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How to Build an Urban Wild garden?

1. Introduction

Understanding Urban Wild Gardens

Urban Wild Gardens are a breath of fresh air amidst the concrete jungles we live in. They are pockets of greenery, carefully cultivated within urban spaces, that mimic the natural habitats of local wildlife. These gardens are not just about aesthetics; they are about creating a sanctuary for native flora and fauna, right in the heart of our cities.

The importance of creating Urban Wild Gardens cannot be overstated. As urbanisation continues to encroach upon natural habitats, these gardens serve as crucial lifelines for local wildlife. They provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds for a variety of species, from birds and bees to butterflies and hedgehogs.

Moreover, Urban Wild Gardens contribute to the overall wellbeing of urban dwellers. They offer a tranquil space for relaxation and recreation, improve air quality, and even boost mental and emotional health. In essence, they bring the serenity and diversity of the countryside into our urban environments.

For more information on the concept of Urban Wild Gardens, you can visit our previous blog post on the topic.

In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of creating your own Urban Wild Garden, transforming your urban space into a thriving ecosystem. Let’s get started!

2. Understanding Your Space

Assessing Your Urban Space

Before you start creating your Urban Wild Garden, it’s essential to understand the space you have at your disposal. The size, location, and current state of your urban space will significantly influence the design of your garden.

Start by measuring the area of your space. Whether it’s a small balcony, a rooftop, or a backyard, every space has potential. Even the tiniest of spaces can be transformed into a haven for wildlife with the right planning.

Next, consider the location of your space. Is it exposed to sunlight or mostly in the shade? Does it receive rainfall or is it sheltered? Which compass direction is it facing? These factors will determine the types of plants that will thrive in your garden.

Finally, assess the current state of your space. Does it already have some greenery or is it a blank canvas? Are there any existing features, like trees or ponds, that you can incorporate into your wild garden design?

Understanding Your Local Climate and Soil Type

The success of your Urban Wild Garden largely depends on choosing plants that are well-suited to your local climate and soil type.

Research the climate in your area. Is it mostly hot and dry, or cool and wet? Do you experience all four seasons, or is it mostly the same throughout the year? The answers to these questions will help you select plants that can thrive in your local weather conditions.

Similarly, understanding your soil type is crucial. Different plants prefer different soil conditions, from sandy or clayey to loamy or peaty, and acidic to alkaline. You can conduct a simple soil test using a kit available at most garden centres or online.

For more information on understanding your local climate and soil type, check out this useful guide from the Royal Horticultural Society.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the exciting part – choosing the elements of your Urban Wild Garden!


3. Planning Your Urban Wild Garden

The Importance of Planning and Designing

Before you start digging and planting, it’s crucial to have a clear plan for your Urban Wild Garden. Planning and designing your garden beforehand can save you time, money, and effort in the long run. It allows you to visualise your garden, identify potential challenges, and come up with solutions before you start the transformation.

Start by sketching a rough layout of your space. Note down the existing features and consider how you can incorporate them into your garden. Think about where you want to place new elements like flower beds, trees, or a pond.

Remember, your plan doesn’t have to be perfect or set in stone. It’s a flexible guide that you can adjust as you go along.

Creating a Garden Layout that Maximises Space and Biodiversity

When designing your Urban Wild Garden, your goal should be to maximise both space and biodiversity. Here are some tips to help you achieve this:

  1. Layering: Just like in a natural ecosystem, you can create layers or tiers in your garden. Have taller trees and shrubs in the back, shorter plants in the middle, and ground cover plants in the front. This not only maximises space but also creates diverse habitats for different species.
  2. Creating habitats: Consider incorporating features like a pond, a log pile, or a bird feeder to attract various wildlife species.
  3. Choosing native plants: Native plants that occur locally in the wild are fully adapted to your local climate and soil conditions, and they provide the best food and habitat for local wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts offer great resources on choosing native plants for your garden.
  4. Leaving some areas wild: Don’t aim for perfection. A bit of messiness is good in a wild garden. Leave some areas undisturbed to provide safe spots for wildlife.

