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A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

Most gardens play an important part in promoting biodiversity and maintaining ecosystems – vital if we are to have a sustainable planet. You might want to further enhance your garden’s ecological value, or perhaps promote wildlife to help pollinate plants (important if you want to gather your own seed and/or are growing your own food) and to help control unwanted pests.

Promoting wildlife is also a way or enriching the garden experience – just think about birdsong, the buzzing and gentle flitting of bees from flower to flower, the colourful displays of butterflies and the fascinating movements of the myriad insects and other ‘critters’ out there! So how can you ‘design’ wildlife into your garden and gardening activities?

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

First it’s important to recognise that you and your friends and family are also going to use the garden, so there’s no need to ‘go completely wild’ and make it unpleasant or difficult for humans to use the garden. In fact the best designed and managed gardens (and often the most beautiful) can also be the best for wildlife. These are the places where nature has not been allowed to take over.

You can ‘tip the balance in favour of wildlife’ in a number of ways. If you have a large garden you can adopt a ‘conservation’ approach and set out separate areas to attract and support different types of wildlife. If your garden is smaller, you can provide a range of features for the wildlife species you want to encourage. This approach is especially important if you want to actively harness nature to control pests.

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

So what can you do?

  • Create habitats that mimic those in nature and complement the local range outside the garden

  • Provide natural shelter, nesting, food and drink –  important as ‘stopping off’ points for temporary visitors to your garden as well as for longer term residents

  • Aim to increase diversity- and recognise that this is going to be a gradual process

  • Build in some key features, such as…..

Climbign planst like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

Climbing plants like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

  1. Native plants- these act as a host to many more species than non native plants

  2. Wildflowers, grasses, weeds- these attract butterflies and many other insects. Nettles are important hosts for species that aid a healthy garden; butterflies and ladybirds. Maybe you can grow these in a container if you don’t have the space to leave patch in the garden?

  3. Nectar and pollen rich flowering plants- these  feed butterflies, bees, hoverflies etc.- which in turn attract birds

  4. Trees, flowering and fruiting shrubs- these provide food and shelter for birds

  5. Climbing plants- they provide food and cover for birds and food for insects and butterflies. Examples include Ivy, honeysuckle, quince, wisteria, clematis..

  6. Hedges- these give food and shelter for wildlife (e.g hedgehogs, voles and shrews), food and nesting for birds- where it’s practical choose to install a hedge rather than a fence

  7. Water- a pond brings masses of creatures to drink as well as attracting resident pond life

  8. Wood piles – insects colonise the decaying wood, attracting spiders and birds; beetles lay grubs; toads and hedgehogs hibernate underneath; slow worms use it as home (and these prey on slugs)

  9. Compost heap – provides both food for the soil and home for minute insects and other ‘mini beasts’ which feed birds, hedgehogs, toads. It also acts as a possible nesting place for hedgehogs, toads and slow worms.

  10. Bird and Bat boxes, tables, feeders and baths- put these up in secluded and sheltered spots out of full sun – and out of the reach of cats! Birds need extra food in winter. provide a range of foods according to the species you want to attract. Birds need to drink and bathe to keep their plumage in good order- even in winter, so keep birdbaths unfrozen

  11. Stones and walls- toads, newts and female frogs usually spend winter on land, under rockery stones (or in a log pile). Beetles, spiders, insects live in nooks and crannies

  12. Bug hotels’ can provide a ‘man made’ substitute for the above, and are good fun to make with children.

'Bug Hotels' can provide a 'Des Res' for many insects and other critters

‘Bug Hotels’ can provide a ‘Des Res’ for many insects and other critters

Further information: A range of useful wildlife gardening guides

Old School Gardener