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Turn your garden into a wildlife haven

Encouraging nature into our gardens not only allows us to look after the wildlife but also helps our environment run as efficiently and effectively as possible

From birds to beetles, there are many different species which could really do with our help and providing a safe haven can make a huge impact. Imagine yourself sat in the garden enjoying the summer sun surrounded by birdsong, beautiful butterflies and colourful bugs. It’s not hard to create a paradise for wildlife; you can either DIY or visit garden centres which provide an array of different foods, bird boxes, tables and bug hotels.

You can see any type of wildlife in your garden at any time, even if you have the smallest of areas. However, depending where you live can affect how much you see on a day to day basis. If you live in a rural area you are more likely to see a wider variety compared to those who live in the city.

According to The Wildlife Trust, our garden on average could hold over 2,000 different species of insects!

What can you do?

There are many things you can do to allow nature to flourish in your garden and it’s important to create as many habitats as possible without overcrowding. One of the basic needs for most wildlife is a safe place to breed and have shelter. Focus on the available space that you already have; you might not even realise that common garden features can be home to a variety different species.

Areas of uncut lawn are especially important for insects and minibeasts, and will attract hