As the world’s population grows, the space for wildlife shrinks, and the number of species with it. Nature is created with balance in mind, and the loss of one species can put others at risk. Consequently, our role as gardeners becomes vital in creating a balanced ecosystem for wildlife to thrive. To do this, we must make bold choices to make our land more hospitable.
Here we explore strategies from feeding local birds to creating your own wildlife meadow, all designed to promote biodiversity in your garden that might have been lost in our rural landscape. In some respects, this is a simple matter of providing the necessities of life, and wildlife, like humans, require shelter, food, and water to survive. Here we look at how you can offer all this in your wildlife-friendly garden.
Of primary importance to animals and insects is the safety of shelter, and there is a need for somewhere where they can hibernate, breed, and nest and generally keep out of the weather and the potential for predation.
You can buy bird boxes and insect houses from your local garden centre on the simplest level. You can also buy boxes with tunnels for openings that hedgehogs can use as shelter. These are also relatively easy to build yourself. These boxes, perched high from the ground, are useful for attracting these creatures to your garden. The more diverse the life that finds a home in your garden, the more diverse the ecosystem and the healthier it is as a wild space.
If you want to help by offering more wild space, you can build a log pile, plant a wild meadow, or keep your compost heap open. A log pile is a wonderful stomping ground for insects, as is a leaf pile. These piles of natural materials offer the warmth, humidity, and food source required. Wherever insects live will also be an attractive stop-off takeaway shop for small mammals and birds. Your leaf pile will also be a welcome sanctuary for toads, newts, and other amphibians.
When creating wild spaces in your garden, you need to not tidy these up too much or interfere that much at all. For instance, turning your compost heap over with a fork could be the end of a hedgehog. Also, clearing away your leaf pile too soon in the spring could kill a lot of wildlife using it to hibernate, including bees, which are vital for the health of our environment.
The wilder you can leave your garden, the more beneficial it will be for wildlife. Therefore, having a corner of your garden that can go its own way is a brilliant way to support your local environment. If you want something more nurtured, try mixing poppy seed and other wildflowers with grass seed and creating a semi-wild wildflower meadow in your garden. This area will support pollinators, but it will also attract a plethora of insects that other animals need for food.
The final piece of the jigsaw is a water source. A birdbath and a bowl of water are fine to start with and keeping these topped up with rainwater from your water butt will be the best way to make your garden wildlife friendly.
A pond is another water source that wildlife can use – make sure to use chicken wire or stones that helps the animals come and go from the water. Not only is the pond a wonderful habitat for insects, but it is also a place for toads, frogs, and newts and a place where birds and mammals can drink. A well-maintained pond that makes wildlife safe can be your best strategy when creating a wildlife-friendly garden.
While all these strategies are essential for a wildlife-friendly garden, it’s important to prevent harm when gardening. Many of our gardening practices are impact wildlife. For example, clearing away your detritus too early in the spring can cause the demise of many overwintering or hibernating creatures. Then, there are the herbicides, pesticides, and fertilisers that impact the balance of the garden.
To create a wildlife-friendly garden, you need to intervene as little as possible in the balance of nature. Your garden is an ecosystem that will work to maintain life if you leave it as much as possible to its natural cycles. Finding the right balance between a gorgeous garden space and a wildlife haven is not always easy to find – but it is what you are looking for.
Getting the wildlife-friendly garden you desire takes some care and attention. Like with all life, your garden critters need shelter, food, and water to survive, and this is what you could provide. Most importantly, you can do no harm and be careful not to kill the very creatures you hope to encourage.
Another essential for survival is a source of food. Again, you can help the local birdlife by buying and putting out food. Different feeds will attract different creatures to your garden, so experiment with seeds, nuts, fat balls, grub worms, etc. Having a bird table with food is a great way to get your children interested in the garden. Getting them to spot the different species flying in helps develop a healthy bond with nature that is useful for future mental and physical well-being.
You can also provide food for small mammals, buying specialist hedgehog food that mimics their diet of slugs, snails, and invertebrates. You should never feed hedgehogs milk and bread; instead, you can use dog or cat food if you have no specialist food to hand. Leaving out bowls of cat and dog food can attract other mammals to your garden too, and it might be worth setting up a camera to enjoy the visitors you have attracted to your land.
Avoiding chemicals that could harm wildlife is essential. Pesticides and herbicides remove essential components from the ecosystem, vital for wildlife. The slugs and snails that you despise are the haute cuisine of small mammals. Equally, the insects you try to repel are essential for amphibians and most mammals visiting your garden. Birds also love to nourish themselves on insects, so you need to see these as an essential component of your wildlife-friendly garden.
Planting trees and hedgerow plants are a way of creating natural food sources and shelter in your garden. Hedging lost in the countryside has been a significant problem, and schemes to replace these have provided nesting sites for birds and mammals and a food source for migrating wildlife in the autumn months. You can replicate this in your garden by choosing blackthorn or hawthorn as your boundary. Changing your fence or wall to a hedgerow also allows room for creatures to come and go from your garden.