, this will mean rain water can drain into the soil benefiting insects and reducing the risk of flash floods, this will also make your garden cooler in summer, as stone retains heat and makes the area hotter. I would recommend mowing the lawn less frequently, and to sow wildflower seeds to encourage a range of flowers (as insects need nectar throughout the year, if you plant just one type of plant then you only have nectar a few weeks a year). Lavender is lovely in a garden, provides colour and scent and would be god food for insects. Planting peas or clover would increase the nitrogen in the soil which would help other plants. Planting trees would also help nesting birds and make more habitats. Installing bird boxes in the garden can also help, and cutting a hedgehog hole in the fence will help animals visit the garden.
If you want more ideas for creating a wildlife friendly garden then SpringWatch on BBC2 is featuring a how to guide to make a wildlife garden: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07bwq11
I hope that helps!
John Paterson answered on 13 Jun 2019:
This is a fantastic question and I’m very glad to hear someone asking it as there’s loads you can do even in a small garden to help wildlife and particularly insects. I think Anna and Emma have already answered in a lot of detail but a couple of things I would add/reinforce:
If you want to plants flowers that will attract insects it’s good to have ones that will flower at different times of the year. The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) has a really good list of plants that are good for pollinators and what time of year they flower at which you can find here:
In particular, planting bulbs like bluebells, crocuses and daffodils are a great early-year food source for pollinators and they look beautiful. In the summer, one of the best things you can do is leave your lawn to grow a bit. Even if you only let the grass grow to about 10-15cm that will be long enough for flowers like clover and self-heal to come through and insects love those.
I would also agree with Emma that one of the best things you can do for wildlife is create a small pond. It would be fantastic if you could create a deep one as then you can get frogs and newts but that’s a lot of work and might not be appropriate with your baby brother using the garden. But even a small, shallow pond with some gravel at one end provides a great breeding site for loads of insects, including hoverflies, and also gives birds and bees a place where they can drink water.
And don’t use pesticides!
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