Biodiversity - what can I do?
- Tree planting
- Pollinator and wildlife friendly planting
- Reduce grass cutting
- Peat-free composting
- Providing a water source
- Go chemical free
- Extra wildlife friendly Garden Features
- I don't have a garden space - what can I do?
- Citizen Science Projects and Nature Recording
Tree planting has been identified as one of the best ways to help combat climate change. Trees remove carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and store the carbon in their trunks, stems, leaves, roots and transfer this to the soil. They release oxygen as a by-product.
Trees grow over many years, so you will need to ensure that you have enough space for the variety of tree that you choose. If you don't have space for a tree, don't worry, any green plant will absorb carbon and help climate change.
What should I consider when choosing a tree?
- size of the tree at 20-years-old
- the space will it need
- is it native? See Woodland Trust Native tree guide
- other trees of the same species growing locally to where you want to plant. If there are already trees growing locally, it shows that conditions are favourable, and your tree should survive.
- spring or autumn colour
- large canopy for shade?
- evergreen or deciduous?
- whether the treeproducing flowers, fruits or nuts for human consumption or wildlife?
- ground conditions - dry, always wet, floods regularly
- soil type
Do not plant trees in
- sites of archaeological importance
- sites with rare or protected species
- grassland that has never been ploughed
Tree planting is best done over winter (November to March) when the tree is dormant,.
Planting a tree
- find a suitable spot in your garden
- make sure you are not planting under phone or power lines
- dig a hole as deep as the roots of the tree and twice as wide as the root width on each side of the hole
- dig a square hole, circular holes can lead to root girdling
- soak the root of the tree in water for a couple of minutes
- place the tree in the centre of the hole. Make sure it is planted at the right depth
- hold the tree steady as you backfill and gently use your heel to 'heel-in' your tree as you backfill the tree pit
- if you wish to support the tree you can use a garden cane or wooden post (depending on the size of the tree) and some hessian wrapping, although your tree should be fine without it unless they are on an exposed site
- now add an inch or two of mulch, if available and water in the tree
- make sure you keep the base of the tree free from grass and weeds and water periodically, especially in warm weather
Here are some suggestions for things you could plant in your garden. You will need to do some research to make sure that the plants you chose are suitable for the soil type and size of your garden.
Growing a mixture of native annual and perennial plants will provide a variety of habitats and food sources for as many different pollinators as possible:
Shrubs and plants
Wet area plants
Yellow flag iris
How to make a wildflower lawn
All pollinators need flowering plants to provide them with food. Early on in the spring the best source of food comes from the dandelions and other 'weeds' in your lawn. Reducing the frequency of cutting or choosing a section to leave long can help with the supply of wildflowers in your garden.
If you can leave the first cut until mid-April and then cut 6-weekly after that (end of May and mid - end July), this allows the dandelions to grow early and then for wildflowers to establish between cuts.
The sale of peat-based compost will be banned in the UK by 2024 to protect peatland and the natural environment.
Advice on peat free alternatives can be found on the .RHS website
One of the easiest and cheapest alternatives is to make your own at home
Composting at home
What is compost? A way of reusing natural material from your garden to turn it in to a source of organic matter that can be put back on your garden to improve the soil and help conserve moisture.
Composting is a very beneficial process which can save waste from going to landfill, reduce the need for artificial fertilisers and help your garden thrive. Along with being good for helping plants grow it can provide a habitat for a range of beneficial microorganisms and bacteria in the soil.
- the importance of soil (Source - the Soil Association)
- 10 billion of tonnes of carbon is stored in UK soils
- it takes 500 years to make an inch of soil
- trillions of litres of water are stored in UK soils
- soil provides 95% of the food we eat
- and is home to quarter of all Earths species
There are many guides on how to start your own compost heap, either buying a compost bin or making your own:
What sort of thing can go in my compost?
- vegetable kitchen waste
- grass & garden clippings
- woody materials - wood chips, straw
- shredded paper and cardboard
- dead leaves can be added to your compost heap but if you have lots, these can be placed in a biodegradable bag and left to compost. The bag will keep the leaves in one place. It will decompose as the leaves rot and will leave you with a nice pile of compost that can be used in the garden.
What not to compost:
- cooked food
- cat litter
- dog poo
- diseased plants
- invasive species
- ensure there is a good mix of items within your compost to provide a wide variation of nutrients in the compost. It should be 70% garden cuttings / grass cutting / vegetable peelings and 30% woody materials / paper.
- the compost needs to be mixed every so often - be careful when mixing especially in winter - there may be animals hibernating in there.
