Tips on rewilding your garden

You don't need to look further than your own back garden to help in the fight to rewild and use sustainable practices. Think of your garden as your own wildlife sanctuary. Here's some tips we've found to work well for a Wicklow garden.

1. Untidy is good: Neatly mowed lawns, or worse still, Astroturf are wildlife wastelands with little or no biodiversity. Before you trim, cut or remove, wait and watch. Let nature take its course and fill your garden with native species.

2. Save the "weeds" man: Not all weeds need to go. Once you embrace rewilding your garden should find a natural balance between all the different plants. With a little research you'll find out the many uses of so-called 'weeds'. Nettle soup anybody? Ok maybe too far but insects love weeds, with certain insects only using particular plants for food or laying eggs.  

3.Change your lawn to a wildflower meadow: A meadow brimming with native wildflowers and buzzing with bees beats a boring well cut lawn any day. You can still mow out walkways and playing areas or if tight for space use the borders of your garden for wildflowers.

4. Leave some areas untouched: You don't need to give over all your garden, even a small percentage of you garden could be used to the benefit of wildlife or left to let nature take its course. It may seem small but if al gardens did the same it would add up to one impressive nature park.

5. Plant animal-friendly trees and plants: If you plant the right trees you can feed the birds all year round without ever buying a packet of bird feed. Every plant can be a potential food source, especially native species. Up to 750 species live on our native oak tree for example! In winter, by letting the ivy grow and go to berry you are laying on a well needed banquet for birds surviving winters cold grip.

6. Piles of leaves/logs/rocks: These all provide unique habitats for different flora and fauna. Fungi love rotting wood, along with a whole host of specialist beetles too.

7. Wildlife highways: Leave gaps in fences or garden boundaries for small mammals like hedgehogs to get through and explore your new wildlife haven.

8. Build a pond: A pond provides a unique habitat for frogs, toads, newts and countless insects. It's also great for birds to grab a drink or quick wash. In summertime you'll be treated to the majesty of dancing dragonflies and damselflies. 

9. Be patient and curious: It takes a while for your garden to transform into a biodiversity sanctuary and for wildlife to find it. But build it and they will come! Before you remove what you might think is a weed, be curious and research if it's good for pollinators or other insects.

10. Record species: A great way to engage both yourself and the rest of the family is to keep a record of what species visit or live in your garden. You can keep an overall score that goes up over time and get a real kick out of adding a new species to your list as they appear. To help you identify species you can use identifier apps on your phone or buy one of the many great Irish animal and plant guides.

11. Organic, compost and no dig: Don't use any sort of pesticides/herbcides/fungicides as these kill insects and important pollinators like bees. On top of this they can be detrimental to your own health. Fungi provide an underground network between plants and form relationships that help them absorb nutrients. Find a space to compost your garden waste. This will close the loop on your garden ecosystem and saves on bags of compost. Win win!

12. Spend less: By interfering less with your garden over the years you will save money. By not buying any chemical sprays you create a perpetual system that doesn't require new plants to replace plants that can't reseed or survive the winter. Minimising intervention means less time spent working and more time enjoying it. Share plants with friends, go to plant swaps and find local seed.

More resources

'Gardening for Biodiversity' by Juanita Browne - a great booklet provided by local County Councils

'Bee friendly plants for every season' by Friends of the Earth - a great guide to help you choose the right plants

'Home composting' by Mossy Earth - information on how to do it right

'How to build a pond' by Ulster Wildlife - an easy to follow guide

'Picture This' - a plant identifier app for your phone to find out the species in seconds