Gardening to attract wildlife
There are plenty of ways to make your garden wildlife friendly, but by far the most beneficial is actually the simplest of all - doing nothing.
By letting your garden grow without interference, you will give insect-friendly weeds the chance to flourish, and grasses the chance to go to seed, providing birds and small mammals with food for themselves and their young.Attracting insects
Making an insect haven will attract birds, mammals, amphibians and even reptiles. For most gardens, achieving this will set the foundations for many more exciting wildlife visitors. Many insects are also brilliant at giving back to your garden as they will pollinate your plants.
- Butterflies feed on nectar from flowers but come springtime many species will also only lay their eggs on specific plants.
- A simple sugar solution on an attractive butterfly feeder will be inviting to butterflies, bees and moths alike.
To attract a variety of birds put out a variety of seeds, and at different heights of feeder”
- Hoverflies are fantastic pollinators and love daisies and marigolds.
- Bees are well known for being some of the most important garden pollinators of all. They need flowers with open heads allowing them easy access to the nectar.
- Clover, buddleia, lavender and honeysuckle are great for bees and look lovely too.
- Follow a simple step by step guide to Making a Bee Box with Nick Baker.
- Moths are really vital prey for many bird and mammal species, and fortunately they aren't too picky.
- You can buy or make your own bug home to provide bees and other insects with places to rest and even hibernate in your garden.
To attract a variety of birds put out a variety of seeds, and at different heights of feeder.
Most birds follow typical routes around their local feeding patches and it can take some time for them to learn new ones.
However, your persistence will be rewarded if you keep your feeders clean and full of a variety of seeds.
The more reliable a food source your garden is, the greater chance that birds will add your patch to their daily commute.
- To attract a variety of birds you need to put out a variety of seeds and at different heights of feeder.
- Mixed seeds will attract a wider variety of birds: finches and siskins love nyjer seeds, and robins and dunnocks enjoy crushed peanuts, tits are partial to fat balls and will also appreciate live food such as mealworms when they are feeding their chicks in the spring.
- Thrushes enjoy fruit and berries and woodland birds such as treecreepers will enjoy finding nuts pushed into the bark of trees or scattered along the bottom of hedges.
- Get children involved by showing them how to bake for the birds. For a step-by-step video guide see the Wildlife Trusts' How to make a Bird Cake.
- For a thorough guide on what is and isn't good for birds check out the RSPB What food to provide guide. For more information on keeping your feeders clean and disease free see the RSPB's feeder hygiene advice.
- The presence of an apex predator (one at the top of the food chain) such as a sparrowhawk is a sign of a great garden ecosystem and flourishing feeders. If you are lucky enough to glimpse a sparrowhawk snatching up one of your garden birds you should be delighted!
- Remember that visiting birds need to drink and wash as well as feed, so provide a bird bath to make your guests feel welcome.
You can supplement the natural diets of mammals in your garden in the winter but year-round it's best to work towards a self-sufficient ecosystem by attracting their natural foods, namely insects, molluscs and other small mammals.
- Attract insects by letting your garden grow. They especially love herbs and nettles. Create your own nettle patch to draw in butterflies and moths.
- Make a wood pile to attract centipedes, snails and beetles for hedgehogs and amphibians.
- Put up a bat box for bats to roost and hibernate in. The Bat Conservation Trust have loads of advice on encouraging bats.
Rockeries are loved by reptiles and amphibians alike”
Amphibians need safe secluded places to lay their eggs as well as bugs to feed on. Reptiles like rocks on which they can sunbathe.
Rockeries are loved by reptiles and amphibians alike.
- You need only dig a small pond to attract plenty of friendly frogs and newts. They spend most of their lives on land only returning to water to breed.
- Make your pond wildlife-friendly with shallow sides for amphibians to climb in and out and a predator-free environment for tadpoles and baby newts to flourish.
- Make a bog garden. Even if it's just a small corner of your garden providing a variety of habitats encourages different species and helps your local ecosystem.
- Amphibians also love rockeries, especially those near water, where they can settle in the dark damp crevices protected from predators.
- Reptiles prefer rocks to be piled in a sunny corner where they can warm up in the sun whilst snacking on flies and then find shelter during rainfall.
- Compost heaps are perfect habitats for hibernating mammals such as hedgehogs but also provide brilliant incubation for reptile eggs. Grass snakes will commonly lay their eggs in them.
It's not just your flowerbeds and pond that can attract wildlife.
- Controlling pests is tricky but try to use natural predators and wildlife-friendly means to keep pests and other problem wildlife at bay.
- Look into more creative methods of bringing wildlife to your home such as making your roof a place for nature. Check out the RSPB's advice on roofs for wildlife.
There are other limitations to how much wildlife you will have visiting your garden.
There are lots of animals living in city centres, but the biggest difficulties arise when the distribution of wildlife-friendly patches is poor.
Birds are unlikely to travel to one small garden in amongst a 100 concrete covered patios but most of us are rarely in this extreme a situation.