10 Wild Ways guide 

We can't recommend suppliers but have included examples

1. Grow wildlife

friendly plants

Including certain plants in your outdoor space can make a big difference to the types of creatures that can live there

Wildlife-friendly plants have a range of benefits. They may be rich in nectar or have certain flower shapes that are just right for different insect species. Some produce seeds or berries providing food, others offer shelter or nest sites.

Even small patches of ground or containers can be planted to make wildlife habitats. Variety of plants is key to provide a range of foods throughout the year.

 

See Star Plants for a few examples of easy-to-grow wildlife-friendly plants for different situations. 

Local plant suppliers include

Online plant suppliers include

2. Ditch the mower,
go for a mini-meadow

Since the 1940s, 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost

In your garden, ditching a high-maintenance patch of green for a less cultivated lawn saves time and helps wildlife. When grasses grow long, they create a jungle for small creatures like grasshoppers, beetles and young amphibians, as well as providing cover for hedgehogs and food for insects and birds.

You can create an area of fashionable wild lawn simply by mowing less! Find out more.

 

Or upgrade to a wildflower meadow using seeds or adding little plug plants in autumn. You can even buy ready-made wildflower turf! You’ll only need to cut your mini meadow once a year at the end of summer. Find out more.

3. Green up hard surfaces

Nothing can live on a paving slab! Consider using the smallest area possible for driveways and patios and share the rest of your space with wildlife

Make the most of the flowerbeds you have got  add some bigger shrubs or use plants like geraniums that will tumble out over the paving.

Put large containers or raised beds directly on top of hard surfacing.

 

Use gaps in paving or lift up some of the slabs to provide pockets for adding plants.

Bring flowerbeds covered with gravel, slate or pebbles back to life

  • Remove stones to re-establish the flowerbed

  • Reveal some areas for planting (redistribute the rest of the stones)

  • Dig through the gravel to make holes for a few big plants

  • Create a gravel garden

Sprinkle seeds in the cracks between slabs to add touches of green.

Suppliers for raised beds / containers incl. 

www.woodblocx.co.uk

www.recycleworks.co.uk

www.harrodhorticultural.com

www.primrose.co.uk

www.rhsplants.co.uk

 

Suppliers for peat-free topsoil in bulk incl.

www.hallstonedirect.co.uk

www.earthcycle.co.uk

www.compostdirect.com

You can dispose of unwanted paving or gravel at the recycling centre, Chigwell Road tip, or offer on Redbridge Freecycle or Freegle.

See Star Plants for examples of easy-to-grow wildlife-friendly plants for containers and hard surfaces.

4. Build a log pile

Old wood is a magnet for wildlife

Dead trees and fallen wood provide a home for a wide range of invertebrates – and luckily it’s a habitat that is easy to recreate in  gardens. Even the smallest plot has space for a log pile – you can tuck it out of sight or turn it into a feature. Just pick a quiet, shady spot and partly bury a few logs – the earth keeps them damp which helps them rot. Let plants grow around the log pile to keep the sun off. Find out more.

You can use regular firewood to make a log pile. Buy sacks of logs locally at suppliers including Heads 'N' Tails on Wanstead High Street and Lancasters Home and Garden, Walthamstow, E17 3NZ.

5. Open a leaf or
compost cafe

Invertebrates will enjoy munching through an undisturbed pile of
leaves or compost

Leaf and compost piles are loved by minibeasts, which in turn attract the hedgehogs, birds, frogs and toads who feed on them. Just build up a small pile of leaves and twigs in an out of the way spot or tuck a small compost bin at the back of your garden. Find out more.

Open or slatted compost bins are easier for creatures to get in and out of and cheap to buy from suppliers like www.primrose.co.uk. Or construct your own frame with some bits of old wood, like the Corner Garden has.

6. Plant a small tree

Trees are simply
brilliant for wildlife

Trees provide a habitat for many different types of insect as well as somewhere for birds to live, eat and sing. In fact, the UK’s woods and trees are home to more wildlife than any other landscape.

 

Planting a tree is one of the simplest ways to make your outdoor space look amazing – they are easy to look after and are best planted when they are small and inexpensive to buy (e.g. as a bare root plant). Research in America suggests that living somewhere with trees in the street or in front gardens makes properties worth much more. 

There are many trees available for smaller gardens – you could even plant a tree in a container for your patio or driveway. See Star Plants for examples.

Find information on planting trees and shrubs and growing trees in containers.

