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An ecological garden for wildlife

www.gardenersworld.com

Making your gardens wildlife friendly doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to leave them to grow into wild jungles. Every space, whether it’s a huge estate or a busy family garden can give a home to nature.

There are lots of simple things we can do to help the animals we share a space with, from making sure that they have access to different habitats, to nurturing well-stocked feeding grounds for them.

A wildlife friendly garden is accessible to everyone whatever space you’ve got, whether we’re maintaining an established garden, or creating a new one.

To get started, an eco-garden does not have to be expensive. There are many ways to begin without exceeding your budget.

Here are some key factors for a great wildlife-friendly garden.
Does your garden look anything like these – full of grass, wooden panels, concrete or paving?

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Sadly, these will do nothing to entice the animals and wildlife you want to attract.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to achieve this is to turn an area of grass into a flower bed as illustrated in the photos below. You can make it any size you want depending on the size of your garden.

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With a little bit of time and effort you will have converted your garden to look like this, and still leaving plenty of grass amenity areas around the edges.

Choose the plants you like to look at, and include plants that will be good for attracting butterflies, insects, birds etc.

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Butterflies

www.dorsetbutterflies.com

To attract these you have to plant the flowers they like to feed on. www.gardnersworld.com. Butterflies common to this area are, comma, large and small white, peacock, red admiral and speckled wood (both illustrated).
Butterflies have declined significantly across the country so planting the right food will help to increase their numbers.

Butterflies and bees are drawn to areas of wildflowers. Buddleia is a particular favourite of butterflies, and native species with an open structured flower are good for attracting bees. Cornflowers, foxgloves, bluebells, crocus and globe thistle are just a tiny selection of the plants you could choose to encourage wildlife.

Insects

www.buglife.org.uk

You may like to attract more various insects like chafers (below) or shield bugs, this example taken on apple blossom.

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You may like to attract more various insects like chafers (below) or shield bugs, this example taken on apple blossom.

Plants that encourage insects

Buddleia

Buddleia Very easy to grow in almost any soil. Different varieties will flower in pink, red, purple, and white. Usually in bloom through July and August. These shrubs need pruning well in Spring as they can grow 5′ to 8′ from the ground in a single season.

Verbenna Bonariensis

Verbena Bonariensis. Stems up to a metre-tall support heads of lavender flowers from August to October. Easy to grow from seed, plant March -April in well-drained soil. Can provide useful height at the back of a border. Only half hardy so can be a short-lived perennial.

Lavender Garden 9835195

Lavender. Flowers are lilac-blue in colour and grow on spikes through the summer. Plants can be used for edging beds or grown to form an attractive, low-growing hedge. It will thrive in a sunny, sheltered position in well-drained soil. Lavender should be planted in April or May and pruned back to encourage bushy growth.

Perennial Wallflowers

Perennial Wallflower (Bowles Mauve). Produces a profusion of sweet-scented purple flowers from April all through the summer. Wallflowers make great bedding plants and will grow well in full sun or light shade. Plant in well-drained soil.

Flowering Oregano

Marjoram (Oregano). A perennial herb, growing from 20 to 80 cm tall. White, pink or purple flowers grow on spikes from June to September. A good edging plant and useful ground cover, requiring little maintenance. The smaller varieties also do well in rock and alpine gardens.

Birds

www.rspb.org.uk   www.eden.uktv.co.uk

Start by putting up bird feeders, the simplest way to bring birds into your garden. There are many types as a trip to your local garden centre will show you, then decide which birds you want to attract and buy the appropriate food. Alternatively, a bird table provides a useful feeding perch away from predators.

 

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Next, you could provide drinking water and bathing facilities in the form of a bird bath. These are vital when providing nuts and seeds. Make sure your bird bath doesn’t freeze over in winter by pouring boiling water over it. If you have a cat, put a bell on its collar to prevent it from bringing home your carefully nurtured wildlife as an unwanted offering. Also, if you have the space you can add nesting boxes. Different types of birds favour different types of boxes. Put up bird boxes where they are sheltered from the elements and install before spring so that you do not disrupt the breeding season. Once again, a visit to your garden centre, RSPB or the internet will help.

Mammals and Reptiles

www.arc-trust.org

You can buy special feed for hedgehogs from garden suppliers, while badgers will eat unsalted nuts and seeds, fruit and root vegetables. Make sure you leave out water as well. Steer clear of bread and milk which cause digestive problems for animals. Offer hedgehogs a safe place to hibernate in the winter by buying a hedgehog house. Hedgehogs like to roam across gardens looking for insects. Make sure there is a gap under your fence that will allow enough room for hedgehogs to get through.

Plant a Tree.

www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

Native trees will help attract birds and insects. Go for species like crab apple, conifers, silver birch, yew, alder, or if you have space for a large tree, try elm, beech or ash. Trees provide a nesting place for birds and squirrels, while if you want to attract bats, willow will give you the best chance. If you have space to plant a few trees near each other this will create more of a woodland habitat drawing a wider range of wildlife.

Grow a Hedge.

Hedges provide protection and nesting areas for birds and small animals. They also help to shelter the garden. Suitable hedge plants include blackthorn, buckthorn, cherry plum, elder, hawthorn, hazel and privet. Climbers and creepers provide further foliage to boost the insect population and draw birds. Clematis, dog rose and honeysuckle are traditional favourites. Autumn is the perfect time to buy and plant bare-root hedging.
Compost Heap.

Many gardens use plastic bins for composting, these are not eco-friendly, the old-fashioned compost heap is home to slow worms, frogs and many others.
Cultivate a Wilderness Area.

By leaving an area of wild lawn to mimic a meadow this will in turn entice shrews, voles and other mammals that feed on grass or insects. All the creatures in your wildlife garden need insects to feed upon so the more various the insect species are the more species you will attract. Making a pile of dead wood will encourage beetles and grubs which will in turn draw larger foragers.

Garden Ponds

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If you have space for a pond this will diversify your garden ecosystem, or if not, even a small water feature will help to attract different creatures. A pond allows you to keep fish and frogs as well as attracting beautiful insects like dragonflies. Use plants like water lilies and broad leaf pond weed to develop your underwater habitat. It is likely to be busy in spring and summer with common frogs, newts and a selection of the commoner damselfly and dragonfly species.

© Paul Hanson Graham 2018