Rewilding Is the Biggest Gardening Trend of 2024

how to rewild your garden
Rewilding Is the Biggest Gardening Trend of 2024Annie Otzen - Getty Images

We're bring wild back. You may love the look of a neat and tidy landscape, but gardening with a more sustainable focus is gaining traction as more of us learn what it means to be part of nature—instead of trying to control nature. In recent years, one of the most popular landscape trends working toward this goal has been "rewilding."

In a nutshell, rewilding aims to return an environment to its natural condition. "The term essentially means restoring wilderness," says Michael Hagen, curator of the Rock Garden and Native Plant Garden at New York Botanical Garden. "It's founded in the concept that we're missing animals from our landscape, and we must restore natural processes and species to return the ecosystem to its original state."

While rewilding is essential to ecological restoration on a grand scale (reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone National Park as a good example), these same concepts apply, on a smaller scale, to your own yard and garden. "You can help allow the natural rejuvenation of nature with a few small steps," says Hagen. "The mindset is that you're gardening with nature, not for nature."

Rewilding doesn't mean you have to stop growing the plants you love or to tear out every bit of lawn. Instead, it means focusing on changes that bring biodiversity back to your landscape, and tuning into what's going on in your own little part of the natural world. "It's about working with what you have and adding levels to make a connection with nature," says Erin Goss, plant initiative coordinator at Shaw Nature Preserve of Missouri Botanical Garden. "Seeing how one small change can make a big difference is how you build a relationship with the land."

Even if you don't have a back yard, you can turn window boxes and planters into mini ecosystems to support biodiversity. If you're ready to have a positive impact and start transforming your landscape into a more ecologically-sensitive place, here's how to rewild your garden.

For more gardening tips:

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Do Less

This can be a tough concept to embrace, at least for those who prefer manicured landscapes, says Hagen. But, at the very least, let one small part of your land become more naturalized, less perfectly landscaped.

For example, Hagen has allowed oak tree seedlings to sprout along the edges of his garden and mows around an area where solitary miner bees are nesting. You could mow less frequently, or transform a petite section of lawn into a meadow garden.

how to rewild your garden do less
Jacky Parker Photography - Getty Images

Dial Down—or Cut Out—Pesticides

This is probably one of the most important things you can do, says Goss. Reducing pesticide and fertilizer use can help attract beneficial insects and keep excess fertilizer out of our waterways.

If you still want to keep a conventional lawn, at the very least, get a soil test so you’re not overusing products and can learn what you may not need to add.

Related story: Is DIY Vinegar Weed Killer Safe?

how to rewild your garden pesticide use
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Plant Native Flowers

Add native plants to your landscape, even if you start with just one, says Goss. Check with your local botanical garden or university coop extension service (find yours here) for lists of regional native plants. Or, consult conservation organizations such as Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, or the Xerces Society.

Related story: 10 Perennials That Will Add Tons of Color To Your Yard

how to rewild your garden native plants
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Weed Out Invasive Plants

While you're being thoughtful about plantings, remove any invasive plants, suggests Hagen. That includes common plants such as tree of heaven, English ivy, orange daylilies, Japanese honeysuckle, and Bradford pear.

They may be pretty, but these and other invasive plants are problematic. That's because they spread rapidly, smother native plants, and upset the natural diversity and balance of an area, providing less food for native wildlife.

Related story: 12 Invasive Plants You Should Rip Out Of Your Garden Immediately

invasive plants english ivy
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Provide Shelter For Wildlife

As habitat is reduced and other factors come into play, many species struggle for existence. For example, many bat populations have declined in recent years due to factors including habitat loss, wind turbines, and white nose syndrome (WNS), a devastating fungal disease.

Make your yard a more welcoming place by providing shelter for these critters, such as bat boxes, bee houses, wrenhoues, and bluebird houses. A brush pile placed to the back of your property also offers shelter to many species.

how to rewild your yard wildlife shelter
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Create A Bird-Friendly Environment

It's fine to put up a birdfeeder, but that's really for your benefit and enjoyment, says Hagen. What's more helpful is to provide other food sources for them to forage, by not deadheading flowers such as echinacea, and making sure you have shrubs for protection and shade.

Side note: It is beneficial to birds to supplement their food in winter by keeping feeders up year-round.

Related story: 26 Best Flowers for Hummingbirds

how to rewild your yard bird friendly yard
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Plant Different Kinds of Habitat

Animals need all sorts of habitat, including open areas, perennials, shrubs and trees, says Hagen. Including different heights and types of plantings will create ecological diversity that supports a range of insects, amphibians, birds, and animals of all types.

how to rewild your garden habitat
Photos by R A Kearton - Getty Images

Provide A Water Feature

A simple birdbath offers clean water to birds and insects including beneficial pollinators, which is especially important during drought, says Hagen. For birds, the hotter the temperature, the more water they need to drink (sort of like us!), so providing water helps keep them hydrated and healthy.

how to rewild your garden water feature
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Plant a Rain Garden

Instead of letting all that water spill off your roof and property directly into the storm drains (and then into local streams and rivers), plant a rain garden, suggests Goss.

Rain gardens are shallow depressions planted with native plants that don't mind having damp soil (like swamp milkweed. They slow water runoff, provide pollutant filtration and offer native plant habitat.

the white and purple tinged flower head of white swamp milkweed, asclepias perennis, detailing flowers, buds and leaves vertical image
Donna Bollenbach - Getty Images

Get To Know Your Garden

The best way to foster a connection with nature is to spend time in your space, says Goss. Watch the sunlight at different times of day so you choose the right plants for the right spots. Learn what birds and insects are visiting. Feel and smell the soil to get an idea of what kind you have.

Getting familiar with your little piece of nature will help you feel even more connected and motivated to garden for diversity go (re)wild.

how to rewild your garden
Jacky Parker Photography - Getty Images

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