Frequently asked questions
The following are some of the questions that we are most often asked in the Wildlife Gardening Forum. Here is a bite-sized answer to each:
What is the Wildlife Gardening Forum?
We are a small, UK-based independent charity, run entirely by volunteers. Our Mission is to help everyone make their gardens better for wildlife by:
•raising awareness and understanding of the importance of gardens for wildlife and people
•providing impartial evidence-based information and advice (primarily with a Britain and Ireland focus)
•inspiring and supporting the wildlife gardening community
You can find out more about who we are and what we do here.
What does it mean to become a member of the Wildlife Gardening Forum?
By becoming a member of the Wildlife Gardening Forum, you are joining a network of like-minded people sharing information and helping everyone make their gardens better for wildlife. You help us demonstrate to decision makers that this is a subject that matters, and give us the momentum to do more.
Membership is free; you receive four e-newsletters a year and invitations to our conferences and events. We keep minimal personal information (name and email), and follow UK General Data Protection Regulations. You remain a member until you tell us otherwise, or your email address ceases to work. If you have yet to join, please do so here.
Which plants are better for wildlife - native or non-native?
Until recently, the blanket advice tended to be that native plants are much better for wildlife than non-native plants. Research is now showing that the truth is much more complex than that (and indeed there is widespread public misunderstanding of which plants are native or not).
The headlines are that:
• in general, the more plants you grow the better it is for wildlife, wherever the plants come from
• there are many non-native plants that are great for wildlife, but it is true that some wildlife is restricted to
certain native plant species
• but be aware of the risk posed by, and avoid growing, invasive non-native species, and plants that have
been imported from abroad and might be carrying plant pests and diseases.
for our guidance page and here
for the long read.
Should wildlife gardeners be controlling (ie killing) 'pest' species?
We recognise that, in some circumstances, particular species of wildlife may damage plants or other wildlife, or be deemed a nuisance. However, where possible these should be tolerated. There are usually ways to manage the situation that don't require the gardener killing the creatures in question, and the Forum strongly advocates these.
Is there a risk in growing cultivated plants close to sensitive natural habitats?
Some garden plants can 'jump the fence' and then proliferate in rare and threatened habitats. The Wildlife Gardening Forum strongly discourages introducing non-native species into natural habitats, and advocates great care in when growing them nearby.
What is the Forum's view of glyphosate and other pesticides?
The Wildlife Gardening Forum supports the principles of organic gardening. We do not say that synthetic weedkillers and pesticides should never be used, but we promote the avoidance of all weedkillers and pesticides (including organic types) wherever possible.
Legal issues: What is the law regarding wild and garden plants?
For any other wild plant, you must be an authorised person to intentionally uproot it; in simple terms, you must be the landowner or have the landowner's permission.
So picking parts of a non Schedule 8 plant, such as flowers or seeds, is legal so long as you don’t uproot the entire plant, with the exception of protected sites, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and most nature reserves where bylaws are in operation which forbid this.
Also, be aware that under the Theft Act of 1968
it is illegal to pick cultivated flowers in public parks or gardens as well as plants and flowers growing on land which is maintained by the council.
Legal issues: What is the law regarding nesting birds?
All birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law and it is thus an offence, with certain exceptions, to:
• Intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird.
• Intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.
• Intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird.
• Have in one's possession or control any wild bird, dead or alive which has been taken in contravention of
• Have in one's possession or control any egg or part of an egg which has been taken in contravention of the
Act or the Protection of Birds Act 1954.
• Use traps or similar items to kill, injure or take wild birds.
Read more from the RSPB here
What should I do if I find a baby bird?
If it has feathers and is not injured, in almost all cases it is advisable to leave it be –its parents are likely to be nearby. However, if it is a nestling or if it is injured, follow this decision tree
from the RSPCA.
Is it ok to catch amphibians to release in my garden?
It is illegal to intentionally capture any life stage of the great crested newt or natterjack toad.
For the common frog, common toad, smooth newt and palmate newt, you are not allowed to sell, barter, exchange, transport for sale or advertise them to sell or to buy. However, it is not illegal to collect them, and indeed there can be educational benefit in children getting to follow the life cycle of, for example, a common frog from spawn to adult.
Nevertheless, be aware that moving any amphibian carries the risk of spreading the deadly, introduced diseases that can afflict them. The Wildlife Gardening Forum advocates that you do not collect amphibians from elsewhere to stock your pond, and instead to let local amphibians find your pond naturally. If collecting them for education, we recommend you do so from a single local site (with the landowner's permission) and return them to the same site; there is excellent advice here
from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, the leading charity for their conservation.
Where can I go for help with identifying plants and wildlife?
You will find very useful introductions to all garden wildlife in our website section here
. Members of our Facebook Forum
are likely to be able to help you identify most garden plants found in Britain and Ireland and the garden wildlife you may find. Post them with a short series of good photos, and a description of the location and where you are in the country. However, some groups of wildlife may need specialist help to identify them; in these cases, we recommend iSpot
for wildlife, and there are a number of other excellent Facebook groups for 'tricky' groups of wildlife.