How to increase biodiversity in your garden (or green space you manage)

Read the Earth Trust's guide to increasing insect life close to home
A photo of a ladybird sitting on a purple flower
© The Earth Trust

Biodiversity is a word we’re hearing a lot these days – particularly in relation to a lack of it. If you’ve caught a recent episode of David Attenborough’s Wild Isles series, you may well be left wondering – what exactly is biodiversity?

At its simplest level, biodiversity means life.

To be more exact, the variety of life that exists within a natural green space. Think about the nature you pass by everyday where you live or work. What do you notice there throughout the seasons? From the flowers and plants that grow, to the worms that furtively roam the soil and the bees and butterflies who pollinate the space, all these elements interconnect, creating a wide spectrum of life.

We are reliant on nature for growing food and generating clean water. It also helps us to create medicines and minimise the effect of extreme weather. So without a throbbing hub of life across our landscape, we will struggle to survive.

The UK is among the worst-ranked in the world for the poor state of our wildlife and countryside. The good news? We are better equipped than any previous generation to understand the damage human activity is causing to biodiversity. Scientists are confident that we know the most effective ways to help biodiversity recover. If we each take small actions, we really can make a difference. Which is where national initiatives like No Mow May are so empowering.

Creating large, protected spaces where wildlife alone is prioritised is impractical for many landscapes. Instead, we need to think about how we manage our natural resources and green spaces so that people and nature can flourish jointly. The Earth Trust community are championing accessible natural green spaces for everyone – so that we all have the opportunity to experience – and care for – nature.

As a local environmental charity, Earth Trust are best known for being the guardians of the much-loved Wittenham Clumps. These iconic peaks, as well as being a go-to destination for thousands of walkers every year, are situated on Earth Trust Farm; 500 hectares of woodland, farmland, wildflower meadows and wetlands which the charity cares for. They also manage 5 community reserves in towns across Oxfordshire – from the well-known Wallingford Castle Meadows, to hidden gems like Abingdon’s Abbey Fishponds. These amazing places engage and inspire people, demonstrating nature-based solutions that our local communities can benefit from and apply elsewhere.

Alongside an army of volunteers, Earth Trust’s Land Management team work year round to create new habitats and support and nurture established ones.

Here are some examples of this work:


Across the Earth Trust Farm wildlife is actively encouraged with wildflower margins and skylark plots. Wild bird food is scattered along the field margins and hedgerows in the winter months, and livestock such as sheep and cows are moved around the landscape with biodiversity very much in mind.

Hedge laying technique


Earth Trust’s routine woodland management practices include traditional methods such as coppicing – letting light in to diversify the habitat – and hedge laying alongside tree planting of native species to ensure a rich and sustainable forest. Owls and bats roost in the treetops while badgers, hedgehogs and small rodents make full use of the undergrowth.

Water and wetlands – havens for wildlife

Projects such as River of Life along the banks of the River Thames feature backwaters and ponds that provide established breeding areas for young fish, frogs and other invertebrates. A high-tech biodiversity monitoring station has been capturing data on the wetland’s inhabitants for the past year, and the team are excited to see how the space is supporting populations of small mammals and insects.

Another important water habitat that Earth Trust manages is Thrupp Lake, a former gravel pit just outside Abingdon which has been transformed from its industrial past. Brimming with life, Thrupp Lake provides a safe haven for many protected species like herons, swans and kingfishers, cuckoos and sand martins. The team maintain small islands and provide floating tern rafts on the lake in spring – with a speaker playing tern calls to attract them –offering safe places to nest, away from land predators like foxes.

Snakes head fritillaries

© The Earth Trust

Wildflower meadows

Nectar-rich plants offered by wildflower meadows offer vital support to dwindling populations of native pollinators like butterflies, moths and bees. They are also a valuable resource for mitigating against flooding and storing carbon. The Trust have volunteers recording the butterflies, moths, dragonflies and damselflies; building an important data set for future studies.


So how can we coexist harmoniously with nature on our own doorsteps?


1. Create safe spaces for nature

An opening at the bottom of a garden fence could be life-changing for a local hedgehog.

Tuck hamster bedding inside an old teapot and create a nest for bees during the winter months. In the summer, leave out a clean tray of water with a handful of marbles to act as a bee drinking station (and ensure they don’t get stranded!)--------------------------------------------

2. Messy is good

“No mow may” is a philosophy we can bring to our gardening before and after May itself. As the spring flowers peep out, leave them space to grow and then to go to seed. For every inch your grass grows; caterpillars, crane flies and butterflies will be singing your praises!

At times of drought – embrace the brown! Grass is hardy and recovers quickly, it’s better to save water and let it recover naturally. In the winter, decaying leaves from divesting branches do wonders for the soil as they decompose.--------------------------------------------

3. Scatter wildflower seeds

If you think a local green space or your own patch of green could do with some more variety, scatter wildflower seeds or make a seed bomb with the kids. Does a loved one have a birthday coming up? Wildflower seed cards are widely available, and can live on in your loved one’s garden for years to come.--------------------------------------------

4. Weeds are plants too 

Having a diversity of plants doesn’t necessarily mean spending lavishly at the local garden centre – it can be as simple as standing back and letting nature be.

If shrubs and trees are allowed to flourish they provide essential habitats for animals, plants, fungi, lichens and particularly insects. In the summer months, they also offer life-saving shade. Some corrugated iron laid flat in a shady spot also provides cover for small animals.

Did you know that the peacock butterfly thrives on nettles? If this supposedly pesky weed tends to grow naturally nearby, set aside the shears and let it mature wherever possible.

Garlic mustard is another often unwanted widespread species – but another butterfly haven too. As a bonus, the finely chopped leaves can bring a lovely flavour to summer salads.--------------------------------------------

5. Ask at your local garden centre for advice

Whether you have an interest in starting up your own compost heap or want to dig out your own pond – both of which are brilliant for biodiversity – gardeners in your community and staff at your local garden centre will often have some great advice to offer.

Change can start now

So remember; by taking small actions, we can build a future where people and nature thrive in balance. And this change starts with you, right outside your front door.

To find out more about Earth Trust and their work visit