4 ways to transform your garden into a wildlife haven
Who wouldn’t love to see their garden supporting local wildlife? We spoke to Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert from Wyevale Garden Centres, who told us how we can transform our garden into a wildlife haven.
The UK has seen a decline in wildlife populations in recent years due to pesticides, climate change and non-biodegradable plastics (WWF). But we can help to support UK wildlife numbers by growing animal-friendly plants, providing food and creating varied habitats. In this article, I’ll be sharing my top tips on how to turn your garden into a wildlife haven.
Grow native plants
Plants that are native to the UK are a great idea for maintaining the ecosystem. This is because non-native plants can outcompete their native neighbours for space and food and there is an increase of diseases being brought in from overseas. That’s not to say you shouldn’t plant non-UK grown varieties, just make sure to select plants that have been responsibly sourced and their origin is known. Great native varieties to plant are: lavender, marigolds, cosmos, hyacinths, crocus, and daffodils, as well as herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme.
If you’ve got the room, it’s a good idea to plant a mixture of flowers, shrubs, and trees, as these can all attract different kinds of wildlife. So, the more varied your garden is, the more wildlife you’re going to attract. Shrubs and bushes like hawthorn, bramble, firethorn, and holly are ideal for enticing a mixture of animals, because they provide good shelter for homes and nesting, as well as food.
Build wildlife-friendly homes
Different animals like different places to live, so having a mixture of habitats means you’re going to attract a lot of diverse wildlife to your garden.
Trees such as birch, oak, and lindens are great for attracting squirrels. But, if your garden is too small to start planting trees, you can leave out food like walnuts or hickory nuts, as well as acorns, which are all hugely popular with squirrels and can encourage them to visit.
A pond will also make a great addition to your garden, as they’re perfect for attracting different types of water-loving animals like frogs, toads, and newts. Birds also love drinking from ponds and can often find insects in the water to eat, too.
When creating your pond, it’s good to surround it with different varieties of plants that can provide varying environments for the animals living there. Things like purple loosestrife, water mint, pennyroyal, greater pond sedge, and great water dock are perfect for providing wildlife with shelter from the sun as well as a place to hide from predators.
Hedgehogs like to roam freely through different gardens at night, so they need easy access through fences. You can easily create a ‘hedgehog highway’ by providing little walk-ways in your fence. Simply cut a 13x13cm hole in the bottom of the wood. This should be big enough for hedgehogs to get through, but won’t allow any small pets to escape.
Compost heaps and log piles are perfect nesting places for hedgehogs and can also attract slugs, worms, snails, beetles, and even frogs and toads.
Entice wild birds
Birds are by far one of the most common animals we see in our gardens in the UK. Who doesn’t love waking up to the sound of them chirping? You can encourage more birds to visit your garden by planting evergreen shrubs, which will provide shelter for birds all year round. The likes of blackberry, elderberry, hawthorn, holly, and firethorn bushes give great protection when nesting, and birds will love eating the berries.
You can also put up birdfeeders and nesting boxes for them. It’s wise to hang these around two metres off the ground so other animals, such as cats, can’t reach them. In terms of food, sunflower seeds, peanuts, nyger seeds, suet balls, and mealworms are great at attracting different species of wild birds.
Help the bees
You probably know by now that the population of bees has been showing a decline in recent years, but what can we do to help bring the numbers back? By planting a mixture of flowers in our gardens, we can attract bees and give them a good place to live — just make sure that the flowers you choose will provide them with plenty of pollen.
In the summer, plants such as fuchsia, sweet William, sunflowers, hollyhocks, snapdragons, foxgloves and honeysuckle are great for bees. They also love busy Lizzie, which is great for hanging baskets if you’ve got a smaller garden. In spring, it’s best to plant horse chestnut, sycamore, and flowering cherry trees as well as spring crocuses.
For autumn, Michaelmas daisies, open-flowered chrysanthemums, and dahlias are perfect for the little pollinators. When it comes to winter, you can keep any surviving bees happy with snowdrops, winter-flowering crocuses, and hellebore.
Creating a wildlife garden is really easy to do. Just remember to keep things as varied as you can to broaden the diversity of the animals you attract. If you follow my simple tips, your garden will be full of wildlife before you know it!