Gardening for life

Gardens account for over 1 million acres in Britain which is a greater area than all our nature reserves put together. Our gardens can act as a haven for wildlife, especially if we garden in an environmentally friendly way.


Cut down on the use of pesticides and inorganic fertilisers.

Pesticides kill natural pollinators and predators so that pests can return in greater numbers. Excess chemicals could affect purity of water supplies and harm wildlife.

  • Improve soil fertility with organic materials e.g. compost, manure, blood/fish/bone meals.
  • Choose disease resistant varieties of plants and those best suited for soil and position - healthy plants resist disease.
  • Slugs and snails can be inhibited by an irritant such as sand, alternatively protect seedlings with cloches.
  • If you resort to slug pellets put them under a raised tile or piece of wood so that thrushes, hedgehogs and pets cannot reach the pellets. Remove dead slugs and snails.
  • Suppress weeds with a suitable mulch – e.g. wood chips, black polythene or gravel.

Use alternatives to peat.

Gardeners use two thirds of the peat extracted in the UK, which is causing further destruction of wilderness bog areas and threatening their specialised wildlife. More than 94% of UK lowland bogs have been destroyed or damaged.

  • Ask for peat-free products at your garden centre. B & Q, Homebase and Focus supply peat-free products for a range of uses such as a growing medium, soil improver or mulch.
  • Water peat-free composts thoroughly but check beneath the surface as a guide to rewatering.
  • Seek out plants grown in peat-free compost.
  • If using sphagnum moss for a hanging basket, ensure that it has not been collected from natural bogs.

Attract wildlife and create habitats.

Consider native plant species as these attract more insects and birds than some cultivars. Single rather than double flowering varieties are preferred by insects.

  • Berry plants like holly and pyracantha attract birds as do seed plants like honesty and sunflowers.
  • Plants such as buddleia, lavender, hebe and sedums provide nectar and pollen for butterflies, hoverflies and bees.
  • Hedges and plants like ivy give shelter and provide nesting sites.
  • Creating a pond is an excellent way to increase wildlife interest from dragonflies to newts.
  • Never transfer unwanted plants and fish to a countryside pond as escaped alien species can threaten native wildlife.
  • Put up bird and bat boxes, make wood piles for insects and hibernating animals.
  • Put out food and water for birds.
  • Fit your cat with a collar with two bells (many cats can keep one bell silent) and keep them in at night.


  • For advice on foxes contact The Fox Project
    The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tanbridge, Kent TN9 1AW
    Tel 0906 2724411
  • For step by step organic gardening leaflets, write to Garden Organic (HDRA)Wolston Lane, Ryton, Coventry CV8 3LG
    Tel 024 7630 3517
  • For conservation and environment guideline leaflets, send SAE (76p for 100g) to The Royal Horticultural Society
    Subscription Service, PO Box 38, Ashford, Kent TN25 6PR
  • For leaflets on gardening with wildlife, making nestboxes, ponds and feeding birds, contact the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
    The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL
    Tel 01767 680551
  • Surrey Wildlife Trust
    School Lane, Pirbright, Woking GU24 0JN
    Tel 01483 488055
  • Woking Local Agenda 21 Gardening for Life Project – For more information, contact Woking LA21 through Woking Borough Council's sustainability team.
    Tel 01483 743413