The RSPB calls for everyone to join the wildlife-planting revolution

Thursday 14 April 2022

  • The RSPB is calling for everyone to join the wildlife-planting revolution as a new YouGov survey shows that three quarters of people are already trying to encourage wildlife to their garden.
  • The survey, commissioned by the RSPB as part of their Nature on Your Doorstep campaign, also revealed that over two in five now consider pollinators when choosing what plants to grow in their garden, a quarter (24%) leave areas of grass to grow long for nature, and that nearly half of people feed birds (49%).
  • UK gardens and balconies combined cover 4,000km2 (see note 1), an area more than twice the size of Greater London. Together these connected habitats could help reverse the fortunes of previously common garden species such as starlings, bumblebees, and hedgehogs. 

The RSPB is calling for everyone to join the wildlife-planting revolution after a YouGov survey revealed that three quarters of people are now doing at least something in their garden or outside space to help wildlife (with 19% trying a lot, 30% trying a fair amount, and 26% trying a little). The survey, commissioned by the RSPB as part of their Nature on Your Doorstep campaign, also revealed the wide range of ways that people are already gardening with wildlife in mind - over two in five (43%) consider how a plant can benefit pollinators when choosing what to grow in their garden, just under a quarter (24%) leave areas of grass to grow long for nature, and nearly half of people feed birds (49%). With UK gardens and balconies covering over 4,000km2, twice the size of Greater London, all these actions put together create a vital network of refuges for wildlife (see note 1).

Many previously familiar garden species are in decline. Starling numbers have fallen by two-thirds in Britain since the mid-1970s, for example, with populations of half of our bumblebee species falling, and hedgehog numbers crashing from 30 million to an estimated one million since the 1950s across England, Wales, and Scotland. 

Planting for wildlife in gardens and outdoor spaces presents a fantastic opportunity to help struggling wildlife and is also a hugely popular activity. When asked in the survey to choose what one thing they would most like to do in a new empty outdoor space, half of people (50%) chose having more plants (either having a wildflower meadow (most popular at 16%), or planting fruit trees (11%), other kinds of trees (6%), shrubs (7%), or space for more flowers (10%)). 
 
The survey also showed the potential for even more people to take up action and welcome wildlife into their gardens. Two thirds of respondents want to see local birds (68%) and pollinators (64%) in their local space, two groups of species that are easily attracted by growing wildlife-friendly plants. 
 
Adrian Thomas, the RSPB’s wildlife gardening expert, said: “I’m thrilled to hear how many people are now taking steps to help wildlife in their gardens and outdoor spaces. It feels like a movement is underway in which people are recognising that our gardens can be wonderful, shared spaces for us and for wildlife, to the benefit of all. 
 
“To play your part, the best and easiest place to start is to grow more plants. They provide varied, healthy food sources, and offer shelter and nesting spots. And the lovely thing is that lots of plants that are good for wildlife are also beautiful, colourful and richly scented, making outdoor spaces more welcoming, relaxing, and interesting for all of us to enjoy. So this Easter weekend, why not give planting a go, maybe starting with some wildflower seeds? They produce beautiful flowers in just a few weeks, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you see pollinators buzzing into your garden!” 
 
Here are five wildlife-friendly, easy-growing plants to get anybody started:

  • Sunflowers – beautiful and easy to grow from seed, these classic flowers are great for pollinators and are a great food source for birds when they set seed. 
  • Cornfield annuals – for just a couple of pounds you can have the glow of red poppies and blue cornflowers within weeks
  • Mini-meadow – just let parts of your lawn grow for a few months, or even better until late summer, and be rewarded with drifts of clovers and other meadow flowers 
  • Lavender, the familiar lovely-smelling herb that’s brilliant for bees and butterflies. 
  • Foxgloves, tall purple, pink and white flowers that are bee magnets.

For more suggestions, tips, and inspiration on how to give planting a go and join the wildlife-planting revolution visit Nature on Your Doorstep.  
 

Editor’s notes 
1. Zoe G. Davies, Richard A. Fuller, Alison Loram, Katherine N. Irvine, Victoria Sims, Kevin J. Gaston, A national scale inventory of resource provision for biodiversity within domestic gardens, Biological Conservation, Volume 142, Issue 4, 2009, Pages 761-771, ISSN 0006-3207, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2008.12.016. 
 
2. YouGov survey results   
All figures, unless shown otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2063 UK adults. The survey was undertaken between 25th – 28th March 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+) 
 
Which, if any, of the following outdoor spaces do you have access to at or near your main home? (Please select all that apply, if you do not have access to outdoor spaces, please select the 'Not applicable' option.)

  • Private garden – 78%
  • Shared garden – 7%
  • Private balcony – 6%
  • Shared balcony – 1%
  • Private roof garden – 0%
  • Shared roof garden – 0%
  • Shared community garden – 3%
  • Shared allotment – 1%
  • Private allotment – 2%
  • Other private outdoor space – 2%
  • Other shared outdoor space – 6%
  • Not applicable – I do not have access to any outdoor spaces at or near my main home – 8%

For the following question, if you have access to more than one outdoor space, please think about your main outdoor space (i.e. the biggest outdoor space). Approximately, what size is your outdoor space? (Please select the option that best applies, if you are not sure, please provide your best estimate). Base – all UK adults with access to an outdoor space (1902 responses)

  • Extra large (i.e. the size of half a football pitch or more) – 8%
  • Large (i.e. the size of a tennis court) - 24%
  • Medium (i.e. the size of half a tennis court) - 46%
  • Small (e.g. a balcony, roof terrace, small courtyard garden, etc) - 20%
  • Don’t know – 2%

When you are choosing flowers and plants for your outdoor space, which, if any, of the following are your main considerations? (Please select all that apply, if you do not have flowers or plants in your outdoor space, please select the 'Not applicable' option). Base – all UK adults with access to an outdoor space (1902 responses)

