A garden can look beautiful, but if it’s not teeming with birds, creatures and insects then it’s not truly alive. It can be a real delight to see some unexpected visitors (of the animal variety) pop up in your garden. Getting to know the regulars can be just as fun.
Knowing how to attract wildlife into your garden is not just enjoyable but is increasingly becoming a serious issue of conservation. As green spaces in society dwindle, animals come to rely on gardens for refuge and a source of food. These top tips will show you how to make your backyard one of them.
The importance of lawns
A freshly-shorn, manicured lawn may look picture-perfect but consider leaving a section uncut and natural, perhaps near a tree or at the bottom of the garden. This provides long grass as a habitat for all sorts of insects and mini-beasts.
A section of long grass also has the added benefit of these insects creating a feasting ground for birds – attracting more feathered friends to your garden.
If lawn borders are filled with flowering plants and shrubs they will give nectar-rich food to butterflies and bees. They will also provide seeds, berries and cover for birds and small mammals.
Please keep your trees
There has been a worrying trend towards cutting down trees in UK gardens, whether it be issues of light-blocking or perceived safety threats relating to high winds. Trees are absolutely vital to the wildlife community.
Trees offer roosting and nesting sites for birds and mammals, as well as valuable shelter and cover from the elements and possible predators.
If you want a sustained level of wildlife in your garden, don’t cut down your trees, plant more!
Consider a pond or water feature
Ponds are important hotspots for biodiversity. Collectively, they support more species than any other freshwater habitat.
Water features and ponds are an excellent way of attracting a wide variety of animal life. Amphibians such as frogs, toads or newts will welcome a vital watery habitat and birds will appreciate the chance to bathe.
Lots of invertebrates need water to survive, feeding off plants, algae and other smaller animals. And of course where there are insects, bigger wildlife will follow.
How to provide breeding and shelter spaces
Artificial shelters such as bird boxes, bat boxes and hedgehog homes can be an important way of providing homes for wildlife. Knowing they are there will encourage animals to come back year after year.
Natural roosting and nesting sites are increasingly hard for animals to find. Gardens give us the opportunity to give them an ongoing safe alternative.
Bushes and hedgerows
According to the RSPB, hedges may support up to 80 per cent of our woodland birds and 50 per cent of our mammals. So they are pretty important.
Small mammals like hedgehogs rely on these habitats to survive and breed. Birds will also appreciate bushes and hedges as a place for cover from predators and a safe spot to build a nest.
Don’t forget that butterflies won’t just magically appear in your garden, they need breeding sites too. Growing the right plants can give them a place to breed and lay their eggs.
Growing lady’s smock and hedge garlic can be good for orange tip butterflies and buckthorn bushes are favourites for breeding brimstones.
Leave fallen fruit under fruit trees. In late summer butterflies, such as red admiral and painted lady, will feed on fruit juices in fallen over-ripe pears, plums and apples.
By Jamie Cameron