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Spring garden tips for helping wildlife

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29 Mar 2022

Spring has sprung! And now – as we welcome the dawn chorus and the sight of early blooms into our parks and gardens – is the perfect time to get to work in the garden, to give nature a helping hand.

But before you stick that spade in the ground, or reach for the lawn mower, it’s important to take a moment to make a plan for your outdoor space – avoiding the temptation to go full steam ahead into a deep spring clean, which could end up doing more harm than good.

Here, Ecotricity Principal Ecologist Simon Pickering, shares his tips for making your garden a haven for wildlife this spring.

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To mow, or not to mow?

First is deciding what to do about your lawn or other grassy spaces – if anything at all.

With No Mow May just round the corner, it’s the perfect time to speak to your household about where you can make space for nature, by leaving lawns and grassy spaces – and nectar-rich lawn flowers like dandelions, white clover, selfheal and daisies – unmown.

This simple act is really important for the first-of-the-year’s bumblebees and other pollinating insects, giving them a vital early energy boost while they look for a suitable nest site. Last year, Plantlife’s citizen science research found lawns cut once every four weeks had the highest amount of flowers and nectar sugar, while larger areas of unmown grass were more species-rich, producing nectar for a wider range of pollinators.

no mow may bee red clover

Help nesting bees…

As we move into milder months, now’s also a good time to put out a bee hotel out for solitary bees like the common red mason bee, or leaf-cutting bees – alongside honeybees, they’re a vital pollinator for crops like oilseed rape, apples, and tomatoes.

You can buy a bee hotel or make one of your own simply by drilling holes into a dry log and leaving it in your garden. Many species of solitary bees like sandy, south-facing soils, so you can also consider clearing a space for them now, if you have this soil type in your garden.

Queen bumblebees also start searching for nesting holes at this time of year. Though they’ve a natural preference for mouseholes, it’s worth putting out a bespoke bumble bee nesting box, with a little hole in it, to help them on their way.

Got a bee hotel from last year? Keep an eye out for any activity at its entrance. If your bee hotel is already occupied, you might notice the males hatching out first, and waiting around for the females to follow.

bee hotel

…And get in quick with your bird box

You may have noticed more and more birds appearing as they begin investigating potential nest holes. If you’ve not done so already, there’s still time to clear out any existing bird boxes and put up extra ones if you’ve a bigger space to cover.


If you live in a house, you can also consider fixing a specially-designed swift nest box high up beneath your eaves. Ideally this needs to be at least five metres above the ground, on a north facing location out of direct sunlight, with a clear flight path.

Sadly, swifts are now on the UK Red List of conservation concern, and while affixing a swift box won’t guarantee they’ll take to it, playing taped calls of other swifts during their May-July breeding season can up the odds, says the RSPB.

And there’s no need to put away your bird feeder just yet, though birds are starting to seek out more natural sources of food in their surroundings. Just make sure your bird feeders are clean to stop diseases spreading.

Seeds and stingers

Planting poppies and other annual and native wildflowers, and garden flowers like sweet william, nasturtium and clematis, are another way to grow invaluable food for Britain’s pollinators, while brightening up your garden’s borders. You can sow your wildflower seeds by hand, and rake them in lightly during March and April, especially if you’re working with heavy soils.

And if you’ve got stinging nettles in your garden, it’s worth keeping a patch growing, or even rehoming them to a dedicated pot, as they’re great food for small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral and comma butterfly caterpillars.

Grow a 3D garden

Gardens are three-dimensional spaces – and casting fresh eyes over all the elements of your garden can be a game-changer for inviting and supporting wildlife in spring and seasons to follow.

Growing upwards and cultivating trees and shrubs offers all-important cover for insects and birds. Wall trellises are also great for encouraging sweet, pollen-producing climbers like honeysuckle, a favourite of bees, butterflies and moths.

You can boost your garden’s biodiversity still-further by adding a pond (though autumn/winter is best for this activity). You’ll be surprised at how quickly creatures like insects and amphibians will find it, says the RHS.

But before you get started on any planting, make sure you’re stocking up on composts that are peat and pesticides-free. The UK’s peat bogs are not only vital homes for wildlife, but mining peat releases carbon into the atmosphere. Pesticides are deadly to bees and other crucial pollinators – find out how to petition the government against their latest use, here.

Swap your SIM to save nature

Our green mobile phone network, Ecotalk + RSPB, is dedicated to saving wildlife in Britain – it uses 100% of its profits to buy back land for nature.

Switch your SIM

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