  • Appearance (colour, size) - 52%
  • Price (low price, affordability) - 39%
  • Availability in local stores – 23%
  • Whether it can be grown from seed – 11%
  • How easy it is to grow – 47%
  • How good is it for pollinators such as bees and butterflies – 43%
  • How good it is for birds – 26%
  • How good it is for wildlife other than birds and pollinators – 24%
  • Whether it provides interest all year round (e.g. through colour changes, fragrance) - 33%
  • Whether it is a native UK species – 12%
  • How safe it is (e.g. poisonous properties, thorns) - 23%
  • Other – 4%
  • Don’t know – 4%
  • Not applicable – I do not have flowers or plants in my outdoor space

Which, if any, of the following things do you do to help wildlife in your garden or outdoor space? (Please select all that apply, if you do not do anything in particular to help wildlife in your garden or outdoor space, please select the 'Not applicable' option). Base – all UK adults with access to an outdoor space (1902 responses)

  • Grow flowers for wildlife – 41%
  • Feed the birds – 49%
  • Put up a birdbox – 31%
  • Grow trees and shrubs for wildlife – 33%
  • Leave areas of grass to grow long – 24%
  • Have a pond for wildlife (including a sink or bucket) - 16%
  • Have a compost heap (24%)
  • Put up a bee hotel (i.e. a box filled with hollow stems or logs drilled with holes) - 18%
  • Avoid using pesticides including weedkillers and slug pellets – 35%
  • Use peat-free compost – 26%
  • Other – 3%
  • Don’t know/can’t recall – 3%
  • Not applicable – I do not do anything in particular to help wildlife in my outdoor space – 22%

What, if anything, would help you do more for wildlife in your garden or outdoor space? (Please select all that apply). Base – all UK adults with access to an outdoor space (1902 responses)

  • Having a bigger outdoor space – 29%
  • Having more disposable income to spend on gardening supplies – 41%
  • Seeing more examples of what others have done to help wildlife in their outdoor space – 21%
  • Having access to more learning opportunities (online, in person, written resources) - 10%
  • More free time – 31%
  • Better physical wellbeing – 17%
  • More knowledge about where to source information, garden supplies or tools – 15%
  • Having an outdoor space that is not shared with others – 5%
  • Having the ability to connect with others nearby for support (e.g. a gardening club, community garden, volunteer/local community project, etc) - 7%
  • Other – 3%
  • Don’t know – 18%

Which, if any, of the following, are ways you like to learn about gardening? (Please select all that apply, if you do not like to learn about gardening, please select the 'Not applicable' option). Base – all UK adults online (2063 responses)

  • Online videos – 19%
  • Online forums – 8%
  • Digital ‘how to’ guides – 14%
  • Websites (e.g. blogs, listicles, etc) - 24%
  • Local community groups – 4%
  • Learning from a friend, neighbour or family member – 34%
  • Books – 20%
  • Magazines – 13%
  • TV programmes – 32%
  • Just giving it a go – 39%
  • Other – 2%
  • Don’t know – 3%
  • None of the above – I do not like to learn about gardening – 24%

Which, if any, of the following are things you want, or would want from your garden or outdoor space? (Please select all that apply). Base – all UK adults (2063 responses)

  • Somewhere to relax – 74%
  • The chance to be outdoors – 61%
  • Somewhere to connect to nature – 38%
  • Somewhere to grow flowers – 48%
  • Somewhere for children to play – 25%
  • Somewhere to help wildlife – 45%
  • Somewhere to entertain family and friends – 49%
  • Somewhere to grow food – 34%
  • Somewhere to exercise – 16%
  • A space for pets to exercise – 31%
  • Other – 1%
  • Don’t know – 2%
  • Not applicable – I do not want anything in particular for my outdoor space – 9%

For the following question, if you do not have a garden or outdoor space, please imagine that you did. To what extent, if at all, do you try to encourage wildlife to your garden or outdoor space? Base – all UK adults (2063 responses)

  • Try a lot – 19%
  • Try a fair amount – 30%
  • Try a little – 26%
  • Do not try at all – 19%
  • Don’t know – 6%

For the following question please imagine you had an empty garden or outdoor space. Which ONE of the following would you most like to do in it? (Please select the option that best applies). Base – all UK adults (2063 responses)

  • Plant fruit trees – 11% 
  • Plant trees (excluding fruit trees) - 6%
  • Plant shrubs – 7%
  • Have a wildflower meadow – 16%
  • Have more space for flowers – 10%
  • Put up birdboxes – 5%
  • Put up birdfeeders – 11%
  • Put in a pond – 7%
  • Add bee or bug hotels – 6%
  • Make a compost heap – 2%
  • Other – 2%
  • Not applicable – There is nothing in particular that I would love to do most in a garden or outdoor space – 17%

Which, if any, of the following types of wildlife would you particularly like to see in your garden, outdoor space and/or local neighbourhood? (Please select all that apply). Base – all UK adults (2063 responses)

  • Birds – 68%
  • Pollinators (e.g. butterflies, moths, solitary and social bees, hoverflies, etc) - 64%
  • Beetles (including ladybirds) - 32%
  • Dragonflies – 36%
  • Mammals (e.g. hedgehogs, bats, squirrels, deer, etc) - 46%
  • Amphibians (e.g. frogs, toads, newts, etc) - 28%
  • Reptiles (e.g. lizards, slow worm, grass snakes, etc) - 17%
  • Mini beasts (e.g. woodlice, dragonflies, centipedes, spiders, snails, slugs, etc) - 23%
  • Other – 1%
  • Don’t know – 13% 

Last Updated: Thursday 14 April 2022

Tagged with: