When we step out into our gardens we enter a two-way world: We need nature to help make our outdoor room beautiful, but nature needs us, too. That’s because there are so many things we do as gardeners that can make a difference to wildlife.

By providing shelter, choosing certain kinds of plants, and looking after your garden in a particular way, you can encourage many creatures and help them survive in a world of fragmenting habitats and changing climate – and gain a whole display of colour, movement and sound at the same time.

Once you start, wildlife gardening becomes much more than just making friends with the local birds, hedgehogs and dragonflies. It's a way of connecting to the whole web of life.

Years ago, the countryside was rich in wild plants and animals but today that's no longer true. Many of the creatures that thrive in gardens - for example frogs, goldfinches and sparrows - are having a hard time in their old haunts. What gardeners do to help makes a real difference.

And for the first time, there's solid scientific evidence to show what really works. Research by Sheffield University has found that the key features are trees, dead wood, water, and a real variety of plant shapes and sizes.

Once we provide these simple needs, we can see gardens not just as our outdoor rooms, but as an interconnected network of green patches that together amount to a very special nature reserve - whether in the heart of the metropolis, or within the wider countryside.