Whether you’ve got a huge garden or just a balcony, there are plenty of ways that you can attract and help wildlife.
Planting wildlife friendly plants, shrubs and trees is one of the best ways to provide food, shelter and breeding spots for a whole host of creatures. But there are quick ways to make your wildlife friendly too. In just one afternoon, you could instantly make your garden more wildlife friendly by putting out bird feeders and water and by creating a log pile in a shady corner.
One of the easiest ways to make your garden more wildlife friendly is to let an area of your lawn grow. Lots of plants traditionally considered weeds are actually great for wildlife (nettles and dandelions for example). You’ll soon notice how many bees and butterflies certain flowers can attract if given the chance. Lots of creatures, like hedgehogs, amphibians and invertebrates, love leaf piles to hide and shelter in. So by simply becoming less tidy, you’ll be providing vital habitat with very little effort!
To attract a large range of species, the key is to create a range of habitats for creatures to find food, hide from predators, shelter from the weather, hibernate, lay eggs and rear young. So when you’re planning your wildlife garden, think in terms of providing food, water, shelter and breeding spots for the animals you hope to attract. What areas do you already have that are providing one or more of these things for wildlife? Which areas can be improved?
Leaf piles, log piles, ponds, boggy areas, flowering shrubs, compost heaps, hedgerows, wild areas and wildflower meadows are all great examples of habitats that wildlife will thrive in. Artificial habitats such as bird boxes and bee hotels can work great too.
Stop using pesticides
An important step in making your garden more wildlife friendly is to stop using pesticides. Pesticides kill indiscriminately, not just killing the intended ‘pests’, but other creatures as well. They can work their way right up the food chain, affecting not just invertebrates, but anything that feeds on them. Pesticides also remove a source of food for other creatures, for example birds that feed on invertebrates.
There are plenty of ways of protecting your crops without using nasty chemicals. Find out more in our guide:
Feed the birds
Providing bird food is one of the easiest and quickest things you can do to attract wildlife into your garden. You can pick up bird feeders and bird food in any garden centre and even in some supermarkets.
If you’ve only got room for a couple of feeders, try a basic seed mix in a regular seed feeder as well as fat balls in a fat ball feeder to attract a range of species including tits, robins and finches. If you’ve got space for one more, sunflower hearts (which are the same as sunflower seeds but without the black husk that often just ends up scattered on your lawn!) are also very popular with many species of bird.
You can position multiple feeding stations in different spots in your garden if you have the room, but wherever you position them, make sure the birds have a clear line of sight to them and they aren’t an easy spot for hungry cats to reach. A bird table allows you to put out leftover food scraps including cooked rice, cake or breakfast cereal crumbs, grated cheese and soft fruit.
There are plenty more food options to attract even more species, such as peanuts, nyger seeds and mealworms – check out our articles below or watch our video:
Growing a mixture of trees, shrubs, hedgerow and flowers is the best way to get your garden absolutely buzzing with life. But of course, this can’t happen overnight, so get started with a few wildlife friendly species, including some bee and butterfly friendly flowers.
Allowing a part of your lawn to grow wild will do wonders for wildlife. Pick an area where you aren’t likely to need to tread, and the long grass and flowers that pop up will attract insects, and mammals will use it to hide and rest. You may find wildflowers grow on their own, but if you want to go further you can pick up some wildflower seeds to create a mini meadow and attract even more creatures!
Many bird feeding stations come with a bowl to provide fresh water, so keep these clean and topped up if you have one. You can buy many different types of bird baths, from heavy bird baths that sit on your lawn, to baths that can be attached by a bracket on your balcony.
Place shallow saucers of water on the floor for other creatures including hedgehogs. It’s a good idea to dot saucers of water around the garden, ideally at different heights, to ensure all the creatures who visit have easy access to fresh water. This is important year round, but especially when the weather is particularly hot, or if everything is frozen over. Keep all water containers clean and topped up.
When you’re ready to take on a bigger project, digging a pond will create a fantastic habitat for many creatures including frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies and damselflies. Even if you don’t have much space, you can create a mini pond with an upturned bin lid! Find out more about ponds here.
Insect habitats and log piles
Most creepy crawlies prefer messy environments with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide away in. These little critters form an essential part of our ecosystem, providing food for birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians so it’s incredibly important that we help them out.
Create a log pile by piling logs up in a dark and quiet corner of the garden. Plenty of creepy crawlies will make the log pile their home, which will in turn attract birds. Fungi will thrive in the cool and damp conditions and frogs and toads will love it too.
Twigs, dead leaves, and bark can also create wonderful habitat for invertebrates such as beetles as well as other creatures such as hedgehogs. Place piles of these in quiet areas of your garden, such as underneath shrubs or bushes.
You can also buy solitary bee homes or make them from different sized bamboo canes. If you fancy having a go at making a bug hotel to attract a huge range of invertebrates, check out our video or read more below.
Hedgehogs are in decline in the UK, but you can help them by putting out meaty cat or dog food and providing fresh water. Ensure hedgehogs can get into your garden by creating gaps in fences, and ask your neighbours to do the same.
If you want to provide somewhere for hedgehogs to shelter and hibernate, you can buy hedgehog houses or make your own – you can find lots of examples online. You can also leave piles of twigs and dead leaves lying around for them to hide in – this essentially means just being a little untidy – wildlife gardening made easy!
Find out more about helping hedgehogs in our video or read more below.
It might feel overwhelming if you are at the beginning of your wildlife gardening journey. But you don’t have to do everything at once – even small changes can make a huge difference to the wildlife that visits your garden. So try out a couple of our tips and see how you get on, you can always change and adapt your plans as you learn and become more familiar with what species are in the area.
It can sometimes take a while for birds and other creatures to find your garden, so don’t get put off if it takes a while for the wildlife to come. Take your time and you’ll be surprised what flowers and plants pop up on their own and what visitors you get. Most importantly, enjoy it. Happy wildlife gardening!