How to Encourage Wildlife Into Your Garden
Encouraging wildlife into our gardens goes a long way towards compensating for the loss of habitats elsewhere. These simple measures will help you encourage a healthy ecosystem in your garden.
A Green Beginning
Native plants, like Monkshood, Broom and Catmint, will attract more than a fair share of ‘garden friendly’ insects, including ladybirds, lacewings and moths.
There is nothing better to brighten your borders than the sight of beautiful butterflies floating among your garden flowers. Butterfly magnets include Echinacea, lavender, sedums, Michaelmas daisies, sage, lilac and of course, buddleja, which is known as the ‘butterfly bush’.
Unfortunately over the past century, nearly 70 per cent of ponds have been lost from the UK countryside, meaning garden ponds have an increased importance. A well-planted pond will attract and support a wide range of aquatic wildlife and the margins will also provide food and shelter for frogs and other creatures, including birds, butterflies and dragonflies.
Bumblebees are in rapid decline, so to prevent further losses avoid using pesticides in your garden. To encourage them useful honey bees to visit, plant both nourishing pollen and sugar-loaded nectar-rich flowers, such as lavender, campanulas and coneflowers.
Ladybirds and hoverflies lend a helping hand in keeping the garden bug free as they’ve an incredible appetite for gobbling up aphids. Invite them in by planting ‘attractants’, such as Limnanthes douglasii and Convolvulus tricolor.
Trees native to the UK are best for wildlife, as they harbour a wider variety of insects. In a small garden, find room for a birch tree and grow it as a multi-stem for a ‘woodland’ effect.
Hedgehogs are helpful to gardeners, as they’ll eat caterpillars, slugs, snails and mice so should be encouraged to help you in your war against pests. Give them a home by cutting out a ‘hedgehog-size’ entrance in one of the side panels of a covered wooden box and attach a short timber tunnel at the entrance, to make it inaccessible to inquisitive foxes and pets.
Pile up logs in sheltered parts of the garden to give a home to spiders, beetles and other insects, which will provide a ready meal in spring for re-emerging hedgehogs and small mammals.
Mountain ash is the most garden-worthy native tree with flowers, fruit, glorious autumn colour and a shapely silhouette marking the changing of the seasons. The lush berries are especially useful for helping birds survive the winter when food is scarce.
Adding a green roof to garden buildings will improve air quality as well as encouraging wildlife, making them especially useful for urban areas. An easy option is sedum carpet, which is grown and supplied on special matting and simply rolled into place.
Plants with showy double blooms are often sterile and useless to bees, so when designing your borders go for traditional cottage garden plants and for colour schemes that bees find attractive, such as blue, purple, violet, white and yellow.
Provide garden-friendly insects with winter shelter by building ‘bug hotels’. Do this by cutting old canes into 100-200mm lengths and pack them into stacked open-ended watertight containers. For bumblebee nests fill racks of clay flowerpots with unravelled soft string.
Make a compost heap with leafy waste to provide a bed for frogs and toads. Used as mulch it will encourage flies, spiders and earthworms, which in the circle of life will become food for birds.
A Helpful Boundary
DWH David Wilson Homes new show home has a special garden designed for insects and wild animals. Pictured at the Cromwell Heights in Longridge, Preston site Samuel Lockley aged 2 with an insect home
To give your garden more wildlife-appeal, extend a well-manicured lawn with rough grass planted with wildflowers. In a sunny patch, scatter the seeds of field poppies, ox-eye daisies and cornflowers to create a fairytale meadow that lures butterflies and bees.
Replace fencing with a hedge to provide homes and food for many insects and birds. Native, evergreen holly is particularly useful as its flowers are a butterfly food plant, and birds will enjoy feasts of berries from it.
Birds prefer untidy borders. To encourage more visitors in the autumn, leave dead heads on plants so chaffinches and greenfinches can pick out the seeds and don’t clear up all the autumn leaves, as birds scratch around in them for mini beasts to eat.