Gardens can be a really valuable resource for wildlife.
They provide food, shelter and breeding sites for a wide range of animals, which increases the interest and enjoyment of a garden. There are few species of insects which are garden pests; of the rest, some of the others are beneficial as pollinating insects, or as predators or parasites of pest species, while most feed on dead or living plant material without having any detrimental effect on gardens.
Encourage wildlife to your garden
Increasing the biodiversity in your garden doesn’t have to be hard, or compromise the way your garden looks. Here are a few small changes you could make to the way you manage your garden that can bring major benefits for the creatures that call it home.
Choosing the right Flowers
Flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects that perform the vital task of fertilization – seed and fruit production would drop dramatically without them.
Choose plants that provide pollen and nectar for as long a season as possible.
Grow a mix of Trees and Shrubs
Grow a range of trees, shrubs and climbers, or a mixed hedge to provide food and shelter. The biodiversity found in our urban gardens showed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that larger plants, particularly trees, support more wildlife. As well as providing food in the form of flowers, fruits and seeds, they provide cover and nesting sites for garden animals, from insects to larger species such as birds.
If your garden is too small for big trees, get some planted in the neighborhood, and protect those that are already there – large street trees provide a vital habitat for a range of wildlife that may visit nearby gardens while foraging.
Ideally dig a pond, but a container of water will suffice. The single easiest way to add wildlife value to a garden is to install a pond, however tiny – a large pot or even an inverted dustbin lid in an out-of-the-way spot will do.
Ideally, do not introduce fish to a pond primarily there for wildlife (they will eat anything that moves), and if you can resist temptation, allow water plants to colonies naturally. Make sure ponds have at least one sloping side to allow creatures an easy way out. Most wildlife, including amphibians such as newts and frogs, like shallower water than is generally thought.
Leave a pile of dead wood in a shady spot
Decaying wood provides an ever-rarer habitat to a range of specialist wildlife that is growing increasingly uncommon in the countryside, such as stag and bark beetles and their grubs, and many species of fungi. It also provides cover and hibernation sites. Any unstained or unpainted wood is suitable, although big, natural logs are best, ideally partly buried. Log piles can look quite architectural and rustic, though many people prefer to tuck them out of sight.
Composting your garden waste helps all your garden plants and wildlife, as it speeds up the natural recycling of nutrients by harnessing native decomposer organisms, especially fungi and soil bacteria.
- Compost makes for healthy soil, which is good for everything living in it and growing on it
- It is an excellent mulch
- It’s free and easy to produce
- Compost heaps also shelter many small creatures (and some larger ones, like slug-loving slow worms and grass snakes), which enjoy the heat released by decomposition.
Provide food & water for birds all year
Garden birds are some of the most conspicuous of garden wildlife, and easy to attract with supplemental feeding. Over the winter supplementary food can mean the difference between life and death for many, especially when winters are particularly cold.
Ideally, offer a mix of food including peanuts, sunflower hearts, seeds, kitchen scraps, or proprietary seed mixtures, to supplement natural food such as berries and seed heads. Don’t forgot that a supply of clean, unfrozen water is just as vital for feathered visitors – and ensure feeding tables are not accessible to cats.
Don’t be too tidy
This doesn’t mean your garden has to look a mess, but piles of leaves and twiggy debris provide both food and habitat for many species. If you leave perennials uncut over winter, their hollow stems can shelter hibernating insects. Piles of stones also make good habitat, particularly for hibernating reptiles and amphibians.
Scatter wild flower seeds
Meadows are simply mixtures of grasses and wildflowers. Re-creating them in the garden can help redress the balance. They are great for insects, they are low maintenance, and they make a good, more natural alternative to a labor-intensive lawn. They need relatively poor soil as this allows the wildflowers to compete with the grasses.
Make a Rock Garden
Steeply sloping ground, cliffs and rocky areas support their own specialized species of plants and animals adapted to surviving in areas with poor, thin soils. Their garden equivalents are rock gardens and gravel beds; planted well these are low maintenance, need little watering, and attract specialized wildlife such as bees, which are important pollinators.