Major changes in the countryside over the past 50 years have led to the destruction of a number of wildlife habitats. Hedgerows, ancient woodlands and woodlands are declining, threatening the wildlife that depends on them. Gardeners can make a valuable contribution in providing alternative habitats for wildlife and linking urban green spaces with nature reserves and the wider countryside.
Your back garden is host to an amazing variety of wildlife and that should be celebrated and encouraged.
Top Tips for a wildlife garden
1. Put up a nest box – give a bird a home
Avoid putting up boxes in busy areas of the garden, such as near a bird table or feeders. Robins and wrens in particular look for nesting sites in good cover.Don’t line the box, birds will do this themselves. Leave pet or your own hair out in spring for them to collect. Don’t leave out knitting wool or man-made fibres as these can be dangerous. Clicking on the image above will take you to the RSPB web page showing how you can make your own. Alternatively, watch the video below from a nice man in Somerset who will show you how to do it.
2. Grow flowers to attract insects and birds to your garden
Flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects all year round. Many garden plants are as good for wildlife as wild flowers are. These include aubrieta and flowering currant in spring; lavender and thyme in summer; Michaelmas daisy and hebe in autumn.
3. Create a pond
Creating a pond will attract insects such as dragonflies to breed. Shallow margins with lots of semi-aquatic plants will provide emergence areas.
A water feature with different depths is great for wildlife. Shallow areas are used by bathing and drinking birds, emerging dragonflies and somewhere for amphibians to lay eggs. Deeper areas help aquatic insects survive cold spells and are good places to watch newts swimming.
4. Leave a pile of dead wood in a shady spot
Any wood will do, although big logs are best and can make a home for anything from beetles to other useful mini-beasts. If you are lucky, you may even attract the amazing stag beetle! Stag beetles are very rare insects, if you do find them you might like to report this and be part of the stag beetle project.
5. Provide food and water for birds all year round
Providing a mix of food such as peanuts, seeds, kitchen scraps and fat balls, plus natural food such as berries and seed-heads, will attract a wide range of birds. The RSPB give good advice about what you should provide for the birds. The BBC Nature UK site also has some useful tips.
Visit this BBC video from BBC Norfolk which shows you how to attract birds to your garden with the lovely Chris Packham. Or follow this simple idea from Thames Water on how to make your own fat balls.
Don’t feel that you have to be too tidy. Leave some areas undisturbed, especially between March and May. Piles of leaves and twiggy debris in a hedge bottom, or out-of-the-way corner, will shelter frogs, mice and hedgehogs, and the seeds in dead flower heads can be valuable food. Let a patch of grass grow longer, as this encourages wild flowers, provides shelter for small mammals and food for some butterfly caterpillars.