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Create a haven for wildlife – new book shows you how to care for wildlife

A new booklet to help people in Wicklow look after wildlife in their gardens, no matter how big or small, has been launched. It was produced by Local Authority Heritage Officers across Ireland, with help from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Heritage Council.

Taking a very practical approach, the book details projects to help wildlife of all kinds under a range of headings, with tasks suitable for everyone from the total beginner to the more ambitious DIY enthusiast. With clear instructions and step-by-step drawings by illustrator Barry Reynolds, the guide offers the gardener lots of options to help our biodiversity.

Deirdre Burns, Heritage Officer with Wicklow County Council, said: “We are all becoming much more conscious of nature on our doorstep and more people than ever are taking an interest in the birds, bees and bugs that are visiting their gardens. County Wicklow is known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’ and we hope that this little guide will help anyone who has the time and interest now to make their garden a haven for wildlife.”

With increasing agricultural intensification, gardens in many areas can be an oasis for wildlife, and with small changes we can make them even better. The guide outlines actions that can be taken to improve gardens for birds, bees, butterflies, bats and more, and the good news is many of the steps that can be taken are really easy.

Just leaving an “untidy” corner of your garden for nature, leaving roadside verges to grow naturally or allowing some of the gold star plants for biodiversity – dandelion, willow, bramble, clover, ivy to thrive in a small patch of your garden can reap huge dividends for wildlife.

Author of the guide, Juanita Browne, said: “I hope that this simple guide to gardening with biodiversity in mind will help all of us to create gardens that are more wildlife-friendly. Gardening for biodiversity doesn’t equate to letting your garden go wild, but simply doing things a little differently. For instance, when choosing plants to buy in a garden centre, perhaps you could choose plants that have insects on their flowers. Or you could create a wildflower strip around your lawn where dandelions, daisies, clover and other wildflowers are allowed to grow. These small changes can bring huge benefits for biodiversity”.

For the more adventurous the book contains step-by-step guidance on how to build a bird bath, create a log pile for hedgehogs and mini beasts, and how to install a pond or bog garden. With an estimated 2m gardens in this country, action by just some of those gardeners could make a huge difference for our native wildlife.

But it won’t just benefit the biodiversity. There is increasing evidence that time spent in nature is good for our own mental health and well-being too. As more of us spend time closer to home, regular contact with the natural world has become ever more important. A 2016 World Health Organisation review found that urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds, and gardens, can promote mental and physical health, and reduce morbidity and mortality in urban residents by providing psychological relaxation and stress alleviation, stimulating social cohesion, supporting physical activity, and reducing exposure to air pollutants, noise and excessive heat.[i]

“Gardening for Biodiversity”, funded by the Department for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as part of an initiative to encourage projects under the National Biodiversity Action Plan, is available to download for free at www.wicklow.ie /heritage or free hard copies can be ordered by e mailing dburns@wicklowcoco.ie  

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