When people talk about natural habitats for animals, they usually think of the countryside. But our gardens are just as crucial as a refuge for wildlife – especially as we can make them a chemical-free zone, free from pesticide, fungicide or anything else nasty. Even though they may seem small, the patchwork effect of many gardens is massive.
Creating a wildlife friendly garden is something that everyone in the family, big and small can get involved with, and really enjoy. But where to begin? Here are some handy tips to get you all started.
Let everyone know what you’re creating
Let’s be serious for a moment, if you’re creating a wildlife haven the last thing you want is the neighbours crashing through it when they fancy paying you a visit. Or someone being inconsiderate and letting their dog into your garden. So, the best way to approach this would be to put up some signs.
You can make these together, or if the possibility of all your hard work being damaged is very real, then companies like smartsign.com can provide you with ideas for outdoor signage.
Birdboxes & feeders
Put your bird box up in a sheltered site, out of reach of predators. Clean it every year to get rid of mites. Put out protein-rich feed, such as fat balls, in the spring when birds are feeding their young, and seed in the winter. And make sure you place the feeder near a dense bush or plant, so small birds can dart in and out to feed and be safe from cats.
An insect hotel
It’s fun to build proper insect hotels with your kids, but a pile of rocks and rotting wood will do just as well. Find a quiet spot, and pile up rocks, bricks, logs, twigs and leaves. Then do not disturb. This will become home to all sorts of important insects such as beetles and spiders.
All creatures need a constant source of fresh, unchlorinated water. Bury a shallow bucket or stone basin, or dig a proper pond, but make sure there are stones and branches in there so creatures such as frogs can get in and out. The pond should be filled with rainwater, so use a water butt. Build it in a part-sunny, part-shady spot so it doesn’t go stagnant. Grow waterlilies in it to keep it oxygenated.
If you have small children, consider the safety aspects of having open water on your property. There are lots of safety products available to keep them safe.
A compost bin
Compost bins use up waste and also feed your soil, which keeps plants healthier. They are also a habitat for worms, woodlice, fungi, frogs, grass snakes and spiders. Put food waste in – raw only unless you have a bin that keeps rats out – and turn it every week with a fork. When it is ready (this can take anything from a few months to a year), spread it across your beds.