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For Schools ... Additional Information - building wildlife gardens in UK / Ireland and similar regions


UK and Ireland Menu

PART 1 - Introduction - your garden and how to help bring back wildlife
PART 2 - Pond life & how to make a wildlife pond
PART 3 - Mammals, birds, plants and insects - environment and care
PART 4 - Reduce food miles and grow your own fruit and veg
you are here> Further information for Schools

Make a wildlife garden in your school grounds!

Firstly, you need to know what type of soil you have where you are building your wildlife area.
Is it sandy or clay soil - or acidic, neutral or alkaline soil?
For example London can be a mix of clay and chalk, depending on the area.
When you know this it's then easier to choose the relevant types of flowers, shrubs and grasses.

Here you'll find some examples and ideas for you to experiment with:

First ... a Golden rule:

"Planting a wild garden" is a contradiction in terms! A natural wild landscape is created over many years as plants and trees suitable for the soil and habitat slowly find their own "roots".
So when you plant a wild garden, some species may grow whilst others won't. In which case it's wise not to spend too much money at garden centres buying species that may not do well in a wild garden which is eventually going to find its own balance.
You should mainly plant species that are native to your region to begin with and then after time plant species which are known to compliment native species, which in turn attracts a healthy variety of insects and fauna. Over a year or so, you'll notice which species thrive and which don't. However, if one type of species begins to take over too much then cut it back a little and plant something else next to it ... a plant or shrub that might be strong enough to withstand its overactive neighbour.

Types of Plants

In cities such as London, Buddleia grows commonly on building sites and overgrown areas. Butterflies love Buddleia. So make sure you plant these quick growing shrubs around your garden (You can easily take cuttings from other Buddleias right now - Cuttings of around 12cm are best - dip them in a rooting compound and plant in pots until they root. Then plant them in the garden around late winter. Buddleias prefer light soil or chalky loam.
Blackberry bushes are another easy but essential addition, as many birds will feast on these in the late summer ... and they are easy to plant. If you find a blackberry bush, you'll notice that some stems root themselves into the ground (this is how they normally spread). So you can dig up just one or two of these rooted stems and plant them around the border of your garden. Hopefully your borders will be hedgerows rather than fences. Hedgerows are important habitats for wildlife and an evergreen mix provides winter shelter for them.
Other recommended hedging plants are holly, beech, hazel (squirrels love these), berberis, buckthorn, goat willow, dog rose, alder, oak and hawthorn.
As you are most likely going to have a wildlife pond. It's very important that you get grass to grow around the pond as quickly as you can. (This is for your dragonfly lava to climb up and change into dragonflies!) And while you are sowing the grass, try sprinkling a packet of wild flower and poppy seeds in the mix. Some might not grow, but others will (next year). This again depends on the soil type. Around the edges on earthy areas plant some wild flower seeds like bluebell, wild marjoram, lady's smock, bird's foot trefoil, vetch, hawkweed, wild white clover, broom, wild cornflower, hound's tongue and common knapweed.
Add blocks of colourful shrubs in the background and surroundings - plants like Lavender and Spanish Gorse. These attract a diversity of insects.
To encourage wild birds, you can plant nectar-rich wild flowers like species of Sedum, Legumes and Violas.
Blue tits, Blackbirds and visiting Warblers require shrubs that are home to caterpillars and grubs. Sparrows and Finches eat seeds of Golden alder and Campion. To try and encourage the ever declining sparrow population by making sure you have plenty of tall shubs and hedging trees. Sparrows like to congregate amongst these, especially if they are near feeding areas.

Wildlife Hideaways

Get some large tree logs and pile up randomly in a shady corner of the garden (and one or two around the pond). Make sure the logs still have the bark on). Plant a fern next to the wood pile and also some evergreen ivy. Small animals will love these habitats, like hedgehogs, toads and even the occasional woodmouse if also near hedgerows. You should allow nettles and weeds to take over areas of your garden as they will provide shelter and privacy for small creatures.


