Creating a garden that’s great for wildlife

In a world than has become increasingly urbanised, and with agricultural practices that allow for little in the way of wild nature, habitats for a number of creatures have become increasingly scarce. This has, unfortunately, had an impact on their populations.

The UK’s wildlife is in need of help. There are a number of things that you can do.

Make a bee home

Whilst the most well known bees in the UK, bumble bees and honey bees, are communal creatures that live together in hives, of the 270 species of bee in the UK, nearly 250 of these are actually solitary bees. Many of these dig their own nests in the ground, but there are other that nest aerially in old beetle holes. It is this final type that can be attracted into gardens by the building of a bee home.

There are many instructional video across the web for different styles of bee home. Most involve either a collection of hollow reeds or bamboo canes packed snugly within a container of some sort. Others involve the drilling of holes into wood to create the nooks within which solitary bees make their nests. Here is a video by GrowWildUK,that shows how to make a simple bee house out of a plastic bottle and some canes.

Build a log pile

A log pile provides a habitat for a wide range of creatures. They support a wide variety of insects. They’re a refuge and a hunting ground for small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. They provide shelter for over-wintering and hibernating wildlife, and wood-boring insects, fungi, woodlice, beetle grubs and wood wasps all find homes and food in the logs. In woodlands, log piles will occur naturally, and many animals have evolved to make use of them. In our increasingly tidy countryside, they are no longer so common. Opportunities for the decomposers and other creatures that live in the decaying wood have grown to be in short supply.

Building one in your garden can help.

The pile should be built in a shady spot in your garden that will remain cool and damp, and should preferably be a mixture of different sized, bark-covered logs, in a range of woods, such as beech, oak, ash and elm. Adding leaf litter will attract further creatures, such as hibernating toads or hedgehogs. As old logs decay over the years, new ones will need to be added. The log pile will then simply need to be left as undisturbed as possible.

A small pile of logs can quickly become a flourishing wildlife community.

A log pile provides a habitat for many different insects and animals.

Create a bird feeding station 

Birds always appreciate being fed, but it is during the winter months that their need for feeding becomes a greater, as their natural foods becomes scarcer. By placing out different types of food, it is possible to attract a variety of birds to our gardens. Millet is a popular food with house sparrows, dunnocks, finches, reed buntings and collared doves. Flaked maize draws in blackbirds. Both sunflower seeds and peanuts are good for attracting tits and greenfinches. Most garden centers sell different mixes depending on whether its for use in a feeder, on the ground, or on a bird table.

Bird feeders in a variety of shapes and styles are also available from garden centers and online stores, and the internet is full of videos of bird feeders that you can made out of recycled materials. Teacup bird feeders, such as the one in this video by Ideal Home, are a particularly fun favourite.

Create a hedgehog highway

Hedgehogs can travel up to one mile every night, searching for food and a mate. Enclosed gardens, with walls and fences blocking routes, have been instrumental in the decline of hedgehog numbers in recent years.

If you have an enclosed garden, then helping out the hedgehogs is a simple matter. All you have to do is cut a small hole, approximately 13cm in diameter, into the fence to allow the hegdehogs passage. Walls are more problematic, but any gap that can be cleared will be welcomed by your neighbourhood hedgehogs.

A hedgehog’s territory can cover numerous gardens that they need to be able to travel between.

Build a pond

A wildlife pond is a great addition to our gardens, quickly drawing in all sorts of species – birds, amphibians, insects, mammals and a host of mini-beasts. Over the past century, nearly 70% of ponds have been lost from the UK countryside, so wildlife will swiftly make use of any new water source.

All you need to do is to choose a sunlit spot in your garden, preferably without any overhanging trees so as to avoid it filling with debris. Mark out the area of your pond with sand or string, keeping in mind that the final pond will appear to be only two thirds of this space. And then dig. The base of the pond should vary in depths, and there should be a deep central hole. At least one side should slope shallowly. The pond should be lined and then filled with water, after which water loving plants can be added. One edge can be given over to dense waterside planting, and this area should provide a ‘corridor’ to borders, log piles, hedges or other sheltered areas for frogs and small mammals.

Here’s a video by Eco Sapien, that shows you how to build your own.

Plant some wildflowers

No matter how big or small your garden, there is one final thing you can easily do to encourage wildlife – plant some wildflowers. These can be on a patch of earth outside, or in a pot if your space is limited. The native pollinators will thank you.