This week our expert is Paul Cartwright, otherwise known as The Green Fingered blogger. Paul blogs all about the many ways that you can maintain a garden with minimal time, skill, or money. This week he is explaining 7 simple ways to turn your garden into a wildlife garden.
Encouraging wildlife into your garden can be an interesting, rewarding and educational experience for you and your family. At the Green Fingered Blog, I try and find ways of keeping gardening easy and inexpensive, and there are lots of ways to attract various creatures, for next to nothing, by recycling or using things from your house or garden. Providing sources of food, water and shelter can enable a wide variety of creatures to thrive. Some of them will provide entertainment for you. Others will leave intriguing signs of their activity for you to discover (I’m referring to cobwebs, feathers, chrysalises and birds nests rather than the somewhat less interesting proof of a visit left behind by the neighbours’ cat). Some will help you control the pests that attack your plants, and others will pollinate your flowers and enable you to grow fruit and vegetables. Whatever the size your garden, you can do these 7 cheap and easy things to attract wildlife to your garden:
1.Build A Bug Hotel
You can build a good bug hotel just using things lying around in your garden, but it can be as small and simple as a log with some holes drilled in it. Hang it in a tree so that the holes face the sun and the bees, ladybirds and other insects will love it, and move in to lay their eggs, shelter from the weather, or hibernate in winter. You could even just drill some holes in your fence! Bees and other insects pollinate fruit trees and other plants, and ladybirds eat aphids which can otherwise destroy your roses and flowers, so it’s well worth looking after them.
2. Make A Bird Table
Birds are great entertainment to watch, but they also eat plenty of insects, slugs, and snails so they can help you control pests too. Building a bird table seems complicated when you look at the ones you can buy, but all sorts of things can be used for putting out nuts, fruit and seeds if they have a flat surface. Making an actual bird table is easier than you think; all you need are a few off cuts of wood to make a tray with a lip round the outside and something to fix it on. It could even be as simple as a post hammered into the ground with a board on it.
3. Make A Pile Of Logs Or Twigs
All sorts of wildlife, from tiny insects to hedgehogs and mice, will seek refuge in a pile of twigs and logs. All you need to do is gather up a load of stuff you’ve pruned or that’s fallen off or been blown in by the wind. Where it’s come from doesn’t matter, just pile it up in a quiet place where it won’t get disturbed like a corner, or at the bottom of a fence or wall, underneath an evergreen shrub if you can. This makeshift haven will allow wildlife to over winter, or hide from predators, meaning there will be more wildlife in your garden long term.
4. Terracotta Toadhouse
What do you do when you break a nice pot? Throw it away? Smash it up and use it for crocks? If a bit of the rim is gone but most of it’s still in tact, leave it like that, turn it upside down, and find a quiet corner for it. An upside-down pot makes an ideal home for toads or hedgehogs! Hedgehogs are one of the cuter garden visitors, although they are nocturnal so you will have to make an effort to see them if they move in. But even if you don’t spot them, they eat slugs – need any more persuading?
5. Just Add Water
It is often said that the single most effective way to increase wildlife in your garden is to make a pond. If that’s too big a project for you, you could just sink a washing up bowl in the ground or simply put down a shallow planter on the surface and fill it with water. A simple saucer full of pebbles will help a wide range of animals get the water they need. Even bees need a drink now and then! Just make sure it’s not too deep, or make sure there are some stones that will enable anything that gets in to get out again.
6. Plant For Pollinators
Planting a range of plants that are nectar rich will attract all the bees and butterflies you need. When you’re buying from a garden centre look for the RHS Plants for Pollinators sign on labels. Don’t forget to check when each species flowers and buy a mix of plants that will flower at different times of the year. That way you’ll have year round activity in your garden. Just to get you started, you could try these:
- Achillea (pictured)
- Buddleia davidii
- Verbena bonariensis
- Sedum spectabile
7. Go Wild
If you don’t like the idea of letting your entire garden go totally out of control, just let one corner do its own thing. A small patch of nettles in a hidden corner could make all the difference to native caterpillars. And native caterpillars grow into native butterflies! Leaving ivy to cover a wall or tree will give birds a nesting site. Give a small area over to nature and the wildlife will colonise it and then start exploring the rest of your garden too.
So there are seven simple things you can do to attract more wildlife to your garden. For regular ideas and inspiration for your garden, come and join me on the Green Fingered Blog. You can also get regular garden updates and idea by following me on twitter @PlanPlantPrune.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about how to create your very own wildlife garden, have a look at some of our other expert articles including 7 Fun Child Friendly Garden Activities By Ciar Byrne and Expert Greenhouse Advice With The Sunday Gardener.