We can't stress enough how important hedges and hedgerows are to wildlife. They are home to a huge diversity of animals, birds and insects.
If you have to trim hedges then only do so outside of the nesting season (UK nesting season is between beginning of March and end of September). Don't tidy up underneath hedges. The ground coverage provides habitats for small creatures and insects - and decaying vegetation nourishes the soil to enable healthy shrub regeneration. Some of our rarest wildlife has its home in our hedgerows, like the dormouse for example. Rare butterflies also lay their eggs in hedges. So always treat hedges with the greatest respect.

Seeds for food and planting

After flowers have bloomed it's very important that you leave the seedheads (the flower heads) alone. Don't cut these off as they provide important food for wildlife. Greenfinches are often seen pecking at the seeds in autumn. These will also be home for various insects too. So also look out for shrubs like Buckwheat, Salvia, Artemisia, Toyon, Ceanothus, Malacothamnus, Currants, Lupines, Rhamnus, Manzanita, Mahonia, Trichostema etc.
Sunflowers are a great seed source too for natural foraging, so plant plenty of them for colour and their food source. To save young sunflowers from slugs, plant them first in pots then transfer to the earth when around 20cm high - cut the top and base off clear large mineral water bottles and place over the planted sunflowers. This will stop slugs from eating them up. (Remember, NEVER use any kind of slug pellet - slugs are a natural food source for hedgehogs etc.)

Other recommended garden plants

Besides buddleia, there are Michaelmass Daisies, Sweet William, Hostas, Marigolds, Pyracantha, ornamental grasses (in sunny spots) Scabious, Snowberry, Wild irises, Cotoneaster, Ice plant, Phlox, and as mentioned, Sunflowers. Wildlife are most attracted to shrubs that have small fruits with seeds and berries.

Woodland Area

If you have some trees in your wildlife area, then make the most of the area by helping it to develop into a wildlife friendly woodland with rregular groups of shrubs and open glades with long grass. Plant evening primrose, foxgloves, various lilies, violets, periwinkles, wood amenones, bluebells, ferns, crocuses and daffodils. Don't clear up fallen leaves ... Just let the woodland find its own balance. Of course, you should use the trees to mount more bird boxes.

Note: Avoid planting fast growing conifers. However, if you celebrate Christmas, ask your parents to buy potted Christmas trees with roots. Keep them very well watered and when Christmas is over, bring them to school and plant them in your woodland area ... keeping them well watered. Over years they will help create a varied woodland habitat (and you'll be saving a tree at the same time!)

Homes and Furnishings for your Wildlife

A bird bath is a must. Feather cleaning is essential for all birds. And water near their food source will ensure that your wildlife will have plenty to drink. Use rainwater whenever you can - and always keep it clean of bird poo. Change the water every day and scrub the bath. (Keep a washing-up brush at hand.) Daily cleaning of the bird bath is very important to help prevent birds passing on diseases to others bathing or drinking from the same bowl.
A bird table, hanging peanut dispensers and half coconuts hanging from trees provide a great food and energy source.
Although we are trying to achieve a naturally balanced garden to also provide food for birds, it's a sad fact that there is very little natural food to keep our wild bird and animal population alive. Humans have destroyed so much of their feeding habitat, so it's up to us to provide what's left of our diminishing garden birds with regular food.
Remember, never give birds bread. If the parent birds pick bread up to feed their young it can choke the babies and they will die. Wild birdseed, crushed peanuts, and chopped up native fruit (apples and pears etc) are all fine. A bird table is always welcoming and particularly a hanging basket, supporting a large flat plate or pot base around 30cm diameter. Hang this from the branch of a tree and fill it with wild birdseed. Wrap stems with leaves (like fir tree cuttings) around the basket cords. This gives an impression that the food table is a natural part of the tree and the birds find this most comforting. Finches, Robins and Sparrows will soon be helping themselves.
Starlings generally like food that's thrown on the ground but they will have a go at hanging food sources as well. Nuthatches, Dunnocks, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Green-finches and Woodpeckers might become regular visitors. The more you can hang bird food away from the ground the better. This will allow other birds a chance to feed away from Magpies, who unfortunately tend to frighten other birds away.