In the next section, we’ll discuss how to choose the right plants for your Urban Wild Garden.

4. Choosing the Right Plants

The Importance of Native Plants

Choosing the right plants is a crucial step in creating an Urban Wild Garden. Native plants, those that naturally occur in your local area, are particularly important. They have evolved over thousands of years to thrive in your local climate and soil conditions, making them more resilient and easier to care for than non-native species.

More importantly, native plants play a vital role in supporting local wildlife. They provide food and habitat for a great variety of species, from insects to birds and mammals. Many wildlife species have evolved to rely on specific native plants for their survival. By planting native species, you’re helping to support and preserve your local biodiversity.

The Royal Horticultural Society provides a comprehensive list of native plants suitable for different types of gardens.

Plant Variety for Year-Round Support

To provide food and habitat for wildlife throughout the year, it’s important to have a variety of plants in your garden. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Flowering plants: Choose a variety of flowering plants that bloom at different times of the year. This ensures a continuous supply of nectar for pollinators like bees and butterflies.
  2. Shrubs and trees: Shrubs and trees provide shelter, nocturnal roosting and nesting sites for birds and insects. Some species also provide food in the form of berries, nuts, or seeds, as well as pollen and nectar in their flowers.
  3. Grasses and ferns: Grasses and ferns provide cover for small animals and insects. Some species also provide food for certain types of wildlife.
  4. Ground cover plants: Ground cover plants help prevent soil erosion and provide habitat for ground-dwelling creatures.

Remember, diversity is key in a wild garden. The more variety you have, the more wildlife you’ll attract. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to care for your Urban Wild Garden to ensure it thrives.


5. Creating Habitats for Wildlife

Creating a Variety of Habitats

In addition to planting a variety of native plants, creating different habitats within your Urban Wild Garden can attract a wider range of wildlife. Here are some tips:

  1. Ponds: Even a small pond can attract a variety of wildlife, from frogs and newts to dragonflies and birds. It doesn’t have to be large – a small water feature or even a bird bath can provide a valuable water source for wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts provide a helpful guide on how to build a wildlife-friendly pond.
  2. Log piles: A pile of logs, branches or rocks in a quiet corner of your garden can provide a habitat for a variety of creatures, from beetles and spiders to hedgehogs and fungi.
  3. Bird boxes: Installing bird boxes can provide nesting sites for birds. Different sizes and types of boxes will attract different species. The RSPB provides a guide on choosing and installing bird boxes.
  4. Wildflower meadows: A patch of wildflowers can provide a rich feeding ground for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Providing Food and Water for Wildlife

Providing food and water sources is another important aspect of creating an Urban Wild Garden. A bird feeder can attract a variety of bird species, while a butterfly feeder can provide nectar for butterflies when flowers are scarce.

Remember to keep bird feeders and bird baths clean to prevent the spread of diseases. The British Trust for Ornithology provides guidelines on feeding garden birds.

Water is essential for wildlife. A pond, bird bath, or even a shallow dish of water can provide a vital drinking and bathing source for birds and other wildlife.

In the next section, we’ll discuss how to maintain your Urban Wild Garden to ensure it continues to support wildlife year after year.

6. Sustainable Gardening Practices

The Importance of Organic and Sustainable Practices

In creating an Urban Wild Garden, it’s important to adopt organic and sustainable gardening practices. This not only benefits the wildlife in your garden, but also contributes to the overall health of our environment.


Composting is a great way to recycle organic waste from your kitchen and garden, turning it into a rich, nutritious compost that can be used to improve your soil. It’s a natural process that reduces the amount of waste going to landfill, increases the amount of carbon sequestered into the earth by your garden thus reducing your carbon footprint,, and provides a habitat for a variety of creatures. The Royal Horticultural Society provides a guide on how to make compost.

