How to make your garden Wildlife Friendly

Big is not always best...... It's better to do small things that will be maintained rather than build a zoo and then lose interest.

 

In this article I have described some simple things we can do to attract wildlife to our gardens by; adding wildlife friendly features including safe hedgehog areas, growing wildlife friendly hedgerow and herbaceous borders, building rockeries and woodpiles and attracting pond-life and positioning bird nesting boxes.

 

To keep this page short, as interesting as I can... and readable. I have included links to more detailed information I have written.

 

If you plant a buddleia, butterflies will come.
plant a buddleia for butterflies

How big does a wildlife garden need to be

if space is limited setting aside even a small area of your garden will attract our native wildlife..... even  A single Buddleia tree (butterfly tree) will attract butterflies.

  • If the garden is small and space is limited you can still create wildlife friendly areas. Even a bog area if you have a soggy bit of garden. Wildlife will appreciate and be attracted to even the smallest things, like a Buddleia (butterfly) tree to attract, butterflies.
  • Small wildlife friendly features like woodpiles, nesting boxes and rockeries will help sustain and attract wildlife into your garden.
  • Or If you have the space to set aside a larger area of your garden create a Hay meadow or wildflower lawn, my article here explains how,  growing a wildflower lawn   

Whatever the size.... If you create a wildlife friendly garden.... wildlife will come. 

features to attract and sustain wildlife

Plant a Wildlife friendly hedgerow

Growing a native hedge or copse of berry and nut producing trees is a really great way of attracting wildlife into a garden. I have explained, what, how and the hedging plants you can plant from October through to March here  Native British hedgerow.

herbaceous border.

Grow a wildlife friendly herbaceous border, perennial plants flower each year so they're easy to tend and are great for attracting wildlife. Plants we weed out of our prim and proper borders, like Forget-me-nots, Buttercups and Ox-eye daisies are pretty and great for wildlife.

Early spring bulbs like bluebells (our native ones) lesser celandine, wild daffodils and snakeshead fritillary all supply nectar for insects when food is still scarce in spring. Borage and clover (the same clover we try to weed kill from our chemical dependent lawns) are great for bumblebees. Cowslip, cranesbill, foxglove, poppy and cornflower are pretty  wildlife friendly plants.

hedgehog house

Create a hedgehog house or shelter. Hedgehog houses are simple to make. Piling stones, earth or wood  over a sturdy upturned crate leaving just enough space for the hedgehogs to get in and out should be enough to encourage habitation.                                         

 

Site the nest box against a wall, bank or fence in a quiet overgrown area of your garden so the hedgehogs can forage nearby with protective cover. Try not to disturb the nest once it's occupied, as a frightened mother hedgehog may abandon her young. Hedgehogs will often also choose their own space in a hedgehog-friendly garden to shelter and.... hopefully even breed, under  sheds or hedges, log piles and compost heaps.

 

Pet dogs, badgers and foxes are the hedgehogs biggest enemy so make sure that your hedgehog box is sturdy. Hedgehogs are great little natural pest controllers eating slugs and snails found in damp, grassy areas of the garden, slug pellets and other garden chemicals are harmful to hedgehogs so avoid using them and instead let your hedgehogs keep slugs and snails under control for you.

Build a rockery

Build a rockery to attract wildlife, even a small pile of stones will attract insects and in turn the wildlife that feed on them. A rockery made from garden stones and old house bricks will make a great shelter for insects like Spiders, Woodlice and beetles that add to the biodiversity of your wildlife garden and encourage the animals that feed on them to hang around during winter....... Even providing shelter for slugs and snails is worth doing as thrushes and hedgehogs will feed on them.

 

The stones should be arranged loosely, leaving cracks and gaps for insects to get in and with larger rockeries, filling the gaps with gritty soil and planting crocuses and natural British Bluebells between the rocks will provide insects with an early nectar and pollen supply. To age the stones brush  yoghurt onto stones to  encourage lichens to grow, making the rockery even more natural.

 

If you site the rockery near to a nature pond, even a small one and use larger pieces of stone or rocks to create nooks and crannies, newts and frogs will shelter and hibernate in the cool, damp crevices and toads may hibernate in burrows under the rocks. Slow worms may hide under the rocks and stones until dusk when they come out to hunt but they seem happiest in my compost heap.

