Creating a Wildlife friendly garden
Wildlife can make its home in our gardens in many different ways. There are lots of things that we can do, from planting to maintenance that will make them as welcome as possible.
Making our gardens wildlife friendly doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to leave them to grow into wild jungles. Every space, whether it’s a huge estate or a busy family garden, can give a home to nature.
There are lots of simple things that we can do to help the animals we share a space with, from making sure that they have access to different habitats, to nurturing well-stocked feeding grounds for them.
A wildlife friendly garden is accessible to everyone whether we’re maintaining an established garden or creating a new one altogether.
Even the smallest of gardens can offer a huge variety of different habitats for wildlife. It’s good to create as many habitats as possible without cramming too much in. You may not even realise that some of the most common unassuming garden features can house thriving worlds of wildlife.
Lawns for example are an important habitat for all sorts of insects, as well as providing a feasting ground for hungry birds which feed on them. Try keeping an area unmown for at least part of the year and see the number of visiting birds dramatically increase.
Borders , filled with flowering plants and shrubs, give nectar rich food to butterflies, bees and beetles. All plants will fulfil this purpose, they do not have to be native plants and a variety of flower shapes will attract different visitors. Simple flower shapes are best and bees in particular are drawn to blue flowers.
Crocus and hellebores(the Christmas rose) provide a food source for bees early in the year as they emerge from hibernation and seeds and berries produced later in the year ensure that the garden has a fully stocked larder for wildlife all year round.
Trees and hedges offer roosting and nesting sites for birds and mammals, as well as valuable shelter and cover from the elements and possible predators.
Ponds and water features are the single most important feature if you want to attract wildlife into your garden, from amphibians( newts, toads and frogs) and invertebrates to bathing garden birds and hedgehogs. Even a simple shallow tray or sunken washing up bowl will be appreciated by garden visitors and remember if you are going to put in a garden pond to include a shallow beach area to allow wildlife to safely get out again.
A huge variety of animals will travel through your garden unknown to you, the trick is to provide a suitable habitat to encourage them to stay!
Even woodpiles, compost and trimmings, the decomposing and discarded off-cuts from your gardening can be incredible places for animals to live feed and hibernate.
To breed and shelter
A basic need for all wildlife is somewhere safe to breed and shelter, which a garden can provide in many different ways.
Growing climbers against walls can provide brilliant shelter, as well as roosting and breeding sites for birds. Trees, bushes and hedgerows can also be great havens for the bird world, as well as small mammals like hedgehogs. Cutting a small hole at the bottom of your fence between gardens will give access to wandering hedgehogs if you have a fence instead of a hedge.
Providing bird boxes, bat boxes and hedgehog homes can be a great way of introducing additional shelters for nature in your garden. Natural roosting and nesting sites can be increasingly hard for animals to find and our gardens give them an ongoing safe alternative.
Butterflies need breeding sites too, and growing the right plants can give them a place to breed and lay their eggs. Honesty and hedge garlic can be good for orange tip butterflies and buckthorn bushes are favourite food for breeding brimstones. Don’t forget that you will need to provide for and tolerate caterpillars if you want butterflies in your garden!
If you are looking to cut back overgrown areas, or untidy borders, wait until late winter or early spring to give any wildlife sheltering from the cold winter months the chance to move on.
So many of our actions have an impact on wildlife which goes beyond our gardens and it is important for us to think about this when choosing materials and creating our spaces.
Peat extraction destroys vital habitats, so avoid using peat based composts, there are many alternatives now widely available. You can even try producing your own with a composter or compost heap.
Save rainwater in water-butts. Pond life much prefers natural rainwater if you need to top up your water features.
Buy FSC accredited garden furniture and charcoal.
Recycle wherever possible. Use reclaimed material when building raised beds and other garden structures. Old pallets and scaffold planks make great material for building.
Avoid using pesticides and use non-toxic, non-chemical alternatives.
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