With a third of Surrey’s Wildlife extinct or in decline, Surrey Wildlife Trust is appealing to Surrey’s residents to act now to halt the decline by letting their gardens grow wild. The Trust is encouraging gardeners to do their bit for the environment as it launches its 2019 Wildlife Gardening Awards, supported by Squire’s Garden Centres, which operates 10 centres across Surrey.
With more than 20,000 hectares of gardens in Surrey, equal in size to 12 per cent of the county and an area greater than all of Surrey’s nature reserves, gardens are vital to the survival of Surrey’s wildlife. The most rapidly disappearing UK mammal, the hedgehog, has declined by 90 per cent across the UK. In Surrey, 83 per cent of hedgehog hotspot sightings were recorded in gardens - the final frontier for hedgehogs in the county.
The Trust is urging people to swap over tidying, trimming and mowing for a wilder garden lifestyle; take it easy and enjoy spending time in your garden getting up close to nature instead. More environmentally friendly gardeners could cut a 13x13cm hole in fences for hedgehogs to move more freely, build a bug hotel, or install a bird bath or pond. They could also allow a patch of grass to grow wild and sow some wildflower seeds to attract butterflies.
Susan Edwards, wildlife gardening champion at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: ‘The popularity of outdoor living spaces with new fencing, large decking areas and exotic planters may contribute to a loss in natural wildlife habitats in gardens. Treating gardening like housework, tidying and cleaning up our gardens, and regarding insects as ‘pests’ also contributes to the decline in birds, bees, butterflies and hedgehogs too.
‘We need to think of gardens as part of a larger living landscape. If you plant runner beans, rosemary, chives, borage and install a bee brick, bees will find your garden. If you put up a bird feeder, bird bath and nest box, birds will visit. And just by leaving wild corners, bare earth, long grass, log piles and dead wood, beetles, worms and minibeasts will come too. These are all tasty morsels that entice other animals to our gardens.’
The wildlife gardening awards are free to enter and have categories for balconies, small, medium and large gardens, allotments, community gardens, schools and businesses. By providing a wild garden with food, water, shelter and management features all competition entrants will win either bronze, silver or gold certificate in recognition for their hard work. It’s a perfect way to engage with nature, live a more eco-friendly lifestyle and the best wildlife gardeners will receive a plaque and win a £50 Squire’s voucher.
Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s, said: ‘We are delighted to support SWT’s Wildlife Gardening Awards. We know that gardeners of all ages are keen to protect wildlife and encourage the riches of our natural countryside into their gardens. Every year I see examples of fabulous gardens that combine stunning planting, water features and habitats which really work to encourage a huge variety of wildlife. Together we can make a vast difference. We can all enjoy beautiful gardens that also play their part in protecting our natural flora and fauna.
“Our garden centres offer an increasingly wide range of plants and accessories that encourage wildlife into gardens. Our staff are also very enthusiastic and knowledgeable when it comes to offering wildlife gardening advice. They can assist you to find what you’re looking for, whether that’s as simple as attracting butterflies and bees to a hanging basket or pot on your patio, or the best plants to suit your soil type when creating a wildlife area in a bigger garden. Do participate in this important initiative and I hope you really enjoy taking part! "