This week is Wild about Gardens Week. Although we are nearing the end of the gardening season (had the last of me 'tators up at the weekend) it is time to start thinking about the next growing season. This could mean getting some tidying up done, but are our gardens becoming to sterile? Are they overly managed and not very natural? When was the last time you saw a live hedgehog in your garden? My trap-camera picked one up in April, before then I would have said 15 years ago! Now, I and many others have written about the decline of the hedgehog. Many fear this decline could lead to a localised extinction in the UK. However, you can help!
Without producing an essay, here are 3 problems and potential solutions:
Problem 1: Gardens are fortresses that prevent wildlife from getting in.
Solution 1: Cut a 13 cm diameter hole near the base of your fence and you open your garden up to wildlife. Then pop over to the friendly folk at Hedgehog Street (http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/) and let them know that you are contributing to the hedgehog highway across Britain. By linking your garden with your neighbours we create a larger habitat that can better support hedgehog populations. On the day of writing there are 2500 "hedgehog holes" (http://bighedgehogmap.org/) recorded in the Big Hedgehog Map project.
Problem 2: Wildlife doesn't value asthetics.
Solution 2: Whilst a formal garden is often a joy to behold, so is a wildflower meadow. Why not dedicate a small corner of your garden to wildlife and watch what happens? Not only will this shave a bit of time off the tidying up/mowing. This also encourages more invertebrate food and, in turn, more insectivores like hedgehogs.
Problem 3: Pesticides killing the hedgehogs food
Solution 3: Ditch the unsightly blue slug pellets and research some organic alternatives. Beer traps have saved my lettuces from numerous slug onslaughts! But remember the prey (often our gardening pests) have to be in our gardens for the hedgehog to wander in and take care of some natural population control.
Check out the BBC Earth webpage for more information and visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for more information on saving our prickly garden visitor: http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/
One final note: If you plan to burn any garden material. please, please check it for hedgehogs. It may look like a pile of garden waste to us, but to a hedgehog it is a penthouse suite!
It's a sad truth but many once common animals are in trouble and desperately need help. Over the last 50 years, two thirds of the UK’s plant and animal species have declined in numbers, with some of our much loved garden visitors, such as house sparrows, starlings and frogs becoming increasingly endangered.