Biodiversity loss, largely thanks to us, is a global crisis which we can all help mitigate, even in small gardens. What we all do is critically important. It’s estimated that 55% of us globally live in urban areas just now but this will rise to 92% by the end of the century as development swallows up more of our countryside.

Over the next fortnight I’ll suggest some ways to help even with very little space. I’ll start with what we could realistically expect to see in the garden and next week I’ll look at some ways to achieve it.

A vibrant living garden with bees, butterflies, birds and hedgehogs can be as small as a postage stamp provided it has plenty plants, shrubs, a compost bin and is managed in a relaxed way.

No boring scalped or deadly plastic lawns surrounded by a sad little line of shrubs and no pesticides to kill off the life we want.

Thoughtful planting attracts the insect life we enjoy and this food supply together with good shelter for nests brings the birds and small mammals we love.

The bird species in our gardens are determined by where we live but many of our common bird populations have greatly declined in recent years. In 1995, you could see starlings in 82% of UK gardens but this had declined to 55% last year. In 2003, you’d see an average of 6 starlings in any garden, but only 4.4 now.

Things are thankfully a bit better for house sparrows. Although in England there was a huge 69% decline between 1977 and 2019, numbers slightly increased in this country. But the overall picture shows numbers falling off in larger towns and cities, so small gardens have an important part to play in keeping numbers up.

And urban gardeners are playing their part with our delightful slug-consuming hedgehogs. And this is just as well.

Records show a 30-75% decline in their rural population this century, while numbers in urban and suburban areas are gradually recovering. Safe nesting shelters, a ready food supply and easy access to neighbours’ gardens are just the ticket.

Next week I’ll look at the soil and plants.

Plant of the week

Sweet Williams, Dianthus barbatus, produce large flower heads of strongly scented flowers in pink, purple, white and red. Some varieties have contrasting “eyes”, either nearly black or with very frilly edges to their petals. They are lovely as cut flowers.

These evergreen plants are often grown as biennials but are really short lived perennials. They grow well in pots as they need fairly fertile, well drained soil and a sunny position.

Saving seed is easy, though the resulting plants will not be identical to their parent. Just leave one or two flower heads to set seed and allow this to ripen, cut off the whole stem and pop it in a paper bag. Let the black, angular seeds fall out and store in a cool, dry place.

I sow seed in trays in June and prick out into small pots for planting out in the autumn.

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