There’s nothing more wonderful than a garden teaming with wildlife throughout the year. How can we provide an ideal environment for them? Many of us may only have a small garden or even just a yard or patio with no soil at all.
Here’s some ideas of how we can create a space for nature to live in our back garden, and some top tips as to how we can give wildlife a helping hand from summer through to the winter months. (pic courtesy of the HTA)
Encouraging wildlife into your garden brings benefits not only to the animals and insects but also to you. Being able to view a garden teaming with life certainly increases your enjoyment of it. In addition to this, common garden pests such as beetles, worms and caterpillars can be controlled naturally as they are tasty meals for wild birds and animals.
So what steps can you take to provide the most welcoming garden environment?
Provide a water source
Perhaps the most important requirement for wildlife is water – not only as a source of drinking water, but to bathe in as well. One of the best ways to provide water is by having a pond in your garden – providing a plentiful source of water, food and shelter. It does take a lot of time and effort to create and maintain a pond, but it is arguably the most important part of a wildlife garden.
Small simple ponds can also be added to patios as well. A small cut whiskey barrel or even an old sink, can be planted to create a suitable environment but more compact. However, if, like many city dwellers, you are unable to have a pond in your garden then you may like to consider a birdbath.
Birdbaths are available in different sizes, designs and materials and can make an interesting ornamental feature even on the balcony of a city flat.
Provide a food source
There are many different ways to provide food for wild birds and animals, the easiest is by putting out bird feeders and tables. It is important to consider the types of bird that come to your garden. Think carefully about where you site feeders and tables in your garden. They are best placed in the middle of your garden away from any places where predators can hide such as hedges and tress. With a clear view around the table, the bird will be able to see any predators coming and will give them a chance to escape to safety.
What is important is once you have started to feed the wildlife in your garden – keep it up, as they will depend on your offerings to rear their young.
Plants for wildife
You may also like to consider what types of plants and shrubs you can buy as these provide a good source of nourishment. Trees such as Cotoneaster, Pyracantha (Firethorn) and Sorbus (Rowan) all have berries, providing vital food during the coldest months of the year. When all the berries are gone the trees can be used as a great place to hang seed and peanut feeders.
There are also a large number of shrubs that can also be planted that will also provide berries, but here’s our top 5:
- Ilex (Holly): is a great hardy shrub that bears masses of berries and also attractive evergreen foliage. It can be pruned to maintain any height required
- Viburnum: Evergreen varieties such as V. tinnus bear flowers all through the winter months followed by small black berries from late spring in to summer.
- Aucuba: (Spotted laurel) has brightly coloured variegated foliage, and bears large red berries in the winter.
- Pernettya: a smaller evergreen shrub with masses of large berries in the autumn months.
- Cotoneaster: Available in a wide range of shapes and sizes from trees to grown cover shrubs. A must for every wildlife garden
Even in the smallest of gardens, these can be planted in containers. This will allow any area of your garden to become a wildlife heaven, yet still look very ornamental and easy to maintain.
Shelter is important as this gives birds and animals a place to rest, to flee to safety and possible nesting sites. The best way you can do this is by planting a hedge in your garden, instead of erecting wooden fences. There are many different types of plants available for this purpose, but the best ones are those that have thorns, such as Berberis (Barberry), Crataegus (Hawthorn) and Pyracantha (Firethorn), as these can provide secure nesting sites. Native plants such as Acer campestre (Field Maple) and Fagus (Beech) also make good hedges for wildlife.
Wild About Gardens
If you are passionate about encouraging the wildlife into your garden The Wildlife Trusts and the RHS have set up the ‘Wild About Gardens’ to celebrate wildlife gardening and to encourage people to support nature. This year the focus is all about High Fliers and how we can help animals such as swallows, swifts and martins. Find our more about what you can do HERE.