When designing a garden, most people’s main concern is to create somewhere peaceful and pleasant to sit in and, with the exception of the more avid gardener, easy to maintain. However, you could design your garden with quite a different idea in mind… to promote wildlife. With careful planning and sensitive management even the smallest garden can be transformed into a wildlife haven and for your efforts you will be rewarded with a host of charming visitors such as butterflies, hedgehogs and frogs, not to mention a wide variety of garden birds.
As important habitats, such as wild flower meadows and hedgerows, disappear from our countryside, gardens are becoming an increasingly valuable source of food and shelter.
How to turn your garden into a wildlife sanctuary
First, you must try to view your garden through the eyes of the creatures that visit it and ensure that it provides them with food, water and shelter.
Second, by carefully choosing native species of trees and shrubs that yield fruits, berries or seeds you can provide food for a variety of birds and insects. Understandably, you might find the idea of encouraging bugs quite strange, but many creepy crawlies help to keep other pests at bay and are also eaten by small birds such as blue tits and robins.
One vibrant six-legged visitor everyone loves to see in their garden is the butterfly. Butterflies like nothing better than to bask in the sun and drink nectar, so planting nectar-rich flowers will encourage species of butterfly like the Red Admiral and Painted Lady to visit your garden. If you want them to set up home, however, you will also need to cater for their young… the dreaded caterpillar! However, please note that caterpillars are incredibly fussy diners and the majority prefer wild plants, like nettles and thistles, to your cabbages!
Third, in addition to eating, your guests will also need a continuous supply of water – as simple as a tray in a secluded corner of the garden or as elaborate as a garden pond. Ponds have the added benefit of attracting a whole suite of new visitors including frogs, toads and dragonflies.
Finally you must think about where your new guests are to stay. Thick hedges and trees provide suitable nesting and resting places for many birds and putting up nest boxes in shady locations, away from marauding moggies, will further aid our feathered friends. Piles of decaying logs, although not as pretty as a water feature, contain many damp nooks and crannies that are ideal homes for frogs, stag beetles and even hedgehogs.
These creatures will repay you by eating slugs, snails and greenfly which infest your garden and will also provide you with hours of entertainment as you watch the wonderful world of nature live from your patio.
- Plant native fruit bearing trees and shrubs
- Plant nectar-rich flowers and caterpillar food plants
- Provide shelter such as nest boxes and log piles
- Create a garden pond or a wildflower meadow
- Avoid using herbicides, fungicides and insecticides