Water Conservation

Water is a precious resource, and there are many ways to conserve water in your garden. These include using a water butt to collect rainwater, watering plants in the early morning or late evening to reduce evaporation, and choosing plants that are adapted to your local climate and soil conditions. The Environment Agency provides more tips on water conservation.

Natural Pest Control

Instead of using chemical pesticides, consider natural methods of pest control. This can include encouraging beneficial insects and birds that eat pests, using barriers and traps, and choosing plants that are resistant to pests. The Wildlife Trusts provide information on natural pest control and other wildlife-friendly gardening tips.

By adopting these sustainable gardening practices, you can ensure that your Urban Wild Garden is not only a haven for wildlife, but also a positive contribution to the wider environment and indeed the planet. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to enjoy and learn from your garden.

7. Maintaining Your Urban Wild Garden

Supportive Maintenance for Wildlife

Maintaining an Urban Wild Garden involves practices that support the thriving wildlife. This includes watering (when required), seasonal pruning when certain plants may be taking over too much space, and ensuring the habitats you’ve created remain safe and comfortable for the creatures inhabiting them. The RSPB provides a wealth of information on maintaining a wildlife-friendly garden.

Balancing Wildness and Maintenance

In an urban setting, it’s important to strike a balance between allowing your garden to grow wild and ensuring it remains aesthetically pleasing and neighbour-friendly. This might involve some areas being more ‘tamed’ than others, creating clear boundaries between wild and more manicured areas, and being sensitive to what is happening on boundaries with your neighbours..


8. Engaging the Community

Involving Neighbours and the Local Community

Creating an Urban Wild Garden can be a community effort. You might consider organising a plant or seed swap, setting up a local gardening club, or even collaborating on a shared community garden. The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces provides resources for community groups involved in local green spaces.

Benefits of Community Involvement

Community involvement not only makes the task of creating and maintaining an Urban Wild Garden more manageable, but it also raises awareness of the importance of urban wildlife conservation. It can foster a sense of community spirit and shared responsibility for our environment.

By following these steps, you can transform your urban space into a thriving wild garden that benefits local wildlife and the wider community. In the next section, we’ll wrap up and look at the bigger picture of Urban Wild Gardening.

9. Conclusion

Recap of the Urban Wild Garden Creation Process

Creating an Urban Wild Garden is a rewarding journey that not only enhances your personal space but also contributes to local biodiversity. From understanding your space, planning your garden, choosing native plants, creating wildlife habitats, implementing sustainable practices, to ongoing maintenance, each step brings you closer to establishing a thriving ecosystem in your own backyard.

Invitation to Start Your Own Urban Wild Garden Project

We encourage you to embark on this exciting project. Remember, every small effort counts when it comes to supporting our urban wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program offers a wealth of resources to get you started. Happy gardening!

10. Further Reading

For those interested in delving deeper into the topic of Urban Wild Gardens, here are some resources that provide additional information and inspiration:

  1. The Wildlife Trusts: Gardening – A comprehensive guide on how to garden for wildlife, including tips on creating habitats and choosing the right plants.
  2. RSPB: Give Nature a Home in Your Garden – Practical advice from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on creating a wildlife-friendly garden.
  3. BBC Wildlife Magazine: How to Make a Wildlife Garden – An article with tips on creating a garden that attracts a variety of wildlife.
  4. Gardeners’ World: Wildlife Gardening – A collection of articles and videos on wildlife gardening from the popular BBC programme.
  5. Urban Wildlife Gardener – Our own blog, where we share our experiences and tips on creating an Urban Wild Garden.

Remember, the journey of creating an Urban Wild Garden is as rewarding as the destination. Enjoy the process and the new connections you’ll make with nature.

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Urban Wild Garden is the website and brand for the book, “Wilding the Urban Garden: An Illustrated Diary of Nature’s Year” by Gerry Maguire Thompson

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