If you would like to contribute to the wellbeing of wildlife, you’ll need more than just a corner of your garden left to run wild. It is also possible to have a pretty and tidy garden that is welcoming to wildlife.
If you are planning a new garden, look around to see what grows locally. If you have something growing naturally and wish to keep it, leave it where it is instead of trying to move it. Above all, be gentle with the planting and take your time to give wildlife a chance to adapt.
Provide as many habitats as but do focus on what can be done well in the space you have. A hedge is a wonderful shelter and can feed wildife as well as provide a run for safe transportation. You can also create smaller microhabitats in your garden, depending on the creatures you would like to attract.
Long grass provides habitat for egg laying and over wintering of caterpillars and leather jackets. Blackbirds and starlings search for leather jackets (cranefly grubs) in short grass. Different species of tree and shrub and flowering plants provide nectar and other food sources through the year.
Any water feature is great for wildlife. Shallow areas are used by bathing and drinking birds, emerging dragonflies and is somewhere for amphibians to lay eggs. Deeper areas help aquatic insects survive cold spells and are a good place for newts. If you have young children or pets, you may want to forgo having a pond though.
Wildlife requires two fundamental things: somewhere safe to breed and shelter and somewhere to forage throughout the year.
Climbers provide shelter and roosting and breeding sites for birds. A thick, well-developed, thorny shrub bed or hedge provides nest sites and shelter for wildlife. Other great ideas include a bat box, a pile of leaves or hollow log may be used by a hibernating hedgehog and is good for beetles and other specialist beneficial insects, fungi and mosses. In a wildlife garden, you are best leaving the tidying up of hedges, autumn leaves and dead branches until early spring to provide shelter for insects through winter. This also helps retain seeds and fruit for birds and small mammals throughout winter. Many baby birds need insects – a good source of protein – if they are to grow strong and healthy and survive the winter. A variety of garden plants encourages these insects.
Short lengths of drinking straws, hollow canes or plant stems, tied in bundles are excellent nesting sites for beneficial lacewings and ladybirds.
Early and late flowering plants provide nectar for insects at critical times – just after emergence or prior to hibernation.
Ivy is a late source of autumn nectar for insects and late winter fruit for birds.
Fruiting bushes are a good source of food for birds and mammals during the autumn and part of the winter. Annual plants that produce many seeds in late summer are a good source of seed for birds through autumn into winter.none