For wildlife to thrive in your garden, you need: food, water, shelter and a place to breed. By providing these things you will be offering a lifeline to precious wildlife and bringing nature into your daily life – proven to reduce stress and improve our mental and physical health.
Here are some ideas to get you started and help you make a difference for wildlife, whatever the size of your garden.
How to: Give a hedgehog a home
Hedgehogs roam far and wide in search of food, mates and nesting sites. Encourage them into your garden by providing a variety of habitats like log piles, ponds, leaf litter, or purpose-built hedgehog homes where they can nest and hibernate. Help them build up their fat reserves for winter by putting out some specialist hedgehog food. Ditch the slug pellets and avoid the use of pesticides, hedgehogs will naturally control the number of pests in your garden.
How to: Keep bees happy all year
Different bees are active throughout the year, so by including early and late flowering plants, as well as some bee favourites, you will provide a year-round supply of nectar. Scented winter shrubs like Mahonia and Sarcococca are ideal and spring flowering bulbs like Crocus and Muscari. Sedum, rosemary and mint and are all summer favourites, as are single or semi-double Dahlias in autumn.
How to: Encourage a wide variety of birds
Different species of birds prefer different food, in different ways and from varying places, so mix it up in your garden. Niger seed is great for attracting finches and a good seed mix, suet balls, mealworms and peanuts will keep most other species fed. Make use of old fat and kitchen scraps by placing them on feeders and trays and on the ground. Moving your feeding places from time to time will guard against predators, disease and unwelcome visitors such as rats. Providing a clean topped up water supply will also make your garden more attractive to birds, just ensure it is ice-free during the winter.
Plants like Pyracantha and Cotoneaster produce an abundance of berries in autumn and provide birds with a natural food source for the colder months.
How to: Attract aquatic wildlife
Garden ponds provide a refuge and home for many freshwater creatures. A wildlife pond is one of the single best features for attracting new wildlife to your garden. A simple half-barrel pond is really easy to create, and is a great way of encouraging wildlife to small gardens and patios.
How to: Make your garden insect friendly
Attract butterflies to your garden with nectar-rich plants like Verbena, Scabious and Buddleja. Honeysuckle, which has a strong evening scent, is great for moths.
For those with smaller gardens, plant a window box or container with plants such as lavender or marjoram. Make your own or buy pre-made bug hotels for your gardens, leave log piles and deadwood and keep areas of your garden wild and un-mown to attract other creepy crawlies.
Chemical pesticides upset the natural balance of the environment, a wildlife-friendly garden that attracts frogs, hedgehogs and birds will have a frontline in pest control!