How wildlife friendly is your garden?

© Gillian Day

Surrey Wildlife Trust can help you turn your patch into a mini nature reserve

If you want more wildlife in your garden, Surrey Wildlife Trust has a created a simple online questionnaire to get you started.  In just six quick questions, you’ll discover how wildlife friendly your garden is and get ideas on how to improve it. During the lockdown, many of us are enjoying the sights and sounds of nature more than ever – and this is a practical way to encourage creatures to visit your patch of green.

The questionnaire only takes a couple of minutes to complete and gives you a wildlife friendly score out of a hundred percent. It also shows you how well your garden measures up on four essential features: food, shelter, water and organic management. With a mix of all of these, wildlife will visit more frequently and even come to stay more permanently! By focusing on areas for improvement, every type of gardener can take a small step for wildlife.

The questionnaire can be shared on social media and WhatsApp groups to encourage family, friends and neighbours to join in. 

It could help neighbours to share seeds, cuttings and wildlife gardening tips and ideas, such as making hedgehog highways for the whole street too.

Take the questionnaire

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Top Tips:

FOOD

Caterpillars eat a lot and grow at an astonishing speed before they pupate and become butterflies or moths. Why not leave at least some weeds for them to munch on? Could you sow wildflowers to provide nectar for bees and butterflies or make a bird feeder? What about adding a vegetable patch or herb garden? These are great for pollinators too.

SHELTER

Birds need safe places to shelter. So do minibeasts, amphibians and reptiles. Could you create a log pile, plant a tree or hedgerow, build a bee home or bug hotel?  Why not let the grass grow long or add a new nest box?  When the winter comes a hibernaculum could help wildlife last through those long cold months.

WATER

Water is essential for all life. It isn’t just frogs that need it to live in gardens – so do birds, bees and the rest. The single most important wildlife feature for a garden (which incidentally will gain you most points in the quiz) is a pond. Even if you don’t have much space, you can add a shallow water dish with pebbles, a bucket pond, a bird bath or even a boggy area.

ORGANIC MANAGEMENT

One of the most important things you can do is to stop using chemicals in your garden. And why not add a compost heap and wormery, or recycle household items or garden waste into other wildlife features? Don’t forget to check that there are gaps under hedges or fence panels for a hedgehog highway.

Charlotte Magowan, marketing and communications manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: “Usually at this time of year we launch our annual Surrey Wildlife Garden Awards, but during the Coronavirus lockdown it would be impossible to judge the entries. However, we know how important connecting with nature has become to people’s wellbeing. So we have launched the questionnaire to help them score their wildlife friendliness, be recognised for their efforts and get ideas on how to improve and make a real difference for wildlife on their doorstep.  If everyone even did just one thing, just think of the impact it could make!”

Surrey has more than 20,000 hectares of gardens, which cover 12 per cent of the county – more than all of Surrey’s nature reserves put together – so they are vital to the survival of our wildlife.  For example, gardens are now the last refuge of the fastest-disappearing UK mammal, the hedgehog. This beloved creature has declined by 90 per cent across the UK. In Surrey, 83 per cent of hedgehog sightings were recorded in gardens.

As long as you have some green space – from a balcony to a large garden – you can take the wildlife garden questionnaire. Even if you don’t know a dandelion from a daffodil you can complete all the questions. You’ll get a score for wildlife friendliness and ideas of how to improve.  And you don’t need to look for perfection – every small step is a positive change.

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