Top Ten Tips For Wildlife Gardening
Once you start to think of your garden as a habitat for nature (which of course it already is), then gardening for wildlife becomes an instinctive part of everything you do – from choosing plants, to raking up leaves. Encouraging wildlife is not only wonderfully fascinating but your garden will reap the benefits too. Here are a few quick tips:
- Plant with pollinating insects in mind. As a general guide, simple, daisy-like flowers such as asters, cosmos and rudbeckia are more attractive than flowers with double heads. We’ll be posting more detailed plant lists in the future, but you look out for ‘bee-friendly’ plant labels when buying. Plants such as cosmos are very easy to grow from seed: sow in late spring in prepared ground and they’ll happily flower for the rest of the year until the first frosts.
- Extend the flowering period of your plants. Besides giving you all-year-round colour this will also help provide important nectar and pollen in the leaner times of the year. Grow winter-flowering heather and hellebore for blossom even in the coldest months; plant crocus, pulmonaria and primroses for early spring-time flowers, followed by hardy geranium, salvias, penstemons, foxgloves and sedums.
- Plant wildlife-friendly shrubs. Provide year-round shelter and sustenance for wildlife with shrubs such as daphne, flowering currant, wild privet, mahonia and berberis, ceonothus, and hardy fuchsia.
- Plant beds densely. Not only does this create lots of hiding places and cover for all kinds of wildlife but also has the added benefit of reducing the weeding!
- Build a pond. Probably one of the single most effective things you can do to encourage wildlife in your garden; and it doesn’t have to be huge – even just a small pond can be a haven for a host of insects and amphibians as well as a great source of food for birds.
- Build a bug house. A simple, small stack of logs, interspersed with hollow canes, pine cones, pieces of bark and dead leaves will create a superb habitat for ladybirds, beetles and woodlice.
- Put up nest boxes. Put up different types of nest boxes, but avoid the overly ornate or novelty-designed ones as they can quickly become deadly heat traps. Simple, well-constructed wooden boxes are the best choice. Try to position a distance from bird feeders to avoid disturbance. Open-fronted boxes are great for robins and wrens but place them so that they are hidden from view and covered by shrub or climber foliage.
- Plant climbers. Clematis, ivy, climbing hydrangea and a long list of other climbers provide superb nesting opportunities for blackbirds, robins and wrens.
- Relax. Don’t be in a hurry to cut plants down as soon as they die back in the autumn and instead postpone this task until the spring. The dead growth and seed heads will provide welcome winter shelter and home for many different types of insects, which will in turn provide much-needed food for birds, frogs and mammals in the spring. Similarly, leave a few piles of leaves and broken twigs lying around as they’ll make useful winter refuges. Taking a more relaxed approach to your gardening by resisting the urge to ‘clear up’ and you’ll be giving nature a helping hand as well as saving some hard work!
- Let the grass grow. If you can leave a section of the lawn a little longer, you’ll not only enjoy an array of different wild flowers (which will appear quite naturally in a surprisingly short space of time), but you will also be creating a habitat for butterflies such as the Meadow Brown. If you only have a very small lawn leaving a section may not be practical so instead just cut a little less frequently: fortnightly instead of weekly, or every 3 weeks if you currently mow fortnightly, etc. Letting the grass grow just that little bit longer will allow bee-friendly wild flowers like clover to flourish.