Sitting in the garden at the end of a busy day enjoying the sights and sounds of nature must rank as one of the simplest and most
fulfilling experiences there is. The sounds of songbirds and insects going about their business are nature’s soothing soundtrack. And if you sit still enough, there are opportunities – even in urban gardens – to encounter some of the other wildlife that we share our spaces with. Hedgehogs, foxes, frogs and even deer and badgers will venture into gardens if conditions are right. With just a bit of planning and a few tweaks, anyone with an outside space can entice wildlife.
Here are my top five tips for creating a wildlife friendly garden.
1. Attract pollinators
The most important step you can take is to plant a pollinator-friendly garden. Choose nectar and pollen-rich plants like wildflowers and old-fashioned varieties of flowers. A succession of blooming annuals, perennials and shrubs is best so nectar and pollen will be available throughout the growing season. Also, include plants like dill and fennel that butterfly larvae feed on.
Any size garden can attract and support pollinators and the more pollinator friendly gardens there are, the more habitat there will be to sustain and restore healthy communities of beneficial insects and pollinators.
2. Make hedgehog corridors
Hedgehog numbers have declined shockingly in recent decades. Since the 1950s, when the iconic mammal was a common sight in gardens, the population has declined by over 96 percent. Without concerted action, it is forecast that they will be extinct within a decade, which would be tragic. There are several factors which have contributed to this; one of the biggest has been loss of habitat. Hedgehogs need space to roam. Modern gardens, with impenetrable fencing and brick walls, make huge swathes of land hedgehog no-go areas. Hedgehogs are the gardener’s best friend, they eat slugs and other pests, so now it is time to repay the favour and help them out. Make hedgehog corridors in your garden by cutting small holes in fences at ground level which will allow them freedom to expand their territories.
3. Make a bumblebee nest
Bumblebee numbers have declined in recent years, hives are dying and they have fewer neting opportunities and flowers to feed on. Planting more bee friendly flowers in your garden will help, and once you’ve done this, why not make a simple, subterranean nesting site for them too. You’ll need an old terracotta garden pot, some chicken wire, an old piece of rubber pipe and nesting material, such as dry straw. Make a cradle from the wire, fill it with nesting material then pack it into the top of the pot. Perforate the pipe and push one end into the cradle at a shallow angle. Bury the pot upside down, so two thirds are underground and ensure that the pipe pokes out of the ground which will allow the bes to enter and exit. Place a slate over the top to keep the nest dry.
4. Make a wood pile
One of the simplest things you can do to entice wildlife into your garden is to create a
woodpile, which will attract bugs and amphibians and create a handy fast food outlet for hedgehogs and other mammals and birds that feast on invertebrates.
Gather some old branches and logs, put them in a quiet corner of the garden under shade and leave to rot. It couldn’t be easier.
5. Dig a natural pond
Creating a wildlife pond needn’t involve major excavation. A small 1m by 1m pond can attract frogs, toads, newts, water boatman, pond skaters and dragonflies. It will provide a source of water for birds and hedgehogs which in turn will help control the number of slugs and snails in your garden.
A wildlife pond should be about 90cm deep in the centre with flat perimeter shelf, 30cm wide and 30cm deep, on which to stand plants. Avoid steep sides as any creature that accidentally topples in may find it hard to escape. Remove any protruding stones and cover the hole with a layer of sand. Use a flexible butyl or rubber liner. To work out how much you need, double the maximum depth and add this to the length. Then double the maximum depth again and add to the width. Multiply the two figures together. Once you have your liner, carefully place it over the hole and push it into place, trying to remove any folds. Slowly fill with water. Cut off the excess liner, leaving about 15cm around the outside. This edge can then be buried under soil, or covered with pieces of turf or stones. To keep the water healthy and provide a variety of habitats you need a mix of submerged oxygenators, floating aquatics, deep water aquatics and marginal plants.
Garden supplier Gardensite sells a good range of wildlife-friendly garden equipment. For more information on their range click HERE