AdviceGardening

How to make your garden wildlife-friendly

Our gardens are fantastic places to while away time on a summer’s afternoon. I’ve spent many a day sunbathing on my lawn and having both breakfast and dinner al-fresco when the weather permitted it. Visiting the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show made me think about how it needn’t just be me that enjoys spending time outdoors. With a bit of consideration, our gardens can become home to all sorts of wildlife – from hedgehogs to birds.

Starling on a bird feeder
 

They don’t have to resemble forests but they can cut us a bit of slack when we’re too busy to mow the lawn. What does the ideal garden look like? A lot like this I’d imagine…

Pond

First up, it will have a pond that varies in depth. Birds can bathe and drink from the shallow end and frogs can lay eggs in the water. The deeper end will be perfect for newts to swim and help keep insects warm during the colder months- as long as you don’t forget to de-ice it! If a pond seems like a bit too much work, a birdbath and a bowl filled with water can encourage birds and insects too.

Male blackbird bathing in a tiny container garden pond
 

Planting

Insects such as butterflies and bees thrive on nectar so nectar-producing plants will fill the garden. There’ll be a mix of early and late flowering plants to make sure that there’s a constant supply of nectar just before hibernation and straight after they emerge when they need it the most. If you’re bothered by sticky greenflies, you’ll be pleased to know that nectar plants are attractive to hoverflies whose larvae fill up on the green creatures.

Red admiral butterflies (Vanessa Atalanta) on a summer lilac flower
 

The common buddleia plant is a nectar favourite as are forget-me-nots. There’s bound to be a nectar climber like honeysuckle grown against a wall of course, to provide a place for birds to sleep and raise their young. Shrubs are cut at different times of the year so that they provide for different wildlife all year round.

Hold off on the tidying

A tidy garden looks wonderful but the ideal garden isn’t manicured. Dead leaves are scattered around for hedgehogs to hibernate underneath and borders and shrubs are left through winter to keep insects warm and keep enough seeds and fruit for birds to survive. During the summer, you’ll have a looser rein!

Hollow stems help ladybirds furnish their homes and the grass is a winter paradise for craneflies. If you’re concerned that your neighbours or visitors will look down on longer grass, they can be just as happy in shorter grass, there’ll just be less egg laying going on.

European hedgehog (Erinaceus Europaeus) inside a clay drainage pipe with autumn leaves and red rosehips
 

Create a stack

Wooden pallets, bamboo canes, stones, wood and bark mulch comes together to create a quirky stack for creatures to call home. The warm and damp conditions allow wildlife to thrive, with the beetle preferring the woody leftovers from trees and shrubs. Go as high as you like. I like the idea of a low but wide palette wall!

Bug hotel - a warm home for all bugs.
 

   

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