- the smaller the items you put in to your compost bin, the quicker it will decompose and make soil. It can take 6 months to 2 years to make your compost depending on the size of the material you put on the top of your heap and the conditions in your heap.
- using your compost - once you have a dark brown, crumbly compost with no signs of the plants or food waste you originally put in, then it can be used as a mulch around plants or dug in to your soil.
More details on all waste collections in South Ribble.
Water is vital for wildlife to thrive all year around. They need it to drink, bathe and breed in. Any type of water in your garden will be useful, from a simple dish to a large pond. Make sure that it is of a suitable depth and has rough, sloped edges, steps or rocks so that creatures can land safely and climb out if they fall in
- place water for birds near a tree or shrub so they have easy access to a safe place. Remember to break the ice during cold winter periods or put out fresh warm water every day.
- water for pollinators (bees and butterflies) can be as simple as a shallow bowl with a rock or sloped edge so they do not drown. Water for bees
- dig a wildlife pond how to build a pond. Not enough space for a pond, or it's not safe for your circumstances? Why use an old washing up bowl or watertight container, either sunk in to the ground or amongst your other pots and containers. Upcycled ponds and Water features
- install a water butt to collect rainwater and use it to top up your water feature and water your plants
- if you are lucky enough to have a large garden with a stream you could consider leaving deadwood in waterways to provide another habitat. Leaky Dams are made of natural woody materials, laid in streams and ditches. They are designed to reduce the downstream flood peak by temporarily storing water by holding it back within the stream's channel or encouraging it to spill onto the banks behind the barrier and slowing the flow
Spraying plants to eliminate pests, affects not only the target species but all the others further up the food chain that ingest the poisons along with insect that comes in to contact with it. Chemical free gardening works on the principle of controlling rather than eliminating pests.
Going chemical free can be a slow process while you attract the natural predators in to your garden but you will ultimately know that any food you grow is completely chemical free and your garden is a safe space for children, pets and wildlife.
Alternatives to chemicals include:
- build a pond to attract frogs or make your garden hedgehog friendly and they will happily eat your slugs!
- encourage ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies by planting pollen rich plants and giving them somewhere to spend the winter by leaving dead stems in your garden or making a bug box and they will eat your aphids.
- companion planting is about plants helping each other. Whether it is strongly scented herbs that repel pests or a patch of nettles to attract butterflies and snails, keeping them away from your cabbages!
- encouraging birds into your garden can help reduce the numbers of caterpillars eating your plants
- using natural fertilisers such as manure or your home-made compost
- create a log or stone pile to attract in your welcome guests such as frogs and hedgehogs and have a ready supply of insects to keep the birds coming back.
- growing a variety of plants and rotating their locations year to year can prevent the build-up of insects which might predate on plants
- using a weak solution of soapy water on infected areas of plants can be used to deter pests, this should be done at night when insects are not as active and not be put on the flower heads
More information can be found on the Wildlife Trust website.
- breeding and nesting sites - water to drink, dead wood, rotting vegetation and longer grasses are important for larvae
- overwintering sites for insects - in winter seed heads, leaf litter, crevices in bark, longer vegetation, hollow plant stems and other places are all needed for shelter
- leave dead wood piles or provide bug hotels where pollinators can shelter
- feed the birds throughout the year - particularly during winter and when adults are feeding young
- bird boxes
- bat box
- bee/bug hotel
- water features big or small - always include some rocks so things don't drown
- Hedgehog houses and highways
- replace fences with hedges
Many people do not have an outdoor space or only have a small back yard. Local wildlife will benefit from only the smallest effort, so a plant pot on the doorstep or window box will still be of value. Some other ideas for small spaces include
- create a garden on your balcony or shed roof
- grow plants in pots which are good for wildlife and can also be used in the kitchen such as thyme or sage
- leave out a bird bath or small water feature
- install a bug hotel attached to a fence or wall
- put up a bird feeder
Alternatively, you could consider joining a community gardening group, 'In Bloom' group, friends of groups or apply for an allotment.
Recording sightings is important and the data that is collated is very useful to the monitoring of species across the borough, county and country. Data can be shared with different organisations and researchers and used to make changes to help target biodiversity management and conservation work. In addition, this data can be used to monitor invasive non-native species distributions and allows management plans to be developed to remove and manage them.
Our local records office is Lancashire Environment Record Network (LERN)
Citizen Science projects make use of interested individuals and groups who take part in organised activities to help compile data for an organisation. Two of the most well-known are the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch and Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count But there are many, many, more projects you can get involved with in the UK and overseas and not confined to nature. Check out these sites for some more ideas: Wildlife Trust surveys, Citizen science, surveys and fieldwork and Zooniverse