We’re becoming increasingly aware of the way that we garden, and how it affects the entire ecosystem. After years of convenience (see pesticides, etc.), organic ideas are now rising in popularity. This has gone hand in hand with an increasing awareness of the natural world, and how our actions impact on it. Part of this awareness includes how to attract wildlife to your garden, and keep these visitors healthy and happy.
From bees, butterflies, and bugs to birds and toads, wildlife increasingly needs our help in order to thrive. Furthermore, in some cases, to simply survive. If you want to do your bit and attract wildlife to your garden here is a list of ideas, some large, some small, that anyone can do.
1. Go Wild
Letting even a tiny area of your garden go wild is one of the easiest how to attract wildlife to your garden ideas.
Allowing a small patch of grass grow long creates habitat for plants—particularly wildflowers—and insects such as butterflies. While a long grass area is welcome all year round, allowing the grass to grow long in the fall will provide a winter habitat before you tidy it up in the spring.
Weeds are Your Friends
While some weeds are undesirable, many can be useful garden flowers: they just have a bad reputation. Nettles, daisies, and buttercups can be just as useful for butterflies, moths, bees and other insects as a carefully cultivated pollinator garden. Weeds also tend to flower for a long time, regardless of the weather conditions. This means that they’re an important source of food at a time when other food sources are absent.
2. Grow Climbing Plants
When considering how to attract wildlife to your garden, you will need to assess what plants you are growing. Ivy can often be seen as intrusive but both its flowers and seeds are food sources of food and pollen. It also provides shelter and cover for both birds and insects throughout the year. Other reliable wildlife climbers are the clematis and roses.
A vertical garden is also a great idea if you are short of space. Trellising need not cost a fortune either, there are plenty of upcycle ideas that will add interest to your garden.
3. Add a Water Feature
When discussing how to attract wildlife to your garden, many people are advised to install a pond. A large pond can sustain and support many different types of wildlife in a number of ways. Birds, dragonflies, frogs, tadpoles, toads, and insects are all attracted to water.
In fact, if your pond is really big, you may even get a couple of ducks. Remember to include shallow areas for tadpoles and small creatures. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to provide a large pond. Even a plastic washing-up bowl filled with rainwater can help.
4. Take Care of the Birds
Feeding birds is a quick and easy way to attract wildlife to your garden.
Different types of food will attract different birds, while feeders located in different areas will also attract different species. You can also change the food depending on the time of year. For example, seeds are better in winter, but in spring—when the birds are nesting—a protein-rich feed such as suet balls are more beneficial.
You should also try to locate the feeders close to a dense bush or some form of cover. This way the birds can shelter should a neighborhood cat walk by.
Feeding birds is an easy how to attract wildlife to your garden solution that everyone can do. Even if you have only a small patio, you have room for a bird feeder. If you have a little more space, however, consider installing a bird box. You can even get bird boxes with cameras installed so you can watch the chicks as they grow up.
5. Build a Bug Hotel
A bug or insect hotel need not be anything fancy. In fact, simply leaving a pile of rocks, twigs, rotting wood and other organic material will attract all manner of insects. These can include beetles, spiders, dragonflies, and bees. Many insects such as ladybugs will also help to keep more damaging pests away from your plants.
Alternatively, cut the ends off a clean plastic pop bottle. Fill it with leaves, pine cones, hollow stems and other green material. You can then either hang it up or place it on the ground in a quiet spot of the garden. You can even place a few in different areas, filled with various materials.
A Large Bug Hotel
A more complex, multi-story hotel can house bugs as well as hedgehogs, frogs, toads, and newts. This is a great way to provide a safe shelter (which can often be hard to find) while using up your garden waste.
While you can construct a bug hotel at any time of year, natural materials such as dry grass, hollow plant stems, and straw may be easier to find in the autumn.
Your hotel’s location will dictate, in part, who lives there. While some insects, such as solitary bees, prefer sunny spots, other garden dwellers prefer a cooler, damp location. Just keep it away from your vegetable beds. Plant nectar-rich flowers around the hotel to attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
6. Provide Some Shelter
Like bug hotels and bird boxes, there are a number of other creatures that will happily make their home in your garden.
Intensive farming practices have rendered hedgehog habitats such as copses and hedges quite fragmented. With fewer places to nest and forage, hedgehog numbers are in decline. Luckily there are a number of ways that you can help the hedgehogs.
Make a 12cm x 12cm hole in your fence or wall to allow hedgehogs access to your garden. They can cover a mile every night in search of food, so they’ll happily wander into your garden if they can. Get together with your neighbours and create a hedgehog highway the length of your street.
Once you know that the hedgehogs can get in, leave some extra food out for them. Hedgehogs like meat-based cat or dog food, and they also like small cat biscuits. Don’t give them bread or milk.
Hedges for Hedgehogs
Hedging is the perfect hedgehog habitat, hence their name. Piles of leaves, allowed to form beneath the hedges, will create the perfect place for hedgehogs to forage, hibernate and raise their young. Plants such as hawthorn and hazel are ideal.
Hazel also attracts egg-laying moths, which will increase your stock of caterpillars: hedgehogs’ favorite food. You can then use the sticks to make an attractive hazel wattle fence to edge your property. If you can’t provide a hedge try placing a hedgehog home in a quiet area of your garden.
Never use slug pellets, as they contain metaldehyde, which kills hedgehogs. Hedgehogs eat slugs, so you won’t need to use a chemical alternative. There are also a number of other reliable, natural methods to keep slugs away from your plants that won’t kill these prickly little friends.
A toad will consume over 100 insects or slugs every day. Why wouldn’t you want one in your garden? While you could buy a toad home, you can also easily make one from a flowerpot or plastic food container. Plastic containers are easier to cut, but clay pots will be cooler on hot summer days.
Either bury the pot halfway down on its side in the ground to create a cave, or set it on top or a circle of rocks. Remember to leave a gap in the circle for an entrance way.
A shady location, such as under a shrub, is an ideal location. It should also be near a water source. If you don’t have a pond, or a stream, sink a small dish into the soil and keep it filled with water.
They might not be the first creatures we think of when considering how to attract wildlife to your garden, but bats are vital for a healthy ecosystem. If you’re planting pollinating plants and encouraging insects, you’ll create an insect-rich environment that will attract bats in turn. You can also provide a roosting space in the form of a bat box.
7. Start a Compost Pile
A compost heap can not only benefit your garden and help you reduce your waste it can also be a home for worms, woodlice and other insects. Frogs and slow worms may also find their way in there.
8. Plant Flowers
Planting flowers is the easiest way to attract birds and insects to your garden. A pollinator garden is not only great to look at, they will add bright colors and pleasant aromas, but they will also provide food for lots of different insects. Growing lots of different varieties means that you will have color and aroma from early spring until late fall.
9. Go Organic
One of the easiest ways to encourage nature is to stop using harmful chemicals.
Copper slug rings, coffee grounds, mulch, will all deter slugs are just as reliable as chemical pesticides. Companion planting will also deter harmful insects and attract more beneficial ones. As you attract more insects to your garden, they’ll tackle the pests and create a healthier environment cutting down on your problems. In turn, this will save you both money and time.
This collection of ways to attract nature to your garden isn’t a complete list by any means. There are many other things we can do, but implementing some (or all) of these ideas is a good place to start. Even if you just put out a bird feeder or plant some pollinating flowers, you’re helping exponentially. Even the smallest step will attract more nature to your garden, and nature will thank you for it.