16 Jan How To Create A Wildlife Garden
It’s easy to see why so many of us love to spend time in the garden. Whether you enjoy hosting summer barbeques, playing football with the kids or growing your own vegetables, there’s no doubt that your garden is one of the most important parts of your home.
Along with fun outdoor activities, one of the joys of gardening is bringing the wonders of nature into your outdoor space. From beautiful flowers to leafy trees and colourful shrubs, creating a peaceful garden space is a wonderful way to enjoy our natural world.
However, it isn’t just you and your family that enjoys spending time in the garden. With the right environment, birds, mammals and insects can find refuge in your outdoor space. Whether you’re an expert at digging flower beds or a novice in the garden, there are plenty of ways to create a garden that helps animals, insects and flora thrive. To get you started with your wildlife garden, we’ve put together a range of ideas below to make your outdoor space even more inviting.
A home for nature: why create a wildlife-friendly garden?
According to The Wildlife Trust, there are over 16 million gardens in the United Kingdom. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why they’re such an important part of our environment. However, many of our bird, insect and animal species are in decline in the wild. By creating a wild garden, you have the opportunity to give these creatures a safe space to make their home. That doesn’t mean your back garden has to be a jungle. All you need to do is plant the right flowers, trees and shrubs and provide a few inviting habitats.
Adding wildlife garden ideas into your home is a lot of fun too. From watching butterflies flutter amongst the flowers to spotting hedgehogs late at night, we are confident you will find your wildlife garden incredibly rewarding.
How to start your wildlife garden:
There are plenty of ways to introduce more garden wildlife into your outdoor space. You don’t need an extensive garden either; even small spaces can be inviting to a range of different creatures.
The best way to get started is to plan your space. Think about what you can plant where, or what structures you can build as homes for your animal or insect guests. It may be useful to use a planting calendar too, as there may be activities you can do throughout the year (meaning you won’t need to wait until spring to get started!).
Creating safe habitats for your garden wildlife:
Bird Boxes and Feeders
There are over 620 species of bird in the United Kingdom, so why not invite a few into your garden? Bird boxes are the ideal way to give our feathered friends a safe place to nest, while feeders ensure they have plenty to eat throughout the year.
If you choose to add a bird box to your garden, remember to place them up high in a sheltered site. It can be helpful to place them near climbing plants or dense bushes, so your garden birds are protected from cats and other predators.
When it comes to feeding birds in your wildlife garden, choose fat balls during the springtime (this is when birds are feeding their young and need extra calories to keep their offspring healthy). During winter, seeds are usually best.
Hedgehogs are an exceptional addition to any garden, particularly as these animals are in decline across the United Kingdom. To encourage hedgehogs into your outdoor space, try adding a hedgehog home in a sheltered spot. These artificial shelters ensure that hedgehogs have somewhere safe to nest, hibernate and breed away from predators. To make your hedgehog house even more inviting, try placing some dry grass and leaves inside for bedding.
You may also want to provide some food for your garden hedgehogs. A portion of meaty dog food or cat food is best, as well as a bowl of clean water.
Bug or insect hotels are a fantastic addition to any wildlife garden. From bees and butterflies to ladybirds and beetles, these structures help to encourage important insects and bugs into your garden. You don’t need to invest in a special structure either. Simply place piles of rocks, twigs, wood and leaves in areas across your garden to invite the creepy crawlies in.
Many of us choose to install a pond to keep fish; however ponds are just as crucial for your wildlife garden. Water features can be a haven for a wide range of garden wildlife, including frogs, toads, newts, water insects and birds (don’t forget to keep an eye out for the beautiful grey heron if you choose to add a pond to your garden!).
Be sure to use unchlorinated water to make the most of your pond and add plants like water lilies to keep the water from stagnating. It is also beneficial to add sloping sides and steppingstones to keep your pond accessible to all garden wildlife.
If you don’t have enough space for a large pond, you can still encourage water-loving animals into your area. A simple trough or bucket buried into the soil can be enough to invite wild creatures in.
Making a wildlife-friendly garden doesn’t need to be complicated. Even cutting holes at the bottom of your fencing can have a real benefit. These holes ensure that animals, like hedgehogs, can access your garden easily.
Choosing the right plants for your wildlife garden:
When planting flowers in your wildlife-friendly garden, it’s usually best to go for variety. Not only will this bring a beautiful canvas of colour and scent to your space, but it will ensure that plenty of different insects and animals are catered for. Choose native species where possible and get creative with your colour palette!
Some ideas include daisies, marjoram, lavender, thyme and sunflowers. Remember to avoid using harmful pesticides and slug pellets, as these can be dangerous for your insect and animal friends.
Trees and shrubs
Your wildlife garden isn’t all about the flowers. Trees and shrubs play an essential part in your mini-ecosystem too. Fruit trees are always good for wildlife, but there are plenty of other options to choose from. Some ideas include holly, hawthorn, silver birch trees, butterfly bush and spindle.
Remember that shrubs are especially useful for small birds and mammals, like hedgehogs and mice. Shrubs or trees that produce fruit or berries are an excellent choice for wildlife too.
While mowing your lawn is important to keep it accessible for the humans in your family, it may be worth thinking about leaving sections to grow long. Long grass is increasingly rare in domestic gardens but plays a significant role for wildlife. Many insects, like butterflies, lay their eggs in long grass and small mammals often use it for shelter too. Birds may be tempted into your space as well because they are more likely to find insects and worms to feed on when the grass is long.
If you can’t face the thought of leaving your grass to grow long, think about avoiding mowing during the winter when you use your garden less often.
A compost heap is an excellent solution for every wildlife garden. Not only can you make your own compost for gardening purposes, but you can also reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfill.
There is a third benefit too. Many small insects, like woodlice, worms, slowworms and frogs, make their home in your compost heap. These animals are perfectly safe to have in your wildlife garden and will contribute to the overall ecosystem. To avoid dangerous pests, like rats, only put raw food in your compost heap.
Do you worry about the weeds in your garden? There’s no need to! Many weeds are an essential food source for insects, particularly as these hardy plants are often in flower when others are not. If you notice daisies, buttercups, foxgloves and nettles in your space, try to leave them be. You may just be rewarded with a beautiful butterfly.
Keeping your wildlife garden sustainable:
When putting together wildlife garden ideas, it’s vital to bear sustainability in mind. Even the best intentions can harm our environment. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to ensure your wildlife garden is as eco-friendly as possible.
- Use your own compost. Like we mentioned above, compost is a great way to invite important insects into your garden. It also helps to avoid peat composts, which can destroy habitats elsewhere.
- Save water. Install a water butt in your garden to collect rainwater. This water can be used to nourish your plants and even top up your pond.
- Buy native. Native plants are best for our wildlife, as they cater specifically for our insects, birds and mammals. Avoid choosing plants that aren’t local to the United Kingdom.
- Recycle. There’s no need to invest in lots of special equipment or structures to make a wildlife-friendly garden. Old wood can be repurposed for insect or hedgehog houses and reclaimed materials can make unique planters too.
- Avoid pesticides. Harsh chemicals and pesticides can be very dangerous to your wildlife garden. Use natural products wherever possible.
Enjoy your wildlife-friendly garden:
With a little bit of effort, you will soon find plenty of garden wildlife in your outdoor space. All that’s left to do is enjoy your wildlife garden and see how many species you can spot!
For more garden tips and advice, visit the Coleshill Mowing blog.