Gardening is a lovely way to exercise while achieving something beautiful, but if the thought of topiary leaves you cold, maybe your neglected back garden is an ideal candidate for wildlife habitats?
Wildlife gardening can be just as rewarding as its more traditional counterparts, with the added benefit of being a solid way for you to contribute to preserving the environment. When you think “wildlife garden” you may think of just abandoning your garden to the elements, but good wildlife gardening couldn’t be further from this – it’s best to set out to create and maintain distinct areas such as pond, hedgerow, meadow, and more, in order to ensure that several different habitats are available in your space. Without care and attention, one aspect will happily overrun the others, and diversity will be lost!
Wildlife Gardening and Your Health
Don’t be daunted. Wildlife gardening can be a light and enjoyable form of exercise suitable for people of all ages. What’s good for the world outside is good for the world inside, and you may find yourself getting fitter and happier just from pottering around a couple of hours a week.
When digging, raking and tending to your garden you may experience a raised heart-rate. This type of activity is a gentle exercise and is one of the lifestyle changes you might be recommended as a way to improve your overall health and fitness.
In fact, exercising regularly as you age can help you maintain a healthy body weight and this may be beneficial when controlling your cholesterol levels. If you have recently been prompted to ask questions about cholesterol by your doctor then you’ll find plenty of information on what is cholesterol available online. As well as providing a definition for what is cholesterol, these resources can also offer suggestions on how you can help maintain the recommended level.
In the meantime, read on for some simple ideas to get your heart pumping while lending a helping hand to wildlife.
Heave-ho for Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are in decline, and these adorable garden visitors will benefit greatly from any effort you make on their behalf. Their key needs are food, water, and shelter. The old bowl of milk and bread is a bad idea, both are very harmful to hedgehogs’ stomachs. Your best option is minced meat, or tinned dog or cat food without fish.
If you think there are hedgehogs around, why not get gardening to provide them with a safe home? Hedgehogs eat all kinds of creepy crawlies, and the best way to provide a hedgehog with food year round is to encourage insects in your garden. Building a natural woodpile from rotting logs and untreated wood is an excellent way to raise your heartrate and warm up on a cold spring day. Deciduous windfall is best, ask your local tree surgeon for some leftover lumber. Make sure to leave lots of nooks and crannies for minibeasts to move in and get settled. Not only will your bug hotel act as a hedgehog buffet, but you’ll encourage all kinds of pollinators and soil-improvers as well!
Hedgehogs are well known for sleeping in piles of leaves, but in fact any quiet, dry nook will do. An easy and invigorating way to get started is to rake your autumn leaves into piles sheltered under hedges and rock piles. If you feel enthusiastic, building hedgehog houses from scrap wood is a fun activity for parents and older children. Be sure to tuck the entrances away and keep everything dry!
Press on for a Pond
Maintaining a wildlife pond may just be the most thorough year-round workout you can get. The initial work of digging, lining, and filling is challenging, but the feeling of satisfaction when you see your first frog move in outweighs all discomfort. Ponds need attention all year, and you will get a lot of exercise and satisfaction out of it. In spring, new plants can be established and improvements made. In summer you’ll be stretching your arms most days to maintain a safe level of weed and keep it full, as well as cooling off on the edges with your toes dipped in and a slushie in hand. Autumn is the time to constantly fish out armfuls of leaves to prevent the build-up of too much sediment, as well as being the best time for more extensive repairs.
Ponds are complex structures so if you need advice on sorting yours then there are many excellent resources available to advise on materials and designs to use. The RHS and RSPB host guides on building a maintaining ponds for wildlife, and an internet search will turn up many more.
Build for Birds
Excellent exercise though it may be, you don’t need to go hiking across moors to see beautiful birds. With the right encouragement, they will come to you! We all know about hanging up a bird-feeder, but did you know there’s more you can do? Most small songbirds will really appreciate a thick, wild hedgerow made from hawthorn, dog roses, blackthorn, and more. Not only do these shrubs provide a haven from predators, they produce food and nesting material too, and look absolutely beautiful in flower.
Keeping these plants at a reasonable size will get you outdoors and breathing, and you may even wish to try the ancient art of hedge laying [for some extra-bracing work. Britain’s smallest birds will nest readily in properly maintained hedgerows and shrubs, and the corridors beneath provide food and shelter for all manner of woodland creatures who are just as at home in a wildlife garden.
Of course, providing food is important to encouraging birds too. For older and less mobile gardeners, a quick walk down the garden each day to refill a feeder can get you breathing the outside air and relaxing in your miniature wilderness.
However you get active for wildlife, you can be sure that every bit of energy you give to your garden will make a difference not just to the animals and plants you encourage, but to your own body and mind. So whether it’s just a few hours sewing flowers for pollinators, or a few days digging a new pond, try wildlife gardening for a bit of light exercise. You never know, it might help you maintain a healthy body weight which can be a factor in controlling your cholesterol levels and other health factors.
Remember: if you want to know what is cholesterol or have other questions about your health and fitness then it is important to speak to your GP.