A Wildlife Garden
Even the smallest of gardens can be designed to attract wildlife. The main thing to consider is diversity. You want to provide a range of habitats to which different species will be attracted. If you want animals to visit your garden then they will require food, water, shelter, roosting and nesting sites.
Although insects are often seen as the gardener’s enemy they are important in attracting the larger wildlife. A garden with a healthy population of insects and other invertebrates will be self-sustaining and hold the widest range of wildlife. For example, ants provide food for green woodpeckers; caterpillars and spiders for blue tits and robins; slugs for slowworms, frogs, toads and newts; moths and other night-flying insects for bats; and more than half of a hedgehog’s diet is made up of beetles, beetle larvae, caterpillars, earwigs and earthworms.
The first thing you need to think about are the types of plants for your garden. Plants will provide food, shelter and nesting sites. You will need to plant native trees and shrubs such as birch, oak and willow to attract butterflies and bees as well as insects, which will be a natural food supply for birds, mammals and amphibians. Wildflowers such as foxglove, cornflower and honeysuckle will also attract butterflies and bees, and flowers with a seed head such as sunflowers will attract birds. Try leaving a patch of lawn to go wild – not only will you find wildflowers amongst it, but the long grass will provide shelter and attract insects.
Leave a pile of logs, twigs and dead leaves in one corner of your garden which will provide a home for lots of creepy-crawlies, mosses and lichens and even a bat. Be careful not to disturb the woodpile in the winter as a hedgehog may use it for hibernation.
Brititain’s bee population is in serious decline and without them we will not have the pollination that is vital to our food supplies. One of the simplest things you can do to help bees is to grow flowers and plants in your garden that contain nectar and pollen. There is a huge variety to choose from. Plants that grow in sunny, sheltered spots are more likely to be visited by bees than those growing in shaded, windy places.
You may also want to consider providing a bee house or a nest box. They are great fun and will provide winter shelter for hibernating Queen bees as well as a home during the busy spring and summer months.