How to make your garden a haven for wildlife
The winter season can be tough for wildlife. Cold temperatures cause animals to lose body heat much faster and natural food is less available for them – especially if the ground freezes and they cannot forage around for insects. But, we have to give our native wildlife a helping hand and encourage them into the garden towards the end of winter hibernation, as they come into Spring.
Think of your garden, your balcony or window ledge as a vital patch where animals can get the shelter and food that they need. Get the kids outdoors as children will love getting involved and there is so many simple things you can do and make with items you may already have in your garden, shed or garage.
Here are 10 simple ways to attract and care for wildlife into your garden the Spring:
1. Leave a pile of wood in a shady spot It’ll make a home for ladybirds, beetles and centipedes, and toads will also love the shelter.
2. Provide some water Use a water feature. Having a water feature doesn’t necessarily mean having a pond (which can be hazardous with young children anyway). All creatures need water to drink, but birds also need to bathe themselves every day. It’s a crucial task for feather maintenance as it loosens dirt and makes their feathers easier to clean. To help with this, a pond or bird bath is great, but you can also use an upturned bin lid or a sunken washing bowl with sloping sides provides easy access for small creatures and birds. Even just a bowl or saucer of water set into the ground will encourage frogs and newts to spawn.
3. Make a compost heap Compost is not only great for recycling and for the soil, but also as shelter for useful creatures like the slug-hunting slow worm.
4. Sow a wild flower meadow Or you can just allow a patch of grass to grow to encourage all manner of creatures to your garden, and let it grow. Try to resist trimming some plants back during the winter months. These plants’ seeds will become an important source of food. The same applies to lawns. Leaving a section of your lawn uncut will encourage small creatures to set up home in the long grass. Plants such as ivy, honeysuckle and clematis are climbers and, like hedges, offer shelter to birds and butterflies.
5. Plant flowers to attract bees and butterflies Try to growth right plants. Nectar – and pollen-rich plants are a favourite of bees and butterflies. It’s best to have at least two pollen-rich plants flowering in your garden during bees’ life cycle between March and September. There are lots of plants that will attract butterflies or bees throughout the seasons. For example, in spring, you can include bluebells; in early summer, you can opt for foxgloves or snapdragons; while in late summer, bees love lavender, ivy and cornflowers. Butterflies also like sunflowers, lilac and marigolds. Thyme, buddleia and sedum all encourage pollination too.
6. Leave out hedgehog and badger food Buy some special food from your local pet shop – bread and milk is not their natural diet. You can buy specific food for squirrels and a squirrel feeder too. Why not add to your garden and let these beautiful creatures entertain you with their antics! There are also many feeders for other animals too.
7. Provide food and water for birds A birdbath or box with food and water is the perfect way to entice an array of feathered friends. It is very easy to put a bird feeder in your garden, just ensure it is placed in an area where birds can feel safe and make a quick getaway. Aim to offer a variety of seeds, nuts, grains, fruits, and fats to satisfy the needs of a range of species. Different birds like to eat different things. Robins like fruits, Sparrows and Finches enjoy seeds, and Tits like nuts. Starlings will eat almost anything.
8. Leave some areas undisturbed And, create a home to hide under. A simple pile of logs will attract insects, fungi, mice, worms, newts and even toads, while a rockery will encourage all manner of creatures, from spiders and woodlice to beetles. Piles of cuttings, leaves and twigs will shelter frogs, mice and hedgehogs.
9. Create a haven for bugs Placing a small piece of corrugated iron or plastic on the ground will provide the ideal home for insects.
10. Plant a tree A mature tree is more important to wildlife than any other single factor. It will provide shade, food and security from predators.
And, one last note…
Avoid using chemicals. Try not to use chemicals in your garden, particularly when it comes to controlling insects. Chemicals get into the food chain and can kill wildlife. By creating a haven for wildlife, pests can be controlled in natural ways. For example, birds, frogs and newts will eat pesky bugs, such as aphids and slugs.