Woodpile

Make a woodpile it will attract and provide shelter for insects and they in turn will attract insect eating wildlife into your wildlife garden.  To make a woodpile select a moist shady area under large shrubs or trees, Pile logs and dead branches on top of each other and let the wood rot naturally.

Many insects like Ground and Rove beetles eat both adults and slug eggs and prefer undisturbed damp shady areas. The insect eating animals that in turn live of the insects will visit the area too.......... just wait and see. The wood pile is best left undisturbed because Stag beetles larvae will live in this wood for several years until they reach maturity. 

Bird nesting boxes.

 

Most nest boxes are simply boxes with a hole in the front. The size of the hole will depend on the type of bird you're trying to attract.

  • Blue tits, coal tits and marsh tits about 25mm across.
  • Great tits, nuthatches, house sparrows and tree sparrows, slightly bigger about 32mm.
  • Robins, wrens and pied wagtails prefer open fronted boxes but these can be vulnerable to attack by cats so put them somewhere safe.
  • House martins: use nest bowls, large 3/4 coconut shell works.
  • Starlings like a long deep box with a hole near the roof.
  • Sparrows nest close to each other in communal boxes, the box has three compartments with a hole just under the lid at each side and in the centre. They will also nest in the roof of your house. 

A lot more information about the best place to site the nest box and how to look after one toward the bottom of this page.

 

Wildlife pond

A wildlife pond can be a haven for wildlife.  Frogs, toads, newts, leeches and boatmen will live and breed in a wildlife pond providing the environment is right.

Frogs, toads and newts, can be beneficial garden creatures eating a wide range of garden pests and can be encouraged by providing log piles and other damp habitats in which they can shelter and a wildlife friendly pond where tadpoles can develop. I have written a guide to make a wildlife pond. If you have the space....a pond, even a container pond is one of the most wildlife friendly things you can do in your garden. Read the guide and think about it.

 

This is the easiest way to create a wildlife friendly garden or area

The easiest way to create a wildlife friendly garden or space is to sow wildflower lawn seeds over the area and then gradually add the other features outlined on this page.

Chose the area you are going to set aside and lightly dig or rake over. Most wild plants prefer poor soil.

Sow a packet of  meadow mix directly over the area. Follow the instructions on the packet.

Wait, watch and enjoy. Click on the advert for more information

Things we can do for Wildlife in winter
Things we can do for Wildlife in winter

Things you can do in winter for wildlife

Help Hedgehogs in Winter

For most animals finding enough food in winter can be difficult, 

Hedgehogs solve this problem by hibernating. Going into a deep sleep when the body temperature drops, the heartbeat and  breathing slow down helping them save energy and survive the winter without eating.

They get ready for hibernation by eating extra food and storing it as body fat to use as energy while sleeping. 

Hedgehogs need a safe place that is protected from extreme weather to hibernate safely and

compost heaps are perfect.  A composting bin with a lid and access at the base or an open heap covered with a thick piece of old carpet to keep it dry and insulated both make a great place for a hedgehog to sleep away the winter..... Just avoid disturbing the bin between autumn and April.

leaves you have cleared up from paths or lawns piled in a dry sheltered  corner or under a hedge, also make a good shelter for hedgehogs.

Help Frogs get through winter

Male frogs often spend winter in the muddy bottom of your pond, breathing through their skin. Gases caused by decaying plant material can get trapped and poison them if the pond freezes over, so float a tennis or golfball on the surface to prevent ice from sealing over.

Herbaceous borders 

Leave herbaceous borders intact in winter so decaying plants give shelter for small mammals and insects. Clumps of ornamental grasses may offer the perfect hibernaculum for a hedgehog, while hollow plant stems and seedheads provide nooks and crannies for invertebrates. Seedheads are also a source of oil-rich food for birds which may visit to feed.

Insects 

Put bundles of twigs at the back of borders, or in a plant pot on its side, where invertebrates and small mammals can shelter. 

Leave stacks of plant pots in a sheltered spot to offer shelter for bees and other insects needing a cool, dry place. 

Birds in winter

Birds don't hibernate, some migrate to warmer climates and return next year.

The birds that stay and overwinter in our gardens will require a lot of energy to keep themselves warm. Energy comes from food..... so the more insects you attract into your wildlife garden and the more seedheads you leave in herbaceous borders the less energy birds will use up flying around looking for food to create the energy to keep them warm... Don't be too tidy, makes sense doesn't it.    

flowerpotman.com

Best places to site a bird nesting box

Siting your bird box

  • Site nest boxes so that they are sheltered from the wind, rain and strong sunlight. If they are in full sun, the chicks could overheat and die.
  • Position boxes 5 to 6ft above ground so they are out of reach of cats and other predators.
  • Drill small drainage holes at the bottom and make sure the lid is secure to keep out magpies and squirrels.
  • Sit the box near to small branches that will support fledglings but won't hold the weight of cats.
  • House martin nest bowls should be situated under the eaves of your house, they often return to the same nesting sites year after year.
  • Most nesting birds prefer to nest and hatch eggs in quiet areas of the garden with good cover. 
Natural cover for wild birds to build nests.

Ivy is great for birds as its nectar and berries provide much-needed winter food. Its also great cover for placing nest boxes and for natural nesting sites. Ivy needs controlling though or it will stifle and kill off other wildlife friendly plants. more information here  clearing ivy

Common honeysuckle not only smells lovely, it's also a rich source of nectar and pollen for both insects and birds. It grows quickly up trees, walls and trellises.  It provides great cover for placing nest boxes and for natural nesting sites. Planting berry-bearing shrubs and trees like Firethorn, rowan and holly not only provide cover but also an extra source of food for birds and other wildlife in the Autumn.

How to maintain your bird box

Clean the nest box out with boiling water in the autumn when the young birds have flown the nest. This will ensure Disease and parasites are not passed to next seasons nesting wild birds.
Your bird box might not be used in the first year, as wild birds often choose a nesting site during the autumn, winter or early spring. leave it up for a couple of seasons and if it's not used, try it in another area of your garden. leaving your box up in winter may provide a useful roost in bad weather.

The Multi Hole Nest Box is perfect for small birds and will attract a wide variety of birds due to it's 3 options of hole, open fronted to attract robins and wagtails, 28mm to attract tits and 32mm hole to attract sparrows, wrens etc.
 
Let the kids make there own wildlife film.
 
This camera kit has got all you need to set up a colour camera system, with B/W night vision in your own nest box (nest box not included). Just fit, plug in, watch and enjoy, its easy.... and it works! The camera kit fits the featured nest box and can be purchased together.    Make a great Christmas present

 


Looking after your wildlife garden

Maintenance of a wildlife friendly garden is fairly easy....... less is best in a wildlife garden.

Maintaining Wildflower lawns and mini hay meadows  is covered here   Wildflower lawn

When winter is over and summer is on the way, there are still things to do and food to feed birds and other animals in your wildlife garden.

Birds, will benefit from feeding especially during the early months of spring when natural food sources are still in short supply  and difficult to find. Include food with a high fat content to help to keep them warm. It is important to be consistent and feed regularly so that the birds don't waste vital energy visiting your garden when there is no food.

Help birds in spring by placing fat blocks in wire cages. It's also important to continue to feed the birds the same food you have been feeding all year, including grain and nuts to maintain a balanced diet.
 
If you can and have the time, supplying a few different recipes will attract a range of birds into your garden, peanut cakes will attract starlings, insect cakes for tits and berry cakes for finches finely chopped bacon rind and grated cheese will make small birds like wrens very happy and Sparrows, finches and nuthatches will enjoy prising the seeds out of sunflower heads.
 
If your garden is safe from cats placing feed on wire mesh held just off the ground is a great way to feed birds robins and dunnocks. Thrushes, blackbirds and other birds that prefer fruit will peck away at apples, raisins and song-bird mixes scattered on the ground for them.

A few things to do all year round to look after wildlife in your garden.

  • Check bonfires before they are lit for sheltering animals, such as hedgehogs,toads and frogs.
  • Check access to wildlife ponds to allow the wildlife to drink, and get in and out of the water. 
  • Be careful when you turn compost heaps the warmth they generate attracts Hedgehogs, frogs, toads and other animals.
  • Check bird boxes during early spring  are clean and ready for birds to make new nests, then leave them undisturbed untill the birds have flown the nest,
  • Leave herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until spring. These can provide homes for overwintering insects.
  • Cottage gardens and tips from an old landscape cottage gardener
  • Types of Soil and the wild meadow flowers that will grow and thrive in them I have listed a few species of wild flowers and the soil they thrive in best on this page, soil wildflowers grow in

How much space do I need to create a wildlife friendly garden