(Above) Kate Bradbury © Gardeners' World Magazine
Introducing Kate Bradbury, one of our new Make Wildlife Welcome campaign heroes and author of The Wildlife Gardener...
Kate is an RHS qualified gardener and has always gardened with wildlife in mind. She spent five years as staff writer for Gardeners' World magazine, during which time she edited their wildlife gardening pages. She now edits Wild London magazine, and writes regularly for the Guardian and various magazines including The Gardener, BBC Wildlife, Amateur Gardening, The English Garden and Gardeners' World. She can occasionally be heard talking about wildlife gardening on the BBC's Gardeners' Question Time. She is also the author of the wonderful book The Wildlife Gardener - Creating a Haven for Birds, Bees and Butterflies.
We wanted to dig a bit deeper into Kate's love of wildlife gardening, here's what she told us...
Why did you get into wildlife gardening? What was your inspiration?
Kate: I have always been a gardener, from a very young age, and I've always been interested in wildlife. But the driving force was finding a bumblebee nest in an old duvet in a friend's shared house. Her landlord insisted that we get rid of it and so I contacted the very new Bumblebee Conservation Trust and found out how to move the nest safely. Operation Bumblebee took place at midnight on a Wednesday one balmy July in 2006. Two of us donned protective clothing and cut the nest out of the duvet, then popped it into an old shoe box lined with grass and moss. We then drove it to my allotment. From that moment I didn't get anything done on the allotment, I simply visited to watch the bees. I was hooked. I loved them and wanted to help them, so I started reading about bumblebees and how to garden for bumblebees, and the rest is history!
What's your best wildlife gardening achievement?
Kate: Digging a pond for my mum and finding diving beetles and dragonfly larvae in it on the first pond dip less than a year later. And then frogspawn the following spring.
Gardening is good for wildlife, but what about people? For people who have never dabbled in wildlife gardening before, why should they start and what will they get from it?
Kate: Because it makes you happy. Yes, gardening is good exercise and creating habitats for wildlife is extremely important. But seeing the first bee visit a flower you planted, seeing birds use your garden to raise their young or watching a hedgehog snuffling around your borders looking for food? it's priceless.
Make Wildlife Welcome is all about doing something extra for wildlife, with whatever outside space is available to you. Tell us about some of your most creative ideas to make wildlife welcome in the unlikeliest of places.
Kate: My earliest dabble with wildlife gardening was when I was living in a high-rise flat in central Manchester, after I left university. I had only a balcony, but I planted it up as best I could with clematis, spring bulbs, and a variety of herbs and other edible plants. I had a mini compost heap and I also hung a bird feeder. It took a while for the birds to come but I didn't give up, and soon I was woken every morning by the sound of greenfinches and blue tits squabbling over sunflower hearts. My city centre balcony was a little wildlife oasis in an otherwise concrete jungle.
The 2013 State of Nature Report states that 60% of UK species are in decline. We're suggesting that the 15 million gardens in the UK can help tip the balance if we use them wisely. But this is a huge challenge. How can one person with a small garden really believe that they can do something to help?
Kate: Our gardens collectively take up more space than all of Britain's nature reserves. But we need to connect them. Simply by enabling hedgehogs to pass under fences, digging a pond or growing trees and shrubs to create corridors for birds, and flowers for bees and other pollinators, we can help create local habitats for wildlife and help them to expand their ranges and move more freely among our towns, cities and the countryside. We don't need to do everything in our tiny space, but if everyone plants one tree or builds one pond or grows one patch of flowers, together we can create a network of wildlife habitats for some of our most precious species.
What's the best and most useful wildlife gardening tip you have?
Kate: Get to know your garden wildlife. Learn to identify species, find out what lives where and who eats what, and tailor your garden accordingly. It's much better for the wildlife, and much more fun for you, too.
Why should people join the campaign to Make Wildlife Welcome?
Kate: Because wildlife is brilliant! The Make Wildlife Welcome campaign is a fantastic campaign to get behind. Dorset wildlife needs a variety of different garden habitats and by getting together to help local species we can achieve a great deal for a host of species.
Would you like to become one of our Make Wildlife Welcome heroes and join us to help garden wildlife?
We'd love you to be part of our campaign to make wildlife welcome in garden's throughout Dorset. There's a special pack of goodies for non-members (and a members only starter pack) plus we'll be providing tips to help you realise your wildlife gardening dreams. Find out more here