Attracting Wildlife to your Garden

Ian’s guide to attracting wildlife to our gardens.

Greener Wokingham is delighted to share this short guide and urges you to follow it so that a wide range of wildlife can be encouraged into local gardens. The Tips and accompanying text were written by Ian Hydon of Wokingham, who also took all the amazing photos.

Tip 1:    Provide a range of habitats for wildlife to live in your garden

A pond is one of the best ways to encourage wildlife to your garden there is plenty of information online as to how to create one.
If you haven’t got a large garden an old washing up bowl sunk into the ground and filled with pond liner, gravel, pond plants and a gentle sloping side for wildlife to get in and out of it, then filled with water, will be greatly appreciated and you should soon get quite an array of wildlife colonising it. 
Leaving out a water dish – a large terracotta saucer is excellent for this – for the birds to splash around and bathe in and for birds and other wildlife to drink out of is fantastic, remember to keep the water topped up with fresh water and clean the saucer as well regularly.

Tip 2: Provide a range of habitats in your garden for wildlife

Humans often prefer order and method with tidy lawns and gardens, whilst nature prefers things more disorderly.Unless you are responsible for Lords cricket ground or going for a bowls lawn, don’t cut your grass too short, raise the cutting heads of the mower so the grass is not cropped right down when it’s cut and don’t cut the grass as frequently.  

Banish all weedkillers as well.  They are harmful for wildlife.  Be careful if you use a strimmer as well to check first for wildlife, better still don’t use a strimmer either. Flowering plants will start to colonise your lawn but that’s fine, let them or set an area of your lawn to grow wild. Pollinating insects such as hoverflies and bees will start coming to feed on the nectar and gather pollen which they will spread to other flowers to pollinate those in turn.

Leave log piles in a quiet area of the garden; these should attract other insects and if you are very lucky hedgehogs as well. The insects in turn will attract birds feeding off those. Get your children interested have a mini-beast hunt – see what you can find together as a family in your wild areas of your garden.

Bonfires are best avoided as they can seriously affect wildlife – always check your bonfires in case a hedgehog for example has gone into to go into hibernation within the bonfire [late Autumn and Winter]. 

Provide hedgehog homes if you can – discuss with neighbours to get several of you to agree to cut a CD / DVD sized hole at the bottom of any fencing on either side.  Hedgehogs roam and like to go in a number of gardens [if you are lucky to have them],  they will eat snails, slugs, worms and beetles so are very good for your gardens, creating a wildlife corridor helps the hedgehogs.  

Do not use slug pellets as that can poison the hedgehogs and other wildlife. Learn to love your snails, your choice of plants can affect what they eat.  But look at their beautiful patterns on their shells.

Tip 3:   Provide a range of habitats in your garden — Flowers, Plants and Trees

When deciding on a wildlife friendly garden, research online for the best flowers and plants to put in, think of all the creatures that may visit. Think of the birds as well as the insects and other wildlife.

Trees and hedges will provide shelter and nesting areas for birds.  Do not cut your hedges during birds nesting season if you can avoid it — generally beginning of March to end of July, but some birds may nest for longer.

You can also provide bird boxes as well to further encourage birds in your garden. You can get different sized bird boxes dependent on what type of bird you are wanting to try and attract.  Blue and Great Tits particularly appreciate having nest boxes – these should ideally be sighted away from the primary wind and rain direction so the eggs and chicks don’t get to chilled.

For the flowers and plants amongst others dependent on the size of your garden,  you can have buddleia [known as the butterfly bush], lavender, ivy, honeysuckle, foxglove, cowslip and a nettle patch, and plenty more besides.   If you have a tiny garden grow some of the flowering plants in pots or planters if you need to.

Anything that attracts the insects will attract the birds that feed off them.

The buddleia bush is fantastic for bees and butterflies, lavender is brilliant for pollinating insects such as bees as well. If you can choose only one choose lavender. Buddleia can grow very tall — as seen alongside railway tracks but if you grow this in your garden cut it back down in the Winter so it can regenerate the following year. See what insects it attracts.

Every few years there is a painted lady butterfly special year where huge numbers come to the UK, 2019 was one of them, this painted lady in the photo below, was feeding off from Ian’s buddleia on the nectar.  Bees will feed on both the pollen and the nectar of flowers – but will carry some of the pollen to the next flower which pollinates it in turn.

Also include a compost heap which could also attract a lot of wildlife as well from your plant/grass cuttings.

Tip 4: Grow your own fruit and vegetables and looking out for other wildlife

Even if you have just a tiny garden, growing your own tomatoes and strawberries for example even in large pots,  is very satisfying and can be a great family activity to do where children learn of the life-cycle of the tomatoes for example.  

When ready for harvesting nothing beats the taste of fresh fruit and vegetables that you have grown your own.

If you look after them organically as well with no pesticides, and plant them near to where you also have lavender for example the bees and hoverflies may well also help to pollinate your strawberries for example.

All the time, even whilst out tending your new fruit/veg, keep looking out for other wildlife that is now colonising your garden, the butterflies, the bees, the birds as well and other creatures. Butterflies like this comma butterfly, are so beautiful but fragile.

Tip 5: Helping to Feed the wildlife

You can supplement birds natural diets by putting out food for them. This is particularly important in Winter when the ground is frozen but also ensure that you put out fresh water each day for them.

There is a mixture of wild bird food that you can put out for the birds. Ian has found that a robin and songbird seed mix is very good, but peanuts will also be appreciated by some of the larger birds [if the peanuts are whole] or broken up for smaller birds.  Squirrels will enjoy the peanuts as well.

Additionally put out some kitchen scraps as well particularly in Winter with fat balls or bacon rind for example under a hedge or near dense cover in case the birds need to escape.  

Do not immediately expect the birds to come to you, it does take them a bit of time to realise you are providing supplementary food for them. 

Conclusion — Become a wildlife friendly person

If you have followed any of the tips above, then you are a wildlife friendly person, well done, keep up the good work! You can be very satisfied that you have done your best to help wildlife and will continue to do so. Allow yourself a very happy smile like the male drake mallard at the top of my guide!

Permission should be sought under the copyright from ianhydonservices@gmail.com to reproduce any part of this guide including Ian’s images.

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