How to create a wildlife haven in your garden

Matt Watson created an urban wildlife haven in his garden in Southsea
Matt Watson created an urban wildlife haven in his garden in Southsea

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Matt Watson, a member of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, explains how he created a garden for wildlife to flourish

About a fifth of the land in our towns and cities is gardens. Not only do gardens prevent flooding, keep our air clean, and make us healthier and happier – but they are great opportunities for us to create a network of green spaces for wildlife right in the heart of our communities.

We moved into our Southsea terraced house in spring 2010. It was the first time we’d had a garden and even though it was almost entirely concrete, we were pleased to have a space we could put our stamp on and create a home for wildlife.

Stretching east to west meant the garden got lots of sun, so in the first summer we put in a bee corner with pots and plants from friends.

We sought more inspiration from a wildlife trust gardening course and from its website. Having volunteered for the trust, my wife knew about its Wildlife Gardening Award scheme, so we also used the award checklist to help us focus on things that would support a whole range of wildlife.

The first big job was to remove the paving slabs. We recycled as much as possible by using some of the slabs to build a raised bed and I also put a path down.

In spring 2011, the back of the garden became our ‘wild area’. We planted spring bulbs, forget-me-nots, cowslips and sweet peas.

Under the shade of the southern wall we planted snowdrops, narcissus and violets to provide early season nectar.

While our planting was a little over-exuberant, it turned out beautifully and these small changes made an incredible difference.

We saw a huge increase in the number and type of insects in the garden, from moths and butterflies to ladybirds and spiders.

In autumn 2011 we decided there was still too much concrete so we hired a concrete breaker.

We reclaimed another few metres for the lawn and installed an attractive patio on a porous base of recycled glass to allow water to soak through to the ground.

In 2012 we planted our wildflower meadow. People say that growing one from seed is difficult, and they’re not wrong. The lawn has been a bit of a labour of love, but worth it.

We’re really pleased with how our garden looks. We have plans for a larger shed with a green roof and a small pond.

In our experience, having limited garden space doesn’t have to be a barrier to creating an urban wildlife haven.

To find out more about how the trust can help you with your garden, go to hiwwt.org.uk/wildlife-gardening.