We are all aware that wildlife numbers have plummeted over the past few decades; often a knock on effect of diminishing hedgerows and habitat making way for new housing and farming. Childhood memories of gardens adorned with butterflies, moths and bees have almost become the stuff of memories.
But there are simple changes we can make within our own gardens to encourage wildlife to return in their droves.
Create a pond
‘Build it and they will come’ – Never a truer word spoken than in the context of creating a pond. Last year my son made a pond from an old recycled tub. Within a week we had a resident frog, appearing from nowhere and relishing this new habitat. Ponds need not be large and expensive. Anything that holds water can be utilised.
Stones will provide a perfect platform for creatures to enter/exit the water, rest or grab a drink. Lily pads are ideal landing sites for damselflies and dragonflies.
Add some oxygenating plants such as dwarf hairgrass, Eleocharis acicularis or the evergreen fibre optic plant, Scirpus cernuus. With limited space try dwarf waterlilies such as Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helola’ or ‘Pygmaea Rubra.’
Build a bug hotel
A great project for all the family; build a home for bugs out of recycled garden material. Old holey bricks, branches, bamboo canes, pinecones, even seed heads provide ideal hideouts for all sorts of mini-beasts. The spikey heads of teasels can house all manner of creatures too.
Dead wood is an important habitat for many. Stack logs in a pile away from your main planting area and you will soon have new neighbours. Insects, fungi, lichen and moss will emerge, as will spiders, beetles, earthworms and woodlice. Add leaf litter to accommodate hedgehogs, toads and mice and more.
Feed the birds
Attracting birds into your garden is a win win. They are natural predators thinning out pests and providing entertainment from their daily routines and diversity of visiting species.
Bird feeders can range from simply scattering seed on a table, hanging up fat balls to buying purpose built feeders.
Thoughtful planting in your garden will also keep birds fed throughout winter. Evergreens such as pyracantha, yew, ivy, holly and cotoneaster provide berries in tough winter months.
Plant a herb garden
Incredibly popular with butterflies, bees, moths and hoverflies, herbs are an abundant source of nectar and pollen and provide you with fresh cooking ingredients. Try rosemary, mint, sage, chives, lavender, borage, angelica, thyme and fennel. Many herbs grow well in pots so are great for small spaces; equally a dedicated herb bed is advantageous for both flowers and scent.
Sow a wildflower meadow
If space allows designate part of your lawn to a wildflower meadow. Autumn is the perfect time to sow. Field scabious, ox-eye daisy, wild carrot, yarrow, cowslip, common sorrel and wild grasses like fescues and bents all benefit insects and birds. Incorporate yellow rattle to suppress vigorous grasses. Cheat a bit and plant plugs of wildflower plants into your lawn. Limited space? Sow wildflowers in containers.
Plant nectar rich flowers
Verbena bonareinsis, buddleja, globe thistle, lavender, red valerian, phlox, echinops, nicotina and many garden annuals will all have the wildlife populations making a bee-line for your garden.
Leave a section of your garden MESSY!
This is one the easiest and most effective ways to entice wildlife into your backyard. A patch of stinging nettles provides a safe haven for wildlife to breed and can support more than 40 species of insects and encourage hedgehogs, frogs and toads. Wild and natural just as nature intended.
Wildlife will benefit your garden; pollinators will return, your flowers bloom and your fruit and veg crop. A balanced eco system is good for us all.
We can all make small changes that actually make a big difference. Happy gardening!