Easy ways we garden for nature (and you can too)

Bumblebee on lavender in the garden at Ham House, London

Ham House Garden is a formal historic garden cared for with nature at its heart. We have gardened using organic principles for over a decade here. We have found over the years that gardening for nature doesn’t have to be complicated, here are the top things we do to encourage nature to thrive.

Ham’s colourful flower borders, wilderness area and productive kitchen garden are still home to many plants that were grown by 17th century residents the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale. At the same time, we choose new plants with wildlife in mind as well as for their display.

Common frogs are among the wildlife we are encouraging at Ham House Garden
Frogs are among the species which are thriving at Ham House and Garden
Common frogs are among the wildlife we are encouraging at Ham House Garden

Ten ways we garden for nature (and you can too):

All of these things are simple to do, can work in a garden of any size and most are completely free!

  1. We grow as many different flowering plants as we can so there’s always something in bloom, this helps give food to wildlife all year round.
  2. We choose plants that produce lots of flowers for a long time so that every space works as hard for nature as it can.
  3. We grow as many different flower types as we can because that will encourage most wildlife diversity. We won’t grow plants with highly modified flowers that have less nature value - they are not period anyway!
  4. We make all our own compost for the garden. Recycling all our green waste helps create healthy soil and healthier plants.
  5. We are planting more trees because we know that this is the single most impactful thing we can do in a garden for wildlife. If a tree has to be taken down, we will leave a stump where we can as this provides homes for insects, and food and shelter for birds.
  6. We are reducing our mowing and keeping some areas of long grass as habitat and food for insects.
  7. We create ‘everlasting’ log piles in both shady and sunny areas – when they break down, we add to them creating the perfect places for fungi, moss and lichens to grow and a valuable home for insects and rare animals, such as frogs and toads.
  8. We feed the birds all year round.
  9. We don't use glysophate for our formal paths, this is a harmful chemical that can pollute our water.
  10. All plants grown at Ham House are peat free. Peat is an incredible material that, if protected, provides a natural habitat to a wealth of wildlife, preserves ancient relics beneath the ground and helps keep today’s air clean. 

Come and see for yourself

Where we are, in London, green space is especially precious so as well as being wildlife friendly, we strongly believe a garden should be people-friendly too!

Whether you come to Ham to unwind in a quiet spot watching bees and butterflies dance between flowers, discover taste sensations in our tasting garden, or let the kids play hide and seek between the hornbeam hedges - we hope you will make yourself at home and perhaps take some ideas away to try at home.

What are your top tips for nature gardening? We’d love to hear from you at hamhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk and if you send us a photo of nature in your garden we will pick the best to share on our social media.

Child with a beetroot picked from the Kitchen Garden at Ham House, London
Child with a beetroot at Ham House
Child with a beetroot picked from the Kitchen Garden at Ham House, London
" We believe a garden should not be restricted by its historic roots, but inspired by them – our planting is constantly evolving to keep the garden’s original spirit alive in a way that speaks to today’s visitors."