It is a sad fact that the wildlife which used to populate our gardens and countryside has declined alarmingly over the last few decades. Climate change, disease and diminishing habitats have all contributed to this. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Anyone and everyone can do their bit to encourage birds, butterflies, bees, hedgehogs and even creepy crawlies into their gardens to slow down this decline.
Rethink Your Lawn
Many of us strive to achieve a perfectly manicured lawn but still want to attract insects, bees and butterflies into our gardens. Well, perhaps it’s time for a rethink. Next time you reach down to pull out a dandelion or clover flower, think ‘bee’. These plants are literally bee magnets and provide valuable pollen in the spring so let them grow.
If you want to take things a step further, why not plant a wildflower meadow instead of a lawn? You can even buy it by the square metre and lay it as you would turf. The variety of perennial and biennial grasses and flowers provides a great way to attract birds, bees, butterflies and insects into your garden.
Pesticides Must Go
Be careful when choosing pesticides for your garden. Adding any kind of chemical to your garden will disrupt the delicate eco-system and should be avoided. Pesticides, especially those containing neonicotinoids, are especially dangerous to bees and are thought to cause disorientation. If you must buy pest control products, always choose organic brands.
Plant Flowering Trees
Bees, birds and butterflies will flock to your garden in the early spring if you plant flowering trees such as wild cherry or hazel. Five fully grown flowering trees can provide as much pollen and nectar as one acre of natural meadow.
Grow a Hedge or Climbing Plants
Replace your fencing with a hedge of hawthorn or hazel. This will not only provide shelter and nesting for birds and various other creatures, but it is also a great source of food.
Grow climbing roses and other climbers, such as clematis, to create the perfect nesting space for many creatures.
Leaves and Wood
Don’t clear away all the fallen leaves during autumn. Instead, keep a pile in a shady part of the garden and watch the frogs, toads, beetles and centipedes move in. The same goes for any dead branches on a tree – leave them to become homes for birds and bats.
Create a log pile, with some added leaves, in a shady spot to encourage hibernating hedgehogs and toads.
Create a Pond
A small pond in the garden will encourage frogs, newts, slow worms and thirsty small mammals. Keep the edges shallow to allow these creatures easy access.
Attracting Birds into the Garden
Many people have a bird feeder and bird bath in their gardens. Put up a squirrel proof bird feeder and another one just for the squirrels.
Attracting Hedgehogs into the Garden
These nocturnal creatures can travel up to a mile at night searching for food, a place to shelter or a mate. If your garden is fenced, make a small hole to allow hedgehogs through. In dry or cold conditions when food is scarce, leave out some meal worms, unsalted peanuts or tinned dog food, together with some water. By the way, forget what your grandmother told you, hedgehogs should not be given bread and milk!
Discover more ways to help hedgehogs at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
Attracting Bees into the Garden
The rapid decline of the bee population globally will have serious ecological effects if it isn’t stopped in its tracks. The good news is there is lots you can do to help save the bee population. Why not put an insect house in your garden which will give the solitary bee a nesting site? In addition, you can plant native wild flowers and flowering trees to attract bees into your garden. You can also grow herbs such as lavender, thyme and sage – bees love them.
Make sure there is water in your garden as bees need it, just like any other living creature.
Find out more about helping bees in your garden at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Attracting Butterflies into the Garden
Butterflies love wild flowers, particularly buddleia. Flowers that have a single, open head are much favoured by both bees and butterflies. Go back to the old favourites such as bluebells, crocus, foxgloves and cornflowers and watch the bees and butterflies swarm into your garden.
We would love to hear how you have attracted wildlife into your garden. Please feel free to share your stories in the comments box below.