The hard stop on all activity during the pandemic has been a perfect example of how human activity takes a toll and pollutes Mother Earth. Forecasters predicted the number of homes lacking garden access would skyrocket to one million between 1995 and 2020. COVID turned things around by generating a newfound passion and wild curiosity in nature and gardening, with the outdoors becoming the mental health solution for those in refuge from lockdown.
According to Home How, between 2018 and 2020, the number of people building sheds has increased by 134%, investments in garden bars have more than doubled, and swimming pool construction has increased by 323%, all a testament that we as a human species naturally turn to the outdoors during difficult times.
This revived passion for the great outdoors leads us to explore an inspired new trend: rewilding. As a form of ecological restoration, rewilding lets nature run its course, allowing wildlife and plants to thrive without human influence or interruption. It sounds complicated to those without a green thumb, but below are a few simple tools to rewild at home and create an eco-friendly space no matter where you live:
1) Leave the leaves
Piles of leaves look messy and tend to be tidied up during Autumn months, but for many creatures, fallen leaves offer food and shelter — especially for hedgehogs. The hedgehog population has been in steep decline for several decades, with numbers decreasing to 1 million from 30 million in the 1950s in certain areas. Instead of raking leaves during colder months, leaving the leaves where they fall is a great way to save vulnerable wildlife species.
2) Water is the way
Adding any form of water to your garden is the solution for rewilding your outdoor space. This could be as simple as a birdbath. A bog or wetland will encourage a variety of species to populate your garden, including birds, amphibians, aquatic insects and water voles. Ponds are a beautiful addition to any garden and can attract wildlife when plant life is integrated to mimic a natural environment.
3) Flourishing flower boxes
Whether your outdoor space is a garden in the countryside or a balcony overlooking a cityscape, flower boxes and hanging baskets are an ideal method of rewilding your environment, without overwhelming available space. Add vibrant color to your surroundings with a mixture of native wildflowers and pollinator plants for insects and birds, increasing biodiversity in your area.
4) Bookings for bugs
Calum Maddock, a gardening expert at www.homehow.co.uk says that ‘a cost-effective and space-saving way to help restore the ecosystem in your local area is to build bug hotels.’ Insects, especially bees and butterflies, play a crucial role in pollination, a key process in the continuation of most plant species and food production. Bee populations are rapidly declining due to habitat loss, pollution, and the use of pesticides. Bug hotels are a simple way to protect insects. Even in urban areas with few natural outdoor spaces, rooftop beekeeping has become a popular way to make cities more eco-friendly. Also, the honey they produce can be used in local cafes and restaurants.
5) Banquets for the birds
Like flower boxes and bug hotels, bird feeders encourage birds into your garden no matter where you live. A wide selection of foods such as seed, dried fruit, and nuts will entice a range of native bird species into your garden. Bird feeders come in different sizes and are designed to suit all environments. As a surprising benefit, birds pollinate plants and help to control garden weeds. By eating seeds of garden weeds, birds prevent them from sprouting, reducing the need for harmful chemicals to wildlife, plants and pets.
6) Connect with your community
Starting a conversation with your neighbors in your local community about rewilding and what could be done on a larger scale to allow nature to thrive is as important as what you do on an individual level. Small steps like creating corridors for wildlife through gardens and sharing responsibility of providing food and shelter for species help rewild local areas.
Rewilding on a larger scale has more long-term benefits than just seeing an influx of birds and insects in your garden alone. Calum Maddock explains that ‘rewilding is an activity for both adults and children in all communities and has the potential to reduce the impact of climate change for future generations.’ A wider variety and increased number of plants nationally would reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, stimulating a reduction in the number of deaths related to air pollution.
During the pandemic, many have actively increased time in outdoor spaces, and over the past year, there has been a rise in demand for properties with gardens. Studies also show that lockdown, and time away from nature in general, has a negative impact on mental health. As well as benefiting the natural world and the physical health of many living in areas with poor air quality, gardening and rewilding is a proven way of improving mental health. Rewilding is the way forward to a better world to live in, and a better way of living.