Over the years the wildlife in the UK has taken a bit of a battering as human activity continues to take their homes and food, pollutes them with pesticides and other harmful products and if they survive that we hunt and kill them.
However all is not lost. Our gardens can provide a much needed sanctuary with benefits to our wildlife and to us as people.
It is great to sit out in the garden on a warm summers day admiring our flowers or sampling our home grown fruit and vegetables. But the experience can be enhanced by birdsong, the flutter of butterflies or the buzz of bees working to keep your garden at its best.
To attract the maximum wildlife to your garden it’s best to think of yourself as a wildlife hotel and offer them accomadation, food and drink. Take a look at our 19 tips below and see which ones you can easily introduce. And hopefully you will soon have birds, butterflies,
moths, insects and other wildlife joining you as guests at your wildlife hotel.
- Make sure you provicde excellent dining facilities for your bird guests by putting up a bird table or feeders in a clear space far enough away from cover where a cat might hide.
- Next make sure you provide a comprehensive buffet style menu by provide a wide variety of food including seeds, nuts, fruit, suet blocks and some tasty mealworms.
- Make sure the bar is well stocked by providing water for drinking and bathing. Consider putting up a bird bath.
- Plant trees and shrubs which bear attractive berries in the autumn, such as Elder, Rowan, Holly, Ivy (be careful with Ivy it grows rampantly and can take over your garden within a few years. But it does provide valuable food to birds and insects, particularly bees at an important time of the year) , Fire Thorn, Cotoneaster, Hawthorn, Privet and Spindle will provide food for many species of birds.
- Plant trees (make sure you choose a species suitable for your garden. Don’t plant an Oak tree in a small garden. And make sure you plant it at least 5 metres or better still 7 metres from any buildings so you do not invalidate your buildings insurance) and shrubs
which attract insects and are good for refuge and nesting for birds.
- Make sure you provide suitable accomadation by putting up nesting boxes.
- Try to go chemical free in the garden .Do not use slug pellets as these are harmful to all animals including your pets. And do not use pesticides as these kill the insects the birds feed on.
- Start a compost heap which will become alive with invertebrates of many types. It will also stay frost free in winter providing a welcome food source for birds and other animals. A well designed compost heap will be beneficial to many species of insects and they will also help the rotting down process. Which will provide you with a wonderful free supply of compost for your garden.
- Piles of logs provide shelter for many creatures, including frogs, toads and newts and many kinds of insect make their home there. Including in Colchester the nationally rare Stag Beetle. Beetles in particular are helpful to gardeners as natural pest controllers.
- Attract butterflies and moths to your garden by planting nectar providing shrubs and flowers such as:
Buddleia, Michaelmas Daisy, Dahlias, Aubretias, Perennial Yellow Alyssum, Pink and White arabis, Wallflowers, Primroses, Polyanthus, Honesty, Sweet Rocket (the latter 2 are good for the orange tip butterfly), Valerian,Thrifts, Sweet William, French Marigolds, Heliotrope, Ageratum, Phloxes, Golden Rod, Eryngiums.
- Leave some clumps of nettles (be careful to keep under control though as they are
an invasive plant that will take over your garden) which are the food supply
of small tortoiseshells, peacock and red admiral.
- Caterpillars of the migrant painted lady feed on thistles and caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly feed (in spring) on flowers and buds of holly. The second brood (July) feed on the buds of ivy bloom.
- Moths are also attracted to the nectar plants listed and some caterpillars feed on clematis, wormwood and michaelmas daisies.
- If you have a large garden leave some corners with long growing grasses as these are the food plants for the larvae of speckled wood, meadow brown, gatekeeper and large and small slipper butterflies.
- Help our bat population by putting up a bat box. – Bats eat thousands of insects and are therefore a gardeners friend. All 16 species of British bat are protected by law, harmless and many are endangered. For more information visit the Bat Conservation Trust
- Set aside a corner of the garden in October for hibernating animals such as hedgehogs or frogs.
- Plant native wild flower seeds.
- Set some of your garden aside as a wild patch and encourage weeds to flourish there. This will save your time allowing you to spend more time admiring your garden. Better keep it under control though before it becomes unmanageable.Thistles and teasels are excellent plants for birds while willow herbs and cow parsley will be a haven for a range of insects and other invertebrates. Nettles are the food for the larvae of several species of butterfly and moth. But as stated above make sure you keep them under control.
- Now a pond. If you can have one in your garden, allows you to create your own
wildlife water hole. Maybe not as exotic as an African waterhall but very interesting never the less.
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