4 Easy Ways to Garden for Wildlife
The plants you choose in your garden can have a huge effect on pollinator, bird, mammal and amphibian populations.
Even the tiniest plot, balcony or window box can have some flowering plants. These will attract and feed bees, butterflies, hoverflies and many other insects. They will also offer protection when the weather gets nasty and once they go over the seeds heads provide valuable food for birds and can shelter over wintering insects. The most pollinator friendly plants are those which are single varieties.
Some top plants to try:
These can all be found in our meadow mixes which are a really easy way to create a wildlife friendly planter, border or whole field. Why not buy some seeds today from our online shop
If you’ve got room for a tree or two these are really important for wildlife. The bark can provide homes for insects, the branches nesting spots for birds and some provide food.
These are our favourite wildlife friendly trees:
A climbing plant can look great, help hide bins, soften the look of a building and provide much needed protection for small birds and insects. Try honeysuckle, ivy or passion flower which will also provide lots of food for insects.
2. Bug Boxes
Bug boxes are a great way to attract and protect a wide range of insects. You can buy one from places like C J Wildlife who have a fantastic selection https://www.birdfood.co.uk/wildlife/bees-insects.html or you can make one yourself. Your bug box should have a variety of habitats or if you have space have multiple!
Butterflies need houses for night time protection, these can be small birdbox style structures but instead of a round hole there should be a collection of long, thin, vertical slits.
Bees, wasps and bugs like a variety of environments so make sure this section has a range of options – think of it as Airbnb for bugs. As humans we don’t all have the same requirements or likes so why expect our buggy friends to settle for the same accommodation. ‘Room’ types can be a pile of pine cones in a mesh box/tube, a log with a variety of different sized holes drilled in, some garden canes or even some ventilation bricks. The more variety the better, don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of space, as you can see from the CJ Wildlife website you can squeeze a lot of environments into a small area.
Although we’ve called this section bug boxes, your environments don’t all have to be in box form. You could have a log pile suitable for hedgehogs but also have some of the logs drilled for bugs, you could make a bird bath with a wildlife hotel ‘pedestal’ or have part of your wall or fence made into a bug habitat.
“Water is the driving force of all nature” Leonardo da Vinci.
It’s not just important for drinking but also as a habitat. In smaller gardens it can be tricky to have a pond but there are still things you do.
These do exactly what they say on the tin (thanks Ronseal) and can be anything from an old plant saucer up to an elaborate structure. Make sure that in winter you break the ice that has formed and pour in fresh water regularly. Try not to use tap water – if you are able to collect rainwater this is the best.
Ponds are the most obvious way to introduce water to your garden. Ponds attract birds, amphibians, mammals and all sorts of mini-bugs and beasties.
Choose a nice sunny site and dig your pond, ensuring there is a gently sloping section to enable wildlife to easy access in and out, and a shallow area where mammals and birds can bathe and drink. It’s a good idea to use cobbles in this section as the constant movement can remove all your subsoil, exposing the liner. (We’ll leave the technical pond building for another day) After you’ve filled your pond and let the sediment settle for a day or two you can add some greenery, if you are using bits from other people’s ponds then you can do this anytime but if you are spending hard earned cash then May is the best pond plant buying time. Add a variety of plants and make sure you plant both in the pond and right up to the edges for protection and breeding places for your wildlife. DO NOT worry if your water goes a bright green colour, this should clear in a matter of days.
Over time your plants will develop, your pond will fill with frogs, newts, toads and lots of other wildlife. To keep your pond clear and wildlife friendly you will need to keep on top of the plants, too much growth and your pond will begin to get that bright green look again as algae begins to take over, and eventually the plantlife will turn your pond into a bog which has its own merits but isn’t good for all that wildlife you have attracted already. Don’t let more than half the surface of your pond be covered by plants.
No room for a pond? No worries. You can still attract and house loads of wildlife with a miniature pond. These can be set into the ground or sit in a bed or on a patio. The MOST important thing to remember if this is the option you go for is to add a frog ladder. Various creatures can find their way into a pond but its less easy for them to make their way out. Frog ladders/ramp are just as they sound – a ramp reaching into your tub and out to safety. They don’t need to take the creature back down to earth but if your tub is particularly high sided it would help them out! You can buy various designs online, just try googling or you can simply use some old wood. Use small varieties of water plants.
For those of you with lots of space, you can try a natural pool from Ensata. They are specialists in wildlife planting and natural pool creation and maintenance. We’ll be writing a special blog later this year on natural pools but for more info you can head here: http://www.ensata.co.uk/
4. Hedgehogs Houses
It’s hard not to love the tiny snuffly faces and waddling rear of a hedgehog but their habitats are dwindling fast in towns and cities. Even if you have an ultra-modern garden you can provide shelter for one of our prickly friends by using one of the more sleek options available online or by hiding your box/pile of wood behind some pots/garden building. The RSPB have a smart house available here http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/rspb-silhouette-hedgehog-home.html or you can make something yourself. Hedgehogs love a pile of wood they can wriggle into. Your pile doesn’t need to resemble something ready for bonfire night, a small pile interspersed with leaf matter in perfect.