7. Boost your boundaries

Small changes to your property boundaries could help wildlife and protect against air pollution

Hedges

Mixed native hedges are cheap and easy to plant, require minimal maintenance and provide food, nesting places and shelter for many birds, mammals and insects.

Hedges can reduce the pollution reaching your home by blocking dirty air from roads. Air pollution causes an estimated 40,000 early deaths every year in Britain and is worse in London than anywhere else in the UK.  

Find out how to plant a hedgeSee Star Plants for examples of what to include.

 

Hedging plants (including packs of mixed species) can be bought at www.crocus.co.uk, www.habitataid.co.uk and many other suppliers.

Fences and walls help save hedgehogs!!

The rise of fencing is believed to be one of the reasons that Britain's hedgehog population has dropped from around 30 million in the 1950s to 1 million today. You can help by making sure your boundaries have a few small holes that are 13cm x 13cm in size – big enough for hedgehogs to get through, but too small for most pets.

If you're installing a new fence with gravel boards, why not consider panels with ready made hedgehog holes like those from Jackson's Fencing.

Growing climbing plants against bare walls and fences is also a great way to establish a new habitat in your outdoor plot, even if space is tight. See Star Plants for examples. 

8. Provide homes
for birds, bugs
and hedgehogs

We’re not the only ones with a housing crisis! Development and habitat loss mean many creatures have nowhere to live

The British Trust for Ornithology says many of the UK’s birds struggle to find a suitable nesting site for the breeding season. Often garden birds prefer to nest in trees or thick bushes and climbers, however you could try to help by putting up a nest box. Different bird species need different box designs placed in different locations. Bug hotels or even a hedgehog house are other ways to make your space more homey for wildlife.

There are many different options for every garden style. Suppliers include

www.wigglywigglers.co.uk

www.rspb.org.uk (shop)

www.gardennature.co.uk, www.worm.co.uk, and 
www.livingwithbirds.com.

Or make your own bug stack

The most natural way to provide food for birds is to grow it. Wildlife-friendly plants provide a free larder of fruit, berries and seeds, particularly in late summer and autumn. Garden plants are home to insects and other invertebrates which are an essential diet for chicks in spring. But wild birds are thought to benefit from being given additional food too. See the RSPB's  step by step guide on what to feed and how to feed it. It is important to clean feeders regularly to stop the spread of any bird diseases. 

Bird foods and feeders are easily available at Heads ‘N’ Tails on Wanstead High Street, in supermarkets, or from websites such as www.rspb.org.ukwww.wigglywigglers.co.uk and www.livingwithbirds.com.

9. Have a pond
or patio water
feature

Most ponds have now been lost from the countryside. Garden ponds and water features have never been more important for wildlife

A pond (preferably without fish) can be a haven for wildlife, supporting a wide array of animals and providing a place for frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies to breed. And a series of ponds in a neighbourhood creates a corridor through which wildlife can move. Find out how build a pond.

If a pond isn’t suitable, container water features are ideal for courtyard or patio gardens. A minimum water depth of 20-30cm allows a few plants to be added.

The Royal Horticultural Society advises that where small children are at risk, a bubble fountain or birdbath with only a thin film of water is a safer option that will still attract birds.

Building a pond is a great weekend project and we’re lucky in Wanstead to have Woodford Aquatics close by for advice and equipment (115-117 MayBank Road, London, E18 1EJ).

Chigwell Nursery also sells a range of pond plants and water features (245 High Rd, Chigwell IG7 5BL).

10. Be yourself,
be natural

You can invite nature in to any

style of garden... but go easy on the chemicals

To help wildlife, gardens need to include certain plants and elements like log or leaf piles, but the look and style is up to you. If you want something low maintenance, wild gardens are a fashionable excuse to let go a little. Step away from the secateurs and leave a leafy corner for birds, invertebrates and amphibians. Let plants die back naturally and don’t worry about a few leaves on the ground – old vegetation creates a place for invertebrates (minibeasts) to hide out during winter.

 

But neat gardens can be just as good    neat pots of wildflowers, neat log piles, neat borders, neat leaf piles. In fact, a clipped hedge is often denser and hence a better nesting site than one left to grow wild.

But whatever style you choose, just be natural.

 

Avoid using pesticides, chemicals or slug pellets – try not to wage war on aphids, snails and other minibeasts as they’re an important part of the food chain and will get eaten by the birds and other creatures you’ll attract to your wildlife garden. Find out more about organic pest control.

 

Weeds can be reduced by planting bare areas of earth with something of your choice instead (see Star Plants for examples).