Here’s how to enrich your life by encouraging more wildlife into your garden.
I think that gardens are always more interesting when they offer perpetual changes. The hard landscaped area with tightly trimmed hedges looks fabulous to start with. But after a while it can be – well – boring. I like to see movement and I love to see a garden that reflects the seasons.
Encouraging more wildlife into the garden will create a truly sensory experience. There will be fleeting sights – brightly coloured butterflies floating from plant to plant. Sounds will be enhanced. Imagine waking up to the sound of a blackbird singing under your window, or relaxing outdoors on a sunny day and listening to the happy hum of bumblebees doing their thing.
If you are very lucky, you may even see larger creatures in your garden. There’s something really joyful about watching a family of fox cubs playing rough and tumble on the lawn. And it feels like a privilege to see a hedgehog bumbling about in the borders scoffing the slugs that have been eating your hostas.
Oh and to watch a pair of birds bringing up their brood in your garden – now that’s like having your own personal version of a David Attenborough programme playing out before your eyes.
What can you do to encourage more wildlife into your garden?
- Aim to create an entire ecosystem in your garden, starting from the soil and working up towards the tree canopy.
- Mulch to improve your soil so that it becomes the perfect habitat for worms and other mini beasts
- Introduce water into your garden – even the tiniest pond will help all manner of creatures to survive
- Swap your fence for a hedge
- Focus on habitat for insects and birds. Make an insect hotel in a quiet corner of the garden and maybe add a hedgehog house too
- Build a log pile
- Add a living green roof to your garden shed or bin store
- Choose plants wisely – it’s not just pollinating insects that rely on them for food and habitat!
Wildlife Gardening Starts From The Soil Upwards
I once heard it said that all life on earth can be attributed to the fact that we have 6 inches of topsoil and plenty of rain. And I completely agree with that statement. If we had no soil and no water, we would have no plants to support other creatures and ultimately ourselves. Imagine – without soil there would be no grass. Without grass there would be no sheep and without sheep there would be no lamb chops and no wool. If there were no wool there would be no clothes or blankets or house insulation and there would have been no industrial revolution – the chances are we’d all still be living in mud huts.
But I digress. All ecosystems go right back to the soil. So to create an ecosystem in your garden, you need to nourish your soil the way Mother Nature would if she were left to her own devices. That means that animal waste and dead vegetation gets returned to the earth where it is recycled by woodlice, worms etc to make food for plants. In their turn, mini beasts become food for foraging birds, mammals and amphibians and the cycle begins.
If you want to encourage more wildlife into your garden – the simplest way to start is to mulch all of your planting beds with well rotted manure (well rotted = no smell), compost, bark or leaf mould. Make sure you add a good thick layer of it – no less than 5cm but preferably more. You’ll be repaid by fewer weeds and less need to water plants in the summer.
Wildlife Needs Water
No living thing can survive without water. Not us, not plants, not bees, birds, badgers – nothing. Bringing a water feature into your garden – even a tiny one, has loads of benefits to people and wildlife. For us, there’s that wonderful tinkling sound, fascinating reflections and the pleasure of seeing other creatures pop by for a drink. For wildlife its literally a life saver.
Your water feature needn’t be a full-on wildlife pond. I totally understand that those can be a danger to toddlers. Plus, having owned labradors, I have first hand knowledge of how it feels to have your pet go for a swim and then dry themselves off on the sofa.
Something as simple as a shallow pebble pool or a monolith with water trickling down the sides can be beautiful. Especially if it’s surrounded by planting.
Or how about a raised water feature? Something that you can sit on the coping stones and dangle your fingers in the water to cool off. Hedgehogs may not be able to drink from it but you can still make a little ledge for bees and birds to perch on whilst they slake their thirst.
This garden water feature is raised up so that you can sit right beside it and has lighting and a waterfall. Once filled with water it will be somewhere that small creatures can come to for refreshment.
Support Wildlife In Your Garden With A Natural Hedge
You’d be amazed at how many species of creature will make use of a natural hedge. Whilst I’m not sure that anything really benefits from a fence. Apart perhaps from birds who use it as a perch.
A hedge provides wildlife with shelter, hiding places, a cool shady place to escape the heat of the day. If you’ve chosen wisely it can also pollen and nectar from spring blossoms and delicious berries in the autumn. Hedges are also home to creatures that we perhaps don’t appreciate, but which are vital food for baby birds. I’m thinking aphids, caterpillars and spiders.
Creating Wildlife Habitat
Inside our homes, we work like crazy to ensure that we don’t create wildlife habitat. We de-clutter and clean to keep spiders and flies at bay. If you want to encourage wildlife into the garden though, you need to ignore the urge to sanitise the space.
Of course you don’t want your whole garden to look like a forest or a meadow, but are there any compromises you could make in order to create places where wild creatures can feel safe?
Leave part of the lawn to grow long – perhaps you could put up with leaving a wildlife border between the manicured lawn and the hedge or the path? A strip of long grass may reward you with meadow brown butterflies, grasshoppers, frogs and toads and a host of other fascinating creatures.
Build a log pile. Many mini beasts have evolved to break rotting wood down into tiny particles and return it to the soil. Its something that’s going on 24/7 on the forest floor and you can recreate that in your garden simply by making a pile of untreated wood, sticks and logs. If that’s not something you want to look at (they’re not exactly stylish), you can secrete it away in a corner or at the back of the border.
Make a bug hotel. You’ll find lots of videos online of people stuffing old pallets with straw but bug hotels can be really stylish. You can even incorporate them into garden features. How about making a seat out of gabion baskets and topped with timber? You can fill the baskets with all manner of wildlife friendly materials. The Grass Roof Company creates habitat structures for commercial organisations, but you could adapt some of the ideas on this website to suit your own garden. https://www.grassroofcompany.co.uk/habitat-planters
It’s OK to keep the patio swept and to clear fallen leaves from the lawn. But don’t be in too much of a hurry to tidy the borders at the end of the year. Leave seedbeds and stems where they are – lots of insects will use them as overwintering habitat.
The mixture of hard landscaping and soft landscaping in this garden makes it somewhere that people and wildlife can comfortably share
Green Roofs And Living Walls
Are you a bit short of space in your garden? You can still introduce lots of plants, you just need to think outside of the box a bit. How about creating a living roof on top of your shed? Or converting that boring brick wall into a vertical garden? If you need help, the team here at Manor Landscapes would be glad to construct the framework and build in an irrigation system so that it’s easy to manage.
Wildlife Friendly Plants
All living plants are good, but some are better than others at attracting and supporting wildlife. The RHS have published an excellent article about plants that encourage wildlife into the garden. You can read it here.
Remember though, that not all wildlife friendly plants are pet friendly too – do your research carefully before you invest.
Help To Build A Wildlife Friendly Garden
If you would like help with any aspect of building a garden to attract wildlife, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. The team at Manor Landscapes offer a wide range of services from building water features to refreshing the planting in your garden. Click here to get in touch and discuss your requirements.