All gardens contain wildlife of some kind. Some are a delight, whereas others can cause a lot of damage. I’ve only included a few examples here, as there are many forms of wildlife that can appear in gardens.
Gardens can be designed to encourage some beneficial species and to help discourage some pests. Gardens are alive and are constantly changing and the way they are maintained has a vital effect on the wildlife they contain.
Bees and butterflies add an extra dimension to a garden, helping to create the sights and sounds of the countryside – even in a town. As we know, the population of many species of bees, including our native bumblebees, and butterflies have been declining in recent years and we are being encouraged to grow the types of flowers that they need for food. Including simpler, single flowers or even an area of native meadow flowers helps to provide insects with nectar. We can even give them places to live and overwinter, such as by creating an ‘insect hotel’. Other insects, such as our native ladybirds and hoverflies, are also popular and useful visitors to our gardens.
Many people find that birds are a pleasure to watch and listen to, whether they are our more common species or rare visitors. Food and even nesting sites can easily be provided in a garden. Choosing plants that produce edible seeds and berries is a good way to attract birds to a garden.
Some of the less popular kinds of wildlife in the garden are slugs, snails and greenfly. They thrive on the plants we commonly grow in our gardens and can quickly cause a lot of damage. Keeping an eye open for early signs of damage and for the pests themselves means that action can be taken quickly to prevent further damage. Rather than immediately resorting to using chemical treatments, there are often simple control methods that you can try. Encouraging their predators reduces the number of pests in the garden, reducing the damage they can cause. Ladybirds, hoverflies, birds and hedgehogs can all help with this. Predators will never eat all their prey, as this would leave them without food for the future, but they can reduce them to a bearable level.
Some animals, such as squirrels, rabbits and deer look cute and cuddly, but they can also cause problems for gardeners. Bulbs can be dug up and eaten, new shoots of plants eaten as soon as they appear, and even trees killed by having their bark stripped away. Steps can be taken to reduce the damage from such animals.
There are some species that are so endangered they are protected by law. Bats and great crested newts are two examples that gardeners may come across. These creatures should never be intentionally disturbed and it is best to just leave them alone. However, if they are found in a place where disturbance is likely, seek advice before taking any action.
Although they are not wildlife, we also often share our gardens with our pets and other animals, such as chickens or even next-door’s cat. These creatures also need to be considered when designing a garden.
Finally, it is now recognised that there are several invasive species of plants and animals that cause a lot of damage. Some have become a threat to some of our native species, others can even damage the fabric of our buildings. Some were deliberately introduced (such as Japanese knotweed and ground elder) and others have arrived under their own steam (including relatively recently arrived insect pests such as rosemary beetle and lily beetle). If one of these species appears in your garden, seek advice as to how to deal with it effectively.