By making just a few small changes to the way you garden, you’ll really help native wildlife to thrive. To get you started, here’s some expert advice courtesy of some of the best gardeners and bloggers we’ve found – tips to make your garden more wildlife-friendly.
Begin by asking: “what does the wildlife need?” says Brian of Brian’s Birding Blog. To answer the question, think about basics like food, water, shelter, and safety. By planning your garden around the building blocks of survival, your garden will be nature-friendly by design.
That’s a sentiment with which Nic of Dogwood Days wholeheartedly agrees – an attitude she inherited from her father who always says:
“The garden is an extension of the wider landscape in terms of its links to nature – the birds, insects and animals.
But too often, we design our gardens with privacy in mind without thinking about how our wild visitors will get about. With a little thought, hedgehog-loving Adam of My Life Outside says that’s easily fixed:
“By creating hedgehog highways through our gardens we can join up vast swathes of land and give these fabulous creatures a fighting chance.
So get together with your neighbours and create animal corridors by “lifting a fence panel a few inches, cutting a hole through wire netting or drilling through boundary walls.”
And do remember to provide a water source – an oasis for living creatures. As Brian says, installing a pond “gives the birds another food source and somewhere to bathe and drink,” and as Dave of Why Watch Wildlife adds “A source of fresh, clean water is good for invertebrates [and] amphibians.”
Now your garden works for wildlife, where will it live? Wildlife expert Dan Rouse is a passionate advocate of “messy zones” which she says can be a simple as “a small piece of old carpet and some bricks behind the shed” – the perfect hidey hole for insects and shy creatures like slow worms. She also says:
“Nest spaces or nesting boxes and roosting boxes are fundamental for wildlife to survive.
But it’s not just birds who need high vantage points, it’s bugs and beasties too, as Bill at Frodsham Marsh Bird Blog points out. His garden features a tree whose “winding twisted trunk and small branches hold a selection of brightly painted bean cans which have been filled with a variety of fibre material”.
And don’t forget to make spaces for “lone fliers” to hang out – Bill says a couple of catering size cans fitted with a wooden plug and drilled with holes make ideal accommodation:
“Solitary bees can access the interior to live their lives away from predators.
The same goes for dry hogweed stems which, cut to length, can also be used to stuff a tin – but be careful handling the live stuff, Bill says, because the sap can burn your skin. And because more bugs mean more bats fluttering overhead during spring and summer evenings, you’ll need to remember to install a bat box too.
Look at your garden through the eyes of prospective wildlife visitors. Do you have a tree? If not, maybe consider planting one, or if space is a problem, make existing structures work for birds and insects. Bill (at Frodsham Marsh Bird Blog) whose garden is on the small side says:
“The washing line post has Ivy growing up it and now provides thick cover where robin and wren have nested.
Wildlife expert Dan Rouse says using your planting to create layers ensures there’s food for all: “Shrub-like plants like lavender or fuchsia give off a lot of smell and still carry pollen for our pollinators.”
And remember to make sure there’s plenty of ground cover to provide shelter for bugs and food for predators. Dan says:
“Smaller plants like ground creeper are great for our insects and small birds to hide in too.
That goes for grass too. Lisa at Edulis Wild Food says to delay mowing until wildflowers growing in it have had chance to bloom: “The bees are grateful for the early food and you realise how diverse your lawn can be if not totally mono-cultured.”
Do you have any wildlife gardening tips you’d like to share? Just head over to our Facebook page and leave us a message – we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this gem of a tip from Miles at Forager who says it’s not just the wildlife that benefits from wild planting:
“Eat your weeds! Bittercress, sow thistle, chickweed, nettles, dandelion are all delicious and nutritious.
Find plenty more wildflower inspiration at our wildflower hub page.