Love the sound of birds tweeting, the sight of a hedgehog ambling along and the glimmer of turquoise as dragonflies flutter by the water? With the right know-how, you can enjoy all of this in your garden with just a few changes here and there.
Attracting wildlife to your garden doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the way it looks. There are lots of things you can do to encourage biodiversity, whether it’s a small change or a large(ish) change. So take your pick of our top tips and get ready to enjoy your very own wildlife garden.
1. Grow wildflowers
Wildflowers are fantastic for all sorts of insects and pollinators like butterflies and bees. They provide pollen and nectar which is important for food pollination, they offer a source of food for birds and have a myriad other benefits. Try poppies or pollen- and nectar-rich plants like salvia, lavender and rudbeckia.
2. Let a patch of grass grow long
If you don’t quite have enough room for a wildflower meadow, simply let a patch of grass grow longer. This will provide shelter for small mammals like wood mice and voles and give some butterfly caterpillars something to eat.
3. Make a bee hotel
Bee numbers are falling at a worrying rate – without them we’d have a huge food shortage – so by installing a bee hotel you’ll be giving them a helping hand. Make one by tying a bunch of hollow stems like bamboo together with string, and placing them in an old terracotta plant pot or open wooden box. Then hang it up and let the bees buzz in!
4. Install bird boxes
Bird boxes can help encourage wild birds to breed in your garden. Put them up before spring to avoid disrupting the breeding season and make sure they’re somewhere sheltered from the elements. To really make the most of your wildlife garden you could even set up your very own wildlife channel with a handy bird camera!
5. Build a log pile
An easy way of attracting wildlife to your garden, a pile of dead wood (non-painted and non-stained) in a shady area makes a great habitat for small mammals, amphibians and insects. As an added bonus, you might find fungi growing there too.
6. Introduce hedges and brambles
Hedges are a haven for biodiversity thanks to all the shelter they offer, and brambles are even better as they’re a source of food. If you live close to a woodland area then you may well be in dormouse habitat, and could attract this cute – yet now increasingly endangered species – with shrubs that feature lateral branches, fruits and berries. You could even try putting up a dormouse nest box.
7. Create a pond or water feature
Ponds and water features – however small – are great for frogs, newts and gorgeous insects like dragonflies. You can also introduce fish of course, but be warned: they might eat up some of your wildlife! Adding water plants like broad leaf pondweed is a good way to enhance this exciting new habitat.
8. Bring in the butterflies
Butterflies love bright colours (reds, oranges, pinks and yellows, to name a few) so plant up vividly coloured flowers. Calendula, daylily, buddlea and butterfly bush are some of the most enticing plants for these pretty fluttering insects.
9. Set up a rock pile
Super low maintenance and easy to create, rock piles provide shelter for many different insects and support specialised wildlife suited to living in poorer soils. They also attract birds and small mammals hunting for prey, so you might spot even more wild visitors in your garden.
10. Grow native plants
Growing native plants is a no-brainer when it comes to biodiversity: They support the local wildlife that has evolved with the local flora. Some types of butterfly and moth, for example, will only ever lay their eggs on specific native plants (like Common Nettle, Common Rock Rose or Common Dog Violet). Plus, you’ll reap the added benefit of supporting your local farmers or markets. It’s a win-win situation!
11. Plant trees
Trees provide cover and nesting sites for a whole array of different animals, like insects, squirrels and birds. They attract the wildlife with fruit, flowers and seeds and make a cosy sheltered home. If you have space, plant more than one tree to create a larger habitat and draw in even more wildlife.
12. Feed the hedgehogs
These prickly creatures love dog and cat food, dried fruit and cooked veg, so leave some out and you’ll hopefully have some hedgehogs ambling in. Just be careful not to give them bread or milk as these types of food can make them ill.
13. Compile the compost
As well as making healthy soil, which is good for everything growing and living in it, compost is a fantastic home for lots of small creatures. It also attracts hedgehogs, birds and frogs, who feed on the smaller animals and insects. And the list doesn’t stop there – due to the heat created from the decomposition, you might even spot a grass snake!
14. Put up a bird table and bath
What better enjoyment is there than hearing the birds chirping while they enjoy a hearty snack? Attract birds to your garden with a bird table and lots of food like peanuts, seeds and suet. Add a bird bath and you’ll have them lingering for longer while they have a dip.
15. Grow climbing plants
There are lots of plants that encourage wildlife, but climbing plants are some of the best. They create shelter for nesting birds and hibernating insects, nectar for pollinators, berries for birds and leaves for caterpillars. Ivy is a top choice as it’s an evergreen habitat that lasts all year round, but wisteria, clematis and star jasmine are also great.
16. Don’t be too neat
Attracting wildlife to your garden doesn’t mean you have to be messy, but you should try not to keep your garden overly manicured and tidy. A bit of wildness is good for biodiversity as the creatures will find more hiding places and habitats.