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 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.
Whatever the size.... If you create a wildlife friendly garden.... wildlife will come.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Siting your bird box
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.
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
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.
A few things to do all year round to look after wildlife in your garden.