Rewilding is an important and growing phenomenon throughout much of the world. It is essentially taking areas of land and enabling them to become better habitats for native animal and plant species. As this usually increases the amount of trees and vegetation it is also excellent for combating climate change.

Gardens in the UK cover around 60% of urban land with a total area of over 4000km2…. about the size of Suffolk! With almost 2/3 of UK species in decline they can play a vital role in increasing biodiversity.

Your very own garden could become its own mini nature reserve, hopefully one of a diverse mosaic of biodiversity throughout the country.

Your own mini nature reserve

A long term study by Jenny Owen found that over 2500 animal species could inhabit a suburban garden. It was also discovered that lawns which were allowed to grow longer could include over 150 plant species. Even uncommon native species can and do inhabit our gardens e.g. Stag Beetles and Great Crested Newts.

So, is rewilding simply sitting back and letting nature have free rein in your garden? This could work, especially in a really large garden, but may not be suitable for most situations. Some experts suggest most gardens will become dominated by nettles or brambles if left to their own devices.

Brambles taking over a garden
Brambles taking over an untended garden

Often the natural seedbank, soil composition and other important aspects of the average garden needs our help in order to overcome the changes human have previously made to it.

People who use the garden have different needs

Gardens often have to fulfil a role as multi-use spaces. People and animals may play in them. They may be utilized to produce fruit, vegetables and flowers. Use as an outdoor cooking or eating space may be important. Elegant garden design and year round interest of plants, flowers and foliage may be desirable. Space and proximity to buildings may preclude growing native trees such as oak or beech to anything approaching maturity.

For all of these reasons and more, only using native plant species may be very difficult.

But do not despair. Biodiversity in Urban Gardens (BUGS) studies have found that complex garden habitats with a mixture of native and non-native plant species provide an extremely rich and diverse habitat. They contain excellent sources of pollen and nectar, a rich variety of food sources for herbivores and a wide range of nesting sites and shelters for hibernation. In many cases non-native species were more popular than native ones.

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