Climate change is already impacting nature in Scotland with 49% of species declining in numbers. By protecting nature in our everyday lives, we can recover what we have lost and store up to 30% of the necessary emissions globally, helping combat climate change.
Many of us have spent more time outdoors during lockdown, taking advantage of the mental and physical health benefits of spending time in nature. We can give back by caring more for the natural world – and that change starts at home. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, here’s how you can make your space nature-friendly throughout the seasons.
As the season of new beginnings, Spring is the perfect time to reimagine your garden.
Aside from being beautiful, spring flowers are a valuable resource for all sorts of pollinators. Plan ahead and plant bluebells or snowdrops at the start of the season to be ready and flowering by March.
Hold off on cutting your grass until mid-April to give bees and other pollinators a chance to feast on uncut dandelions.
Provide a splash of blue among the green! Frogs, toads and newts all come out of hibernation in the spring and look for new places to settle. By setting up a pond in your garden you give them a safe space to live and breed, and attract a variety of other wildlife – birds, dragonflies, pond skaters and more. Ponds don’t need to be complicated; even an old washing up bowl will do. Just make sure to add a stepping-stone or shelf so animals like hedgehogs can climb out when they visit to drink.
Did you know that 83% of the total carbon locked in our soil is found in our peatlands? Protect this vital resource by only using peat-free products in your garden – there are plenty of alternatives out there.
Be mindful of nesting birds when pruning bushes; if you spot a bird’s nest, try to leave the plant alone as much as possible. Leaving nest-building debris nearby and setting up feeders will give your new residents the best start to the year. Avoid bread, peanuts and fat as these can be a choking hazard for baby birds; try bird seed, meal worms or soft fruit instead.
The year is in full bloom, and many of us are out enjoying the warm weather. Keep nature in mind when relaxing in your outside space.
Encourage butterflies by leaving a strip of your lawn unmowed and scattering wildflower seeds. This will also provide shelter for wildlife to move undisturbed through towns and cities, which is particularly important as our climate changes.
Hedgerows offer a habitat for wildlife that fences can never match. Plant flowering trees and shrubs like hazel, willow and hawthorn to divide your garden while providing sheltered access for wildlife.
Plants and seeds can be expensive, but many pollinator friendly species can be grown from cuttings. Connect with your neighbours and fellow gardeners to share plants and tips on bringing your garden to life.
Weeds may have a bad reputation but many provide an important source of food for all types of pollinators. Some weeds, like dandelions, can be kept in your garden without overwhelming your other plants.
Be a lazy gardener! Rather than tidying up things like seed heads and dead leaves (both of which are themselves habitats for wildlife), let them degrade naturally over time.
Amidst the warm colours and frosty nights, take time to think of your garden’s resources as the animals stock up for hibernation.
As the last time to plant before the weather gets too cold, now is your chance to plant bulbs and hedgerow starters ready for the insects and mammals coming out of hibernation in the spring.
If you have a compost heap, try and keep it undisturbed until at least springtime – they are warm spots where many creatures hibernate and take shelter.
Autumn is a great time for maintenance. Clean out your ponds and bird feeders and float tennis balls on bodies of water to prevent them from freezing over. Where possible, create a regular feeding schedule for your bird feeders so birds can reliably stock up on nutrients.
If you have fruit trees, rather than waste the fruits of your labour, let animals do the clearing by leaving your overripe fruit for their enjoyment. You can also leave food scraps from fruit and vegetables in your garden for badgers, foxes and birds. It is best to cut the fruit in half and leave it in the grass or spiked on a tree branch (if there are cats or dogs around, avoid grapes and dried fruit, as they can cause them harm).
Autumn is a fantastic time to introduce children to nature. Try a nature hunt, collect leaves or conkers, make a bug hotel, or simply introduce them to being aware of the changes going on around them – watching the season change will spike their natural curiosity. There are plenty of plant or bird ID apps to help learning if you are unsure of where to start.
The world becomes quieter as nature sleeps, but there is still plenty you can do in the great outdoors.
Keep connected to nature by taking a walk outside of your garden. Even in winter there is plenty of wildlife still out and about, particularly birds. Look out for a flash of red from a friendly robin and be sure to feed the ducks at your local park. Skip the bread and instead try sweetcorn, porridge oats, peas or bird seed, which are much more nutritious.
Small bodies of water, like ponds or bird baths, are likely to freeze even in fairly mild temperatures. Keep this valuable source of water available by gently cracking the ice with a stick or keeping a ball floating on top to stop the ice connecting.
Submit sightings of birds, mammals, plants and more, and report any invasive species. This can be a great way to get more out of your nature walks, and many surveys can be done easily on your smart phone.
Even without a garden there are so many ways to get involved with nature. Here are just a few.
Bird feeders are a great way to experience local wildlife at close quarters. Feeders can be attached to your window and saucers of water can be left out on the windowsill. To attract a variety of birds try a range of different foods, such as seed mixes, sunflower hearts, meal worms, soft apples and pears, and even mild grated cheese. In the spring make sure to avoid bread, peanuts and fat, as these can be a choking hazard for baby birds.
Start a mini herb garden. Many plants do well in small containers, such as lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme, and are popular with pollinators. Many herbs double up as cooking ingredients (although be sure to check first!)
There is substantial evidence that spending time outdoors benefits our physical and mental health, particularly if you are working from home. Try and set time aside for a daily walk, cycle or mindful minute – you won’t regret it.
While out and about, submit sightings of plant and animal species. This is an easy way to contribute to nature protection programs without a garden of your own – many surveys can be done via your smart phone and taking time to notice what’s around you encourages mindfulness.
There are a multitude of volunteering positions in the climate sector, whether it’s a beachside clear up or an urban planting project. If you have significant time to give our beautiful National Nature Reserves are directly involved in protecting our landscapes against the threats of climate change. However, never underestimate the help you can give with even the smallest available time, or the impact that help will have on the world around you.
With 41% of Scotland’s population living within 5km of the coast there is likely a great rock pooling site near you. Walk or cycle your net and buckets to the water’s edge and take a peek at what is hiding between the rocks.
Nature is a space of endless curiosity and combines exercise and learning in a way that is ideal for kids. Making art out of leaves, spotting species on a wildlife walk, building a bug hotel or putting up a feeder are all great ways to interact with nature. The changing seasons also provide a fantastic opportunity to learn about beginnings and endings, as they watch winter turn to spring, and birds grow from chicks to fledglings.