Gardens can be fantastic places for wildlife. They provide shelter, places to nest and access to food and water. And you don’t need a big space, whether you have a big garden or just a small one, you have the ability to create a home for nature.
Plant pollinator friendly flowers
No garden is complete without some pollinator friendly flowers. Whether you select your own or buy a wildlife seed mix, planting lots of wild flowers will provide pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, essential for fertilisation. Look for open flowers and avoid those with multiple layers of petals as they are hard to access and lack pollen. Also, aim to plant flowers that pollinate at different times throughout the year, so food is available year round.
Some flowers to look out for include lavender, foxgloves, honeysuckle and sunflowers, but herbs such as rosemary and thyme are good too. Consider mixing the flowers in with some long untouched grass for butterflies and other egg laying insects.
Feed the birds
Encouraging birds into your garden is a great idea. They are fantastic to watch but will also keep control of the slugs and snails for you. Bird feeders are perfect. Seeds are great in winter and fat balls high in protein can provide just what your birds need in spring. Also, add a bird bath or pond with a sloping edge and rocks to perch so your birds have water to drink and a place to splash around and bathe.
By mid-autumn your birds will be looking for a place to hide and nest, so put up a bird box. Building a bird box can be fun, but if you don’t have the time to be creative, there are plenty to choose from in the shops. The type of box you get and where you put it will depend on which birds you have. Place them 2–4 m up a wall or tree and out the way of strong winds or sunlight if your garden is home to sparrows, starlings or tits. But, if providing a home for robbins or wrens, position your box low to the ground and surround with vegetation.
Build a bug hotel
Insects like to hide and a bug hotel is the perfect place. They can be as simple as a pile of logs, leaves, twigs and bricks or they can be can more structured. As long as there are plenty of hidey holes and a mix of materials, it is entirely up to you what you.
Some animals love cool shade spots, whilst others love the sun. Accommodate them all by positioning your bug hotel in a place that is half in sun and half in shade. Create it from whatever natural materials you have to hand, wooden pallets make a good base, as do bricks. Fill in all the gaps with dead wood, hay, straw, dried leaves, loose bark, pine cones, hollow bamboo good for solitary bees, twigs and small branches.
Dig a natural pond
Birds are not the only animals that will appreciate a pond, they are the perfect home for frogs and newts. They don’t have to be big either, a small pond of variable depth is ideal. Shallow sloping areas are good for bathing birds, spawning frogs and they also offer hedgehogs an escape route. Deeper areas, over 60 cm deep, on the other hand, prevent your pond freezing completely in winter. Place your pond in a sunny spot, and include oxygenating plants to help keep it healthy; a filter is also a good idea. Plant foliage around the edge to provide cover for wildlife, b ut avoid placing it under a tree as it will fill with leaves.
Leave a space for hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are in decline and need help. Luckily though, gardens can be ideal for hedgehogs. They love log piles and leaves as they provide food and a cosy place to hide, hibernate and breed. Purpose made hedgehogs homes – hogitats – can be a great addition as well if your garden lacks other hidey holes. Hedgehogs do like to roam around, so if possible, create gaps under your fence so they can travel from one garden to the next.
Finally, for your garden to be truly wildlife friendly, avoid the temptation to use chemicals and pesticides. They are harmful to the environment and all the wildlife you are trying to attract and there are plenty of natural alternatives. For example, if you have an issue with slugs or aphids, try and attract natural predators into your garden, such as hedgehogs and birds.