Create a wildlife friendly garden

Create a wildlife friendly garden

A wildlife-friendly garden doesn't have to be wildly overgrown. Wildlife can live happily in well-tended gardens - as long as we make a few provisions for our dear little bird, bee and insect friends. And red squirrels. But not foxes.. because they're just too annoying..

By Hari Alexander
butterflies are a good sign your garden's supporting wildlife

City gardens as well as rural ones should be full of fluttering creatures and big fat beetles come spring. Oeco Garden Rooms has been researching how we can make our gardens irrestistable to wildlife and they have some useful tips. Such as growing plants which bees and butterflies love - for example lavender, asters, calendula and delphiniums. Put in a water feature if you have the space. Leave some of your lawn to grow a bit shaggy..

Wildlife Habitats
 
Even the smallest garden can provide a valuable habitat for wildlife to thrive, and if you have the space, it's good to create different habitat zones in your garden to cater for birds, butterflies, bees and small mammals. This could be an area of long grass, a boggy corner for amphibians and a mini wild meadow area. Don't go overboard but remember different types of wildlife like different types of environment.
 
Microhabitats provide a diverse range of homes for insects, invertebrates and animals to shelter and find food. For example lawns, especially with areas that are left to grow a little, are perfect for insects and minibeasts, as well as feasting ground for the birds that eat them.
 
Plant borders and bushes planted with native flowers and shrubs provide a rich source of food for butterflies and bees as well as seeds, berries and shelter for small mammals and birds. Trees and hedges also offer shelter and cover for mammals and are good nesting sites for birds to raise their young.
 
Water features and ponds provide habitat for wildlife from amphibians to dragonflies and waterboatmen, as well as a place for birds to bathe and drink. 
 
If you live in Scotland you should see red squirrels out and about
Lavender plants aren't expensive and bees and butterflies love them
A small water feature can keep our wildlife hydrated
Keep birds well fed using a birdhouse or bird feeder
Foraging and feeding
 
The wildlife-friendly garden needs to offer a variety of places for different animals and insects to forage for food. We can either put out food for them, particularly in the winter months, or let nature supply the food - and that means thinking carefully about plants.
 
Native flowers and berry bushes that flower and seed during different times of the year are important, as they'll supply food for animals and insects that forage at different periods. A variety of colourful nectar-rich flowers and plants will attract bees, butterflies and other insects to your garden, such as lavender, delphiniums and calendula. And if your lawn gets a covering of daisies, dandelions and clover, leave it for a while as it'll be providing nutrition for wildlife.
 
Provide clean, safe water - this can range from a big pond to a small dish you replenish daily.  Water is as important as food during winter as well as summer.

Breeding space and shelter
 
Wildlife needs a safe area to breed and shelter. Bird and bat boxes, hedgehog houses and insect houses are great ways of introducing artificial shelters into the garden, although natural shelter is the best in terms of conservation. This means trees, bushes and hedges, since birds, insects and small mammals can secrete themselves away from predators.
 
And letting a small part of the garden overgrow will create natural cover and shelter for insects, invertebrates and small animals.
 
If you're looking to cut back overgrown areas of the garden, wait until early spring; this will give any wildlife sheltering from the cold a chance to leave when the weather gets slightly warmer.
 
Think sustainably!
 
There's been a big push to get us all to think about the environment and sustainability, and protecting wildlife is something we should all get involved in. So think too about materials before using them in the garden. Try to avoid materials that result from depleting natural resources. That means using timber from managed forests, avoiding tropical hardwoods, and avoiding plastics which might contain chemicals that leach into the soil. If you're buying compost make sure it's peat-free, since the peat bogs of the UK are under serious threat.
 
Better that we make our own compost using veg peelings, food waste and natural garden waste as it helps to encourage a healthy diversity of wildlife. Compost improves soil structure and is a great breeding ground for tiny invertebrates and fungi, which in turn attracts birds and small mammals.
 
If you have a pond or water feature, don’t use the garden hose to fill it up. Instead use rainwater collected in water butts and barrels, as pond life prefer this.

And it hardly needs saying but avoid using pesticides in the garden. 
 

Contacts
 
Seedball sells  inexpensive tins of wildflower seedballs you just scatter around the garden or in your containers
Meadowmat 1m squares of ready planted turf offers a quick way to allow part of your garden to become a natural wild flower meadow.
 
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