How to Attract Wildlife to Your Garden

Wildlife is more than an added attraction for a garden, it is vital for its well-being. Without insects and birds, plants would not be pollinated, seed would not spread so widely, and pests would thrive unhindered. Your garden would, in short, lack life, sound, movement and soul.

There is no reason why a garden attractive to wildlife should not also delight the human eye. For a wildlife garden does not need to be an untamed wilderness of brambles and weeds and can still look tidy without being overly manicured. Stop sweeping up each fallen leaf, burning every dead branch and mowing the grass with the blades set low and you will provide a huge range of creatures with suitable habitats and food without compromising beauty in any way.

There are various ways of creating a wildlife garden. If your garden is large enough, set aside one comer where the grass is allowed to grow longer (and so set seed) and plants are left to develop their berries and hips instead of being tidily pruned. A pile of logs rotting in a quiet corner, will attract a host of insects – which in turn will attract the small mammals and birds that feed off them.

garden How to Attract Wildlife to Your Garden

Alternatively it is possible to work wonders simply by redesigning one border so that there is plenty of foliage and a range of nectar-rich flowers. Small creatures will love the protection the leaves provide, while insects will be attracted by the sweet nectar.

Where there are plentiful supplies of insects there will inevitably be numerous birds. Or you may decide to leave a few windfall apples on the ground for birds, badgers and any other hungry creatures.

If you possess a small city courtyard with no flowerbeds at all, don’t despair. Fill containers with sweet-scented flowers and shrubs to perfume the air and act as a magnet for insects. And if you plant climbers such as ivy, honeysuckle, pyracantha and vines to scale the walls you will have created a vertical habitat – a tiny wildlife haven in the midst of all the concrete and fumes.

Similarly you don’t need a large garden to put up a bat box. Bats are facing a rapid decline in their habitats, especially in Europe where old barns are being converted into houses, church towers and spires are being netted and lofts in houses are being made into extra rooms and the timbers sprayed with chemicals.

Whichever approach you decide to take, one of the keys to encouraging wildlife is to avoid the use of chemicals. However careful you are with these and however many assurances the manufacturers give as to their safety, they will inevitably gel into the food chain and cause damage somewhere along the line.

The other key to a desirable wildlife environment is to plant native trees, shrubs and flowers that suit native wildlife.

If space allows, plant a hedge. Hedges look good and are a cheap and practical way of either marking your boundary or dividing up the garden. If you choose your shrubs carefully, aiming for a good mix of evergreen and deciduous, prickly and fine-leaved, you will provide an ideal habitat for all sorts of creatures.

Unfortunately in many countries the drive for ever greater agricultural yields along with the increasing size of machinery has encouraged farmers to grub up hedges to create enormous fields. Whenever this happens a habitat which may have provided homes for countless insects, birds and small mammals for generations is lost for ever. By providing an alternative home for all these creatures you will increase your immediate enjoyment and have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to ensure that your children’s children will also be able to enjoy them. Remember never to cut hedges during nesting time.

Another unexpected benefit to creating a wildlife garden is that once established, such a garden is low maintenance. The increased number of birds and friendly insects will happily gobble unwelcome visitors such as slugs, snails and aphids, so not only will you have created an extra dimension to your garden, you will find it easier to run.

Buy your children a pair of binoculars, a magnifying glass, a couple of wildlife identification books and a nature diary, and they will be kept happy and absorbed for hours at a time.


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