Gardening for Wildlife and Wellbeing

Our gardens can be refuges both for ourselves as well as wildlife. But how do you encourage birds and butterflies to live with you? Is putting up a bird feeder good enough? Do you need to leave nettles in your tiny yard?

RHS gardening speaker Alison Marsden gave a talk to local residents in the Ham library annexe on Tuesday, 28th June to address these questions. While it can be tempting to think that we cannot make a difference with the small pieces of land in the front or back of our houses, Alison illustrated that our gardens are part of a larger mosaic of habitats, stepping stones and corridors for wildlife. She also explained that wildlife was already in our gardens, not just buzzing about flowers but in the soil, and that tolerating, rather than destroying it, was an important first step in gardening for wildlife. Insects are not as iconic as hedgehogs or birds, however, they are vital in the food chain.

She encouraged participants to think about two questions when improving their gardens:

1. What makes you happy? This could be watching birds, or having a wide range of flowers.

2. What makes the most difference? This could be providing water, extending the flowering seasons and planting a variety of flower shapes and colours, or improving access, e.g. through small holes in your garden fence to create a hedgehog highway.

Alison recorded a condensed version of her talk: 

  View on YouTube: Gardening for Wellbeing and Wildlife


What participants said:

"I attended the lecture. What I got from it was a different appreciation that gardens are there to impress pollinators as well as your own eye. I will certainly take the learning back to my own garden, especially in trying to perfect succession planting throughout the year to help pollinators from winter through to autumn."

"I’m glad I went to this – it was more wide ranging than I expected and was very useful in putting gardening for wildlife into a wider context and thinking about the big picture that planting for pollinators fits into. A small point that I picked up was about the need for porous boundaries so that all types of wildlife can move around from garden to garden. I think there was scope for a discussion / exchange of information with and between the audience at the end but I think spoke for longer than she intended. Thanks for organising."

"Thank you for organising yet another interesting event. I enjoyed the many elements that Alison discussed to encourage pollinators in our gardens but one advice stood out for me. This is to consider all our gardens that back onto each other as one big space for pollinators. So if for example no water or possibly fruits for the birds can be provided in one garden, another neighbouring garden might be able to provide these. Hence, Alison encouraged us to discuss wildlife and pollinators with our neighbours in order to provide optimum conditions collectively for these creatures in our gardens. A very interesting advice."