House sparrow Passer domesticus, juvenile, looking upwards, on garden lawn. Co. Durham.

Lawns for wildlife

Having a wildlife-friendly lawn doesn’t have to mean we lose them as outdoor spaces for ourselves.

With the right approach we can have the best of both worlds. A place to play, sit and relax and a diverse and thriving home for nature. 

Wild lawns

Lawns provide a home for lots of different insects that are eaten by birds and other wildlife. Those rich in organic matter are likely to have good numbers of earthworms - the staple winter and spring diet of song thrushes and much loved by blackbirds!

Lawns can also provide seed for birds. Those of annual meadow grass, plantain, buttercup and dandelion are particular favourites.

Any area of short grass will act as a feeding area for birds. Longer grass provides shelter and egg-laying opportunities for the insects on which birds and other wildlife feed. 

You can improve your lawn for birds and wildlife by simply avoiding the use of weed killers and artificial fertilisers, or go a step further and look at alternative ways to manage your lawn and introduce variation to your grass.

Why lawns make great habitats

A lawn is a quintessential part of an English garden – in fact it can be a gardener’s obsession. Those that are weed-free, regularly fertilised, neat and bright green are of little value to most wildlife, while those that are scruffy-looking, with plenty of weeds, support many species.

However, perfect or not, all lawns are feeding areas for birds such as starlings, which probe for the myriad invertebrates that live in the roots.

Make the most of your garden

  • Welcome some weeds. For instance, clover feeds the lawn with nitrogen.
  • Don't cut the lawn too short in summer; it will lose more water.
  • Allow a patch of grass to grow and flower. It will attract birds, insects and invertebrates, and grass flowers are very pretty.    
  • No matter how brown your lawn becomes in summer, it will recover after rain. Water is a precious resource - don't waste it on the lawn.

Restoring neglected lawns

Bench in tall grass by overgrown path
Old neglected lawns can potentially be very rich in wildlife. Here's our guide on how to restore with nature in mind.
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