Nesting boxes for hedgehogs, birds and bats placed around your wildlife garden may encourage them to take up residence. Place bird and bat boxes at least 8 metres apart from each other and preferably south facing. Attach them to trees with natural foliage cover whenever you can - and far out of reach from cats. Bat boxes should be put up has high as possible. Bird boxes are usually sited around 2.5 metres or higher from the ground, but this depends on the bird species (Information on the bird box will often explain this). Hedgehog boxes should be sited in quiet spots such as your log pile and hidden by ground covering plants. Site bat boxes as high up a tree as you can ... at least three metres.
It may be easier to buy ready-made boxes, however, instruction sheets to make your own boxes, as well as ready made boxes are available from these organisations:

British Hedgehog Preservation Society -
Bat Conservation Trust -
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds -

Bee boxes are an absolute must for any wildlife garden. Bees are declining at an alarming rate and so they need all the help we can give them. Bees are vital for plant pollination, and without them our ecosystems would collapse. Bee boxes are becoming more common to buy ready made, but they are very easy to make yourself.
Here's a nice and easy information sheet on how to make a Bee Box. (Opens a new window.)

Linking wildlife habitats across your wildlife garden

Make sure that all of the wildlife areas in your garden are accessible to animals without being separated by vast patches of mowed grass and concrete etc. All of your wildlife areas should connect with each other so that the animals can safely move between each section. Instead of short grass, plant wildlife meadows and create small 30cm wide paths which meander through them. This allows wildlife to move safely between each area, and also allows you to walk amongst the wildlife habitats without causing damage.

More about ponds and their surroundings

Choose an area which has around half sun and half dappled sunlight and not too close to trees. (But a weeping willow reasonably close by will be a nice touch). Never build a pond next to a sycamore tree. Make sure that the pond slopes to allow Hedgehogs and other small wildlife ways to get out if they fall in. Recommended water plants are Bullrushes, a small Water Lily, Water Milfoil, Water Iris and Water Stalwart. The bog garden, which should extend from the pond could be populated by reeds and Creeping Jenny, Cuckoo Flower, Marsh Marigolds, Ragged Robin, Bog Pimpernel, Meadowsweet, Loosestrifes and Cotton Grass. Rocky areas and log piles around the ponds can provide shelter for toads, newts and frog (frogs will also bury themselves deep in long grass, so never trample around on the long grassy areas). Wild Thyme, Aubretia, Sempervivum, Geraniums, Sedums and Ivies all make good rock plants. Feeding Foxes and Badgers.
Ask your teacher if it's possible to leave any school dinner leftovers (not pork or fish bones) for feeding foxes and badgers. You'll need a large plastic container with a sealing lid so you can keep the leftovers somewhere suitable until the end of the day. Then at the end of school put the leftovers on a clear space in the wild garden. In the evening hungry foxes and possibly badgers will come and take it for themselves and their cubs.

This extra info should help you get things going ... but if you want more detailed information about how to build a wildlife pond and to create wildlife habitats please click here

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you "import" any species into your new wildlife garden from other sources first read A Note about Wildlife Protection in your Country on the introduction page.

Important Information for Teachers

We strongly advise schools and colleges undertaking wildlife projects to include fruit and vegetable plots as part of their wildlife garden planning. It is very important that young people learn to associate the "locally grown" trend as integeral to "re-naturing" or the development of natural eco-systems. This means understanding how flora and fauna of a wildlife garden can coexist with organic crops with positive results.
Educating the way our next generation of consumers access food, based on regional (local) production instead of being brought in from long-haul destinations should be included in this educational program. Explain to your students how food / product miles - including packaging - causes extensive Co2 emissions and provide examples.

Copyright John O'Donnell ( and
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UK and Ireland Menu

PART 1 - Introduction - your garden and how to help bring back wildlife
PART 2 - Pond life & how to make a wildlife pond
PART 3 - Mammals, birds, plants and insects - environment and care
PART 4 - Reduce food miles and grow your own fruit and veg
you are here> Further information for Schools

More Related Areas

Sharing This Planet With The Animals - a useful guide to help you live side by side with your animal friends.

UK and Ireland may also wish to visit the Wildlife Files section here at VeggieGlobal for more advice about wildlife friendly gardens.

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