Gardens have become increasingly important habitats for many wildlife species in Britain as intensive farming has resulted in less wild flowers and plants. If you would like to encourage wildlife into your garden, here’s how to make a mini wildlife reserve.
- By adding native wild flowers separately, or in a meadow, to your garden, you will provide wildlife with food supplies. Here are some ideas:
- Add teasel and thistles – birds will feed on their seeds.
- Native trees such as sorbus and elder will provide berries.
- Flowers such as foxgloves and lavender provide nectar to attract bees.
- Include grass species such as oats and barley to provide seeds for sparrows and continue to feed birds through the winter.
- Plants with ‘flat’ flowers, such as sedums or limnanthes douglasii (also known as ‘poached eggs’), attract hoverflies and lacewings.
- Leave some apples on the ground in the autumn – butterflies enjoy feasting on them.
Shelter and breeding places
Try to provide a range of habitats for different wildlife types. Here are some ideas:
- Rotting logs will encourage beetles, which feed on slugs.
- Leave piles of leaves to provide shelter for hedgehogs.
- Grow ivy up tree trunks – its flowers provide food for many insects and shelter for over-wintering butterflies.
- Don’t trim herbaceous plants in the autumn – they provide places for insects during the winter.
- Ladybirds will nest in bundles of sticks tied together.
- Fit bird boxes for different birds with different sized holes ranging from 25-32mm in diameter (1-1.25in).
- Use hedges for boundaries instead of fences, and trim before March or after August to avoid nesting birds. Include holly and hawthorn to provide berries.
- Ground beetles and centipedes can be encouraged by leaving some areas untidy to provide hiding places.
- Earthworms will increase when you regularly mulch bare soil.
- Allow nettles and weeds to develop in a restricted area, plant ground cover widely and cover vertical surfaces with climbers to add lots of food and habitats for beneficial insects.
Adding a wildlife pond will attract many birds and insects by providing food. Be sure the pond has gently sloping sides to allow wildlife to get in and out easily. Add a bucket of mud from an existing pond to introduce pond creatures – many more will follow naturally.
Whether you live in the city or the country, you can make your garden a popular place for insects, birds and animals to hang out. Keep a diary handy to make a note of who visits your garden and when. You can take photos of the animals that visit, or even draw pictures of them. You’ll be surprised at how many visitors you get!
Make a ladybird hotel
Ladybirds hibernate in winter, so why not make them somewhere cosy to stay? Ask Mum or Dad to help you carefully remove the lid of an old paint or food tin (a large baked bean or tomato soup one is ideal) and pack it with straws that have been cut to the length of the tin. Then hang it outside in a sunny place, at least a metre from the ground. Be sure not to disturb the tin, and look out for the ladybirds when they emerge in April. Or Mum and Dad might prefer to buy a Ladybird Hotel.
Bats are nocturnal which means they come out at night and need somewhere safe to roost in daytime. They’re getting rarer because their natural habitats, such as old trees and caves, are disappearing. You can help by putting up a bat box. They look like a bird box, but with a slit underneath instead of a hole at the front. The box needs to be positioned at about 5m high, so you’ll need to send Mum or Dad up a ladder! Look out for signs of activity including bats leaving the box at dusk, the sounds of ‘chattering’ or small droppings below. Be patient though, as bats may take a while to find the box.