Creating and maintaining a garden that supports and attracts wildlife needs a deceptive amount of consideration and planning. It is about much more than allowing an area of your garden to ‘go wild’ and see what ends up living there.
It seems like gardeners are never more keen to bring wildlife to their own backyards – according to a survey carried out by Green Home Environmental Store, 53% of the customers interviewed were keen to find out more about attracting wildlife to their gardens, while 78% were already actively encouraging birds and other wildlife with feeders and appropriate plants and shrubs. By supporting wildlife you can help protect endangered species, promote a healthy eco-system and keep an interesting, exciting garden that will fascinate children and adults alike.
If you’re someone who already has an established garden and wants to make it more wildlife friendly, or if you’re planning a garden from scratch here are some key things that you may want to think about including to attract birds, insects and mammals to your backyard.
A pond is probably one of the greatest assets to a wildlife garden. All animals need water to survive and the presence of a pond in your garden will attract numerous species. If your pond is well designed to include aquatic plants it can become a great habitat for frogs, newts and insects such as dragonfly and damselfly (who need submerged plants as shelter for their larvae). A pond surrounded by (or adjacent to) long vegetation is also ideal to encourage timid animals in an out of the pond. You will notice a vast increase of birds as your garden becomes a local watering hole – a sitting log or ornamental platform will give them somewhere to drink from in safety.
If you are installing a pond kit make sure your pond design includes deep areas and sloping sides to enable animals to climb out easily. Maintain your pond by ensuring that algae, plants and blanket weed (weeds which cover the surface of the water) do not take over but are removed gently and in moderation. Thinning them out too much may leave wildlife confused and without the necessary shelter and protection that they need.
Now and then you may notice your water levels decreasing; this isn’t usually a problem but during severe dry spells you may wish to top up the water using rain water or water from a rain barrel which is more natural and doesn’t contain the rich nutrients in tap water than can disrupt the pond environment. You can also use rain chains to collect water from roof run off and then directed to your pond.
Shrubs, Hedgerow and Grass
It stands to reason that a garden with dense vegetation will support wildlife more so than one that is primarily concrete or stone based. Long grass is great for foraging, feeding and egg laying for insects whilst dense, thorny hedges can provide a nesting environment for various types of wildlife. Hedgerows can also provide a travel network for insects to move along during winter when they need shelter to survive the cold weather. Try and use hedges that bear berries which is a vital food source for wildlife throughout the year.
In spells of cold weather you should refrain from trimming borders, cutting grass or pruning hedges if you want to encourage wildlife in the garden – they need as much protection and shelter as possible.
Attracting wildlife to your garden is fun, easy and can bring you and your family so much enjoyment. However, learn as much as you can before you make a purchase or implement some of these ideas. Check out more ideas on this subject in my part 2 article on how to attract wildlife in your garden.