How to increase biodiversity in your garden

Elin Harryson 29 June 2022

Increasing biodiversity is essential for better eco gardening. Find out how to make your garden more sustainable for bees, plants and other wildlife

As summer kicks off, many are refreshing their gardens to reflect the change in season. As we become more eco-conscious, promoting biodiversity in all spaces is proving to be top of mind.

Whether your garden is large or small, on a balcony or a humble window box in your flat, you can create an area that helps insects, birds and natural wildlife thrive.

Here to help us strike the perfect balance between beauty and biodiversity is Elin Harryson, in-house plant expert at Planta, the Swedish plant care app, with five tips you won’t want to miss—whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just beginning to flex your green fingers.

1. Grow plants for pollinators

Creating a nectar garden is the best way to attract different species of wildlife across the seasons.

Herbs attract butterflies and bees if you allow them to flower, and crocuses are key in providing early spring food for pollinators.

Remember that bees can see the colour purple more clearly than any other, so planting alliums or lavender will lead to a bee-filled paradise.

"Bees can see the colour purple more clearly than any other, so planting alliums or lavender will lead to a bee-filled paradise"

While wildlife often thrives in summer, it’s important to consider the cooler seasons, too. Help your wildlife get through the tough winters by planting snowdrops and aconites, which are bulbs that thrive in lightly shaded areas.

Winter-flowering clematis are another excellent bee-friendly flower that can help provide nutrients throughout even in coldest months.

A key tip to remember is that double flowers, such as carnation, most roses and types of peonies, aren’t ideal for pollinators, as the many petals make it difficult for bees to get to the centre of the flower to feed.

2. Just add water

Garden waterfall feature fringed with plantsAdd running water to your garden to help purify the air and nourish local wildlife

The addition of water to your garden can make it even more of a haven to birds and wildlife. Adding a bird bath or a small water feature can attract a whole new range of wildlife, from frogs to dragonflies.

In addition, the negative ions emitted by flowing water can help to purify the air and reduce pollution.

Use small solar panels on water features with a pump to minimise your impact on the environment and reduce electricity. Add rocks or pebbles into your feature to prevent insects or animals drowning.

3. Stick to native plants

Native plants adapt to local soil and environmental conditions, meaning that they require less maintenance when it comes to fertilising and watering.

Native plants can provide nectar, pollen and seeds for birds, butterflies, and all sorts of wildlife, helping them to thrive and bring life to your garden.

"Native plants promote biodiversity and decrease soil erosion"

Native plants also promote biodiversity and decrease soil erosion, while also reducing the use of herbicides and pesticides—a true win-win.

A crucial factor to note is that by buying home-grown plants you can help to prevent invasive species reaching your garden and the countryside. Although these species are often harmless in their native habitats, they can cause disease, predation and competition in a new environment.

4. Make sure you compost

Person in gardening gloves uses wood chip mulch to make sustainable compostCompost heaps make a great home for small animals like insects, hedgehogs and non-poisonous snakes

Composting garden waste is an excellent way to help plants and wildlife, as it speeds up the natural recycling of nutrients. Compost heaps can also provide a home to small creatures such as beetles, slugs and non-poisonous snakes, due to the natural heat released by decomposition.

Composting is a great way to lower greenhouse emissions, regenerate the soil, revitalise water sources, and ensure food security within the confines of your garden.

Pro tip: avoid removing cut grass and leaves from the lawn that might cover it during autumn. Instead, use a lawnmower to cut the leaves into smaller pieces to benefit earthworms, aerate the soil and help turn organic debris into nutrients for the lawn.

5. Switch to peat-free compost

It’s very important to avoid using peat-based composts in your garden.

Peatlands store a third of the world’s soil carbon and harvesting. Using peat releases carbon dioxide into the environment, which has a detrimental impact.

Switch to using peat-free compost for an environmentally-friendly option.

"Using peat releases carbon dioxide into the environment"

Also avoid using chemicals or pesticides to control pests or disease in favour of organic alternatives, like natural predators and parasites, as pesticides harm more than just the bugs you’re trying to get rid of.

In place of pesticides, try biological controls which are safe and extremely effective, especially for indoor pests such as whitefly, red spider mite, mealybugs, aphids and vine weevil.

Outdoors, you can spray plants with a strong jet of water from the hose, or even remove pesky pests by hand, for other safe alternatives.

Bonus: Create shelters and homes for wildlife

All wildlife need shelter, and thoughtful structures in gardens can provide the perfect reprieve.

Consider building or installing bee hotels and bird houses, placing planting pots upside down, or even letting leaves and sticks pile up in the garden to provide a safe haven for wildlife.

And before you commit to a neatly manicured space, consider leaving room for a little chaos.

Not only is it more low-maintenance, but letting decaying wood, old tree trunks, and grass run a little wild can offer shelter and food for some insects and small critters, especially during cooler months.

Don’t feel disheartened if your wildlife shelter is empty at first. With time and the changes in the seasons, you’ll have a new species make themselves at home in no time.

Read more: How to attract bees into your garden

Read more: Creating an easy-care garden with wildflowers

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