There would be little point having a garden alive with birds, butterflies and frogs if you can’t enjoy it. A wildlife friendly garden needs to be people friendly too. So when you are planning your garden, think of what you want to use it for.
Will you be entertaining friends with barbecues in the summer? Do you need to think about ensuring the garden is safe for children? Do you need some lawn for sunbathing? Write down all of the different ways in which you will use your garden as well as some ideas about the features you want to have to attract wildlife. Then visit the outdoor room page to see how you can put it together to create a place that will really bring you closer to nature.
Create a journey around your garden with paths. This will encourage you to explore your garden and make the most of it. Paths can be made from paving slabs, stone and gravel, or they can be wide strips of grass. Straight paths encourage you to move from one area to another quickly, so windy paths will encourage you take your time as you walk around.
Perhaps a gravel path is the most attractive in a wildlife friendly garden. Simply dig out the path from its surroundings to a depth of no more than 10cm and then compact the soil by walking over it many times. Then lay down some weed suppressing material and tip in some gravel to bring the path up to the height of its surroundings. This will create an informal and relaxing path in your garden with the gravel spilling out in to its surroundings.
Creating more sophisticated paths requires a good practical understanding of basic building techniques. The RHS practicals book on paths and paving is a good place to look for more detailed advice.
Composting your food and kitchen waste is a great way to recycle whilst also making compost, which is beneficial to your plants and soil.
Composting is the easiest way to make your garden grow more beautiful, encourage wildlife and create a mini ecosystem.
Tending vegetable patches requires a lot of bending and lifting. If you are less agile than you used to be or are a wheelchair user, creating raised beds can make gardening much easier. Raised beds are also useful if your garden gets waterlogged, because it lifts the roots of the plants out of all that damp soil.
A raised bed can be created by knocking together old scaffolding boards, floorboards or pieces of decking. All you need to do is measure out your raised bed with string, hammer some wide stakes into the ground, cut your lengths of wood to fit and nail them to the stakes. Then fill your raised bed with compost or top soil from a trustworthy source. Avoid any peat-based composts as these have been made from peat that has often been taken from some special places for wildlife. Once the soil has settled, you can plant your raised bed with vegetables of flowers.
If you’ve got a list of how you want to use your garden and the features you want to create to attract wildlife and grow food, you can make a simple plan so you can make the most of the space you have. The plan does not have to be like one a garden designer would do. A simple drawing will be just as good for most gardens.
When making your plan, try to divide the garden into different areas for different uses, like the different rooms in your house. You might have an area for sitting and eating, a patch of lawn to lie on, flower beds to walk among, raised beds for vegetables and perhaps a pond for frogs and toads. Try to fit these together, creating different outdoor rooms. You can then think about linking the outdoor rooms together with paths and dividing them with hedges and climbing plants. A series of functional, wildlife friendly outdoor rooms are possible in even the smallest city garden.
Sitting areas are vital if you are going to enjoy all of the wildlife you are attracting to your garden. So make sure you place seats where there will be something to see. This could be next to your wildlife pond or with a good view towards a bird table or butterfly border. Make sure that wherever you place your seating, it will be comfortable for you too. So think about whether you want a sunny spot to rest in or a shady hideaway.
You can buy all sorts of seating from garden centres and DIY stores, from simple park style benches to ornamental arbours. If you buy a wooden garden furniture, check that is made from timber harvested from well managed forests. Look for the FSC logo.
You can make a simple and attractive bench using two logs and a flat piece of timber. Simply cut the logs to equal lengths and screw the flat length of timber to the top. This sort of bench is perfect for next to a pond or under a tree.