Rewilding my urban garden

Like any self-respecting nature lover, the idea of wildlife gardening has always appealed to me. By nature, I want to do my bit to provide wildlife with a home and in doing so, conserve the various critters with whom I share my local area. A noble idea that many, thankfully, commit to, though one that has proven somewhat difficult for me. The fact I share my garden with younger siblings keen to utilise the limited space for sunbathing and play respectively, and a parent altogether fond of the stereotypical urban gravel/grass monoculture. Indeed, to date, my attempts to rewild our small patch earth have met with frowns and disapproval – especially when I took it upon myself to plant weeds along the margins of my mothers neat and tidy lawn. Not that I, personally, class teasel as a weed…

Well, fast forward a few months and I am making leeway. I have reached an agreement with my family where the back portion of our garden, a small 5 x 8 meter stretch of gravel (complete with a trampoline and a summerhouse I must add) is mine to do with as I please. Seizing upon this, and in an attempt to increase biodiversity around my home, I have made a few much-needed amendments. Among these: a small pond, a large flowering currant bush, a compost heap, a miniature rockery, and, as of today, a number of planters installed to act as a makeshift meadow. The latter planted with red valerian pilfered from an abanonded garden and a seed mix consisting of cornflower, knapweed, tansy and other lovelies. My initial efforts, while looking wonderfully messy, can be seen below.

While I will undoubtedly have to wait some time for the meadow to begin yielding fruit, I have, however, made a concerted effort to record the species venturing into my little wild space of late, and surprisingly, have reached a grand total of 71. This, of course, includes everything from common garden birds to colonising nettles and pondweed but also, some real gems. Common frogs have spawned in the pond this year, with a grand total of 12 adults observed on one day during the Spring. With these, smooth newts have also appeared and, perhaps more surprisingly, we also appear to have a resident toad. The latter taking a particular shine my younger brothers play house where, for the second consecutive day, he was photographed hiding amid the pillows. The small crack in the outside panels which allows slugs and woodlice entry (much to the horror of my brother) also providing the amphibian with an entry route should he find himself seeking comfort.

One of the greatest increases observed thus far in the garden has come from the invertebrates: the pond harbouring no end of common water slaters, pond skaters and vivid sun hoverflies, but also (as of today) my first large red damselflies – a pair seen copulating on a marigold leaf earlier this morning. The nearby flowering blackcurrant has also proven successful; providing pollen to visiting tree, white-tailed and garden bumblebees in addition to the odd peacock and red admiral butterflies. While speaking of butterflies, a fabulous painted lady was also observed today making the most of the aforementioned valerians. A nice follow-up to last years visiting hummingbird hawk-moth.

As expected, the addition of a compost heap too has worked wonders, particularly for snails: with white-lipped, strawberry and garden snails quick to colonise – alongside myriad slugs, millipedes and woodlice. Though more impressive is the addition of some new mammals to the garden list. With wood mouse and hedgehog new this year – both captured on a camera placed out to document the nocturnal inhabitants of the lawn. Alongside these, our fox maintains his usual pattern of visitation and pipistrelle bats continue to hawk over the lawn by night. Doubtless in search of moths.

Speaking of moths: a quick sweep with a net last night revealed a number of species – brimstone, garden carpet, light brown apple moth and silver ground carpet to name but a few – and with my new moth trap set for delivery tomorrow, the number of nocturnal beasties uncovered here looks set to increase markedly. The trap sure to aid in my efforts to document the wonders lying just outside of my unassuming front door. I will, of course, be blogging quite frequently about developments in the garden; as more species arrive and I spend an increasing amount of watching wildlife at home, as opposed to chasing it around far-flung areas of the country. Stay tuned, I hope I will have more to discuss in a short while.


  1. Zinzi says:

    The garden looks great! Which moth trap have you gone for? I really want to add one to my kit at some point!

    1. James Common says:

      Hi, I’ve taken a gamble on a “safari style” moth trap – basically a mains powered heath trap that folders flat. I did, however, have a cheaper Heath trap before it broke, and was quite pleased with that. Though, if you do have the funds, a larger trap is always better! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Well done – it looks like you’ve already made some great gains . Red Valerian is a great plant for butterflies – I’s hate to be without ours.

  3. Camilla says:

    Hurrah for such a wonderful article!

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