Dig a damp ditch for diversity

Song thrush
1-2 hours
All Year
Not too tricky

Many of our gardens are flat, unlike the rising and falling natural landscape. By adding a shallow ditch – (or what’s called a ‘rill’ on our nature reserves), you can create a wider variety of homes for nature. It will mimic natural features in the countryside, and give hedgehogs and reptiles a lush byway to travel along, and song thrushes a perfect hunting ground. It's also a great way for dealing with any drainage problems, run-off from patios and surplus water from your water butt.

Song thrush

Step-by-step guide

Dig a damp ditch for diversity video screenshot

Choose where to dig your ditch. Watch out for electricity, sewage or water pipes!

It’s up to you to decide where to put it, but choose somewhere shady and out of the way of thoroughfares.


Mark out the line of your ditch before you start digging. Tent pegs or a garden hose can be used to mark it out. Make it as long as you can – at least one metre.


Start digging! About 30 cm (1 foot) is plenty, remember the deeper it is the wider it will need to be. Make sure the sides are gently sloping (30 degrees or less) so that creatures can get in and out and across your ditch.

You can use the excavated earth as a bank on one side of your ditch - it creates another microhabitat.

trowel in soil crop.jpg


Planting your ditch. If you want, you can add some wetland-edge plug plants or sow a suitable wildflower seed mix on your freshly excavated diggings. Good flowers to try to include are lady’s-smock for orange-tip butterflies, ragged robin, marsh marigold, gypsywort and greater bird's-foot trefoil.

Now all that's left to do is leave it and watch!

What you will need

  • Garden fork