05/05/2014

Attracting wildlife to your garden

Easter is usually the busiest gardening weekend of the year. For many people it is the first chance they get to put on their boots, pull out their clippers and tidy the garden. This year was no exception. Now that the hard work is done, why not take a little time over the next few weeks to make a few small changes to your garden to attract more wildlife.

1. Add water. Like us humans, water is vital for wildlife to survive yet is often overlooked. Most people will leave out bread and berries for the birds, but forget about providing water too. Adding a water feature like a pond is a great way to significantly increase the chances of attracting new wildlife to your garden. If adding a pond seems a little drastic, a bird bath is an easy and cheap alternative. If you do add a pond, remember to make the edges quite shallow allowing easy access to the water for toads, frogs and newts.

2. Add water plants. If you do add a pond to your garden, ensure you add some water plants. This will attract insects that frogs and other amphibious animals like to eat, creating a fantastic food source. 

3. Provide food. Adding a variety of food for birds to feed on is a quick way to attract new wildlife to your garden. A bird feeder is a great way to do this. By changing the food on offer over the winter to high fat, will enable the birds to survive the cold winter months and return the following year. Alternatively you may want to lay the food on a bird table. This will enable other animals like squirrels to feast on it as well. If you do place bird feeders in your garden, remember to place them in places that cats and other predators cannot reach.

4. Berries. Planting berry trees like holly is a great way to provide food for a variety of animals throughout the year, especially throughout the winter. You need to plant them now if you want them ready for the winter months. For earlier in the year, avoid throwing any over ripe fruit away. Cut it up and add it to your bird table for the animals to eat.

5. Make a home. Providing a shelter for animals is one of the best things you can do to attract wildlife to your garden. Make it easy for wildlife to enter your garden by cutting a small hole in your garden fence. Be sure not to make it any bigger than a CD case to prevent cats, badgers etc. from entering. A hole this size is perfect for allowing hedgehogs into your garden. By creating a small log pile in a corner of your garden will create the perfect home for hedgehogs too. Hedgehogs feed on slugs and snails so is an ideal way to get rid of them from your garden and protect your vegetables. Adding a nesting box to a tree is also a fantastic way to attract birds and bats to your garden. Remember to place them high up to stop cats for attacking.

6. Avoid pesticides. Where ever possible avoid using pesticides in your garden. While they may get rid of weeds and pests like slugs, it will deter predators from coming to your garden. Avoid laying slug pellets if you can, as hedgehogs will eat these and they are poisonous to them too. Avoid leaving milk out – this will upset a hedgehog’s tummy!

7. Compost heap. A compost heap is not only a brilliant and cheap way to get natural fertiliser for your lawn and plants, but it provides a great habitat for animals. Worms, woodlice etc. will love living in the dark, damp conditions which will become the ideal food for hedgehogs and birds. 

8. Add bright coloured flowers. Bees are attracted to bright, vivid coloured flowers. Not only will planting flowers attract bees it will attract other animals too. Bees are also needed to help spread pollen from one plant to the next helping make your garden flower during the spring and summer months.

9. Don't be over tidy. If you have fruit trees, don’t be too quick to pick up fallen apples, pears etc. from the floor. Fallen fruit is an easy and vital source of food for foxes, badgers etc. 

10. Grow your grass long. Keep a patch of grass in your garden quite long. This not only creates a fantastic habitat for animals, but attracts insects which are a vital source of food for other animals.

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