How to make a Wildlife Friendly Garden

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if space is limited setting aside just a small area of your garden will attract our native British wildlife.

 

 A single Buddleia tree (butterfly tree) will attract butterflies

In this article I have described simple things we can do to attract wildlife to our British gardens by creating wildlife friendly areas, positioning bird nesting boxes and creating safe Hedgehog areas. 

To keep this page short and readable I have included  links  to more detailed information on my website. 

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

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

You don't need a lot of space  to create a wildlife friendly area and give nature a home.
  • If the garden is small and space is limited you can still create wildlife friendly areas. Herbaceous borders, rockeries, hedgehog friendly areas, or a bog area if you have a soggy bit of garden are all great for wildlife they appreciate even the smallest things like planting a Buddleia butterfly tree to attract, butterflies. If you plant a buddleia, butterflies will come.
  • Or If you can set aside a larger area of your garden and create a Hay meadow or wildflower lawn, my article here explains how,  growing a wildflower lawn   

If you create a wildlife garden small or large, wildlife will come. 

Planting 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

Creating a wildlife friendly herbaceous border.
Perennial plants flower each year so they're easy to tend and are great for attracting wildlife,  the 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 bumble bees.  Cowslip, cranesbill, foxglove, poppy and cornflower are both pretty and wildlife friendly plants.

Siting a hedgehog house
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, keeping dogs and foxes out, may be enough to encourage habitation.  Hedgehogs will often choose their own space to set up home in a hedgehog-friendly garden, 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 prefer a quiet area of the garden,against a wall, bank or fence and will make their own nests in the hedgehog house, out of leaves and other stuff found in your wildlife garden.
 

They 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 let your hedgehogs keep slugs and snails under control for you.

If you can site the nest box in an 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.
 
A simple rockery will attract wildlife.
Attracting insects and wildlife that feed on them
.
A rockery made from garden stones and old house bricks makes a great shelter for insects during the colder months

Spiders, Woodlice and beetles all add to the biodiversity of your wildlife garden and encourage the animals that feed on them.

Even providing shelter for our worst garden nightmare slugs and snails, will attract thrushes and hedgehogs to feed on them. Brushing yoghurt onto  stones and terra-cotta flowerpots will encourage lichens to grow, making the rockery even more natural. Planting crocuses and natural British Bluebells between the rocks will provide insects with an early nectar and pollen supply.

A  woodpile will attract and provide shelter for insects and they in turn will attract insect eating wildlife into your wildlife garden.

 How to make a woodpile.  

First 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. 

Although wildlife gardens are low maintenance, think about how much time you can spare looking after ponds, bird nests and feeding the creatures your garden will attract.

Even small wildlife friendly features like woodpiles, nesting boxes and rockeries will help sustain and attract wildlife into your garden.

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 pic for more information


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. 

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 its 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.

 

Attracting frogs, toads and newts and other pondlife. 
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.
 
Wildlife friendly Nature ponds information can be found on my garden pond page. 

Looking after your wildlife garden in the UK

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

Summer is on the way and 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