Watching wildlife comes high on the list of favourite activities for most eco-friendly kids – and it’s often a hit with their parents too. There’s no better way to encourage a few native species to come into your own backyard than by rolling out a bit of a red carpet for them in the garden.
Wildlife gardening has grown enormously in popularity over recent years, but it isn’t just a case of abandoning a dark, forgotten corner and allowing it to go completely rampant; like other aspects of gardening, it calls for a bit of thought. The good news is, however, that you don’t need to have vast amounts of space to get started and some of the most valuable wildlife habitats are to be found in very small plots. With some careful planning the littlest patio, balcony or even a window box can be turned into a wildlife haven and it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate; just a few simple ideas will get the ball rolling in next to no time.
Off To A Flying Start!
Birds are probably the easiest creatures to encourage into your garden and best of all, there’s no shortage of ready-made items to be found in garden centres and pet shops to get you off to a great start. Buy one or two suitable nesting boxes and a bird feeder – or make your own if you prefer – fix them in appropriate locations and you’re away! There’s plenty of information available on this site and elsewhere to help you pick the right kinds of things to buy and once you start feeding and watching the birds in your own garden, you’ll be surprised how addictive it can become. Add a birdbath – or just an old, shallow bowl – and keep it topped up with fresh water and you should soon be seeing the birds visiting your garden in their droves.
Insects and their kin are another group that will quickly make use of any suitable surroundings you create for them and, on the whole, they aren’t too difficult to accommodate. Provide a few logs and a pile or two of leaves and you’ll soon be rewarded with a small zoo of mini-beasts as all manner of beetles, spiders, woodlice and centipedes move in. Slugs and snails will like them too – though they obviously won’t get quite such a welcome from keen gardeners! They do, however, form favourite items on a number of other creatures’ menus – including frogs, toads, hedgehogs and many kinds of birds – so they definitely have their place in the wildlife corner, however much of a pest they are elsewhere in the garden.
Your wildlife corner can also attract a range of beneficial insects, which either help control pests or are important for pollination. Amongst this noble band of bugs are the bees, ladybirds and lacewings – and there are lots of designs of homes that can be bought, or made, that are ideal to encourage these useful creatures to stay.
Finish off by planting a few nectar-rich flowers – something which can be done very successfully in a container or window box if that’s all the space you have available – and you’ll be guaranteed a stream of visiting bees and butterflies throughout the summer.
Add A Pond
Adding even a small pond to your wildlife area will bring big benefits to wildlife and attract a whole new range of creatures. Again, it doesn’t have to be huge, expensive or elaborate. There are plenty of pre-formed shapes to buy and even a simple water-filled barrel or container will allow you to grow a few of our native water plants and watch some of Britain’s aquatic animals going about their lives. There’s nothing quite like pond-dipping in your own pond!
If an actual pond isn’t appropriate – and many parents understandably aren’t keen if there are very young children in the family – then a bog garden can be a useful half-way house. It will enable a range of marginal and moisture loving plants to be grown and give many kinds of damp-loving animals a home, without any risk of tragedy.
Don’t Forget The Flowers
When we start talking about wildlife gardens, the wonderful variety of British wildflowers can sometimes get overlooked as we focus on all the birds, badgers and beetles. There are plenty of wildflower seed mixes available from various specialist suppliers and many garden centres have them too, so creating a swathe of wild plants as a backdrop for your corner is easy to do. Even something as simple as choosing a few native shrubs or trees can make a big difference to the value of your garden as a wildlife habitat, so it’s definitely something to bear in mind.
Making a wildlife corner in your garden may not be just as easy as simply giving up on the weeding, but it really doesn’t take too much effort to start seeing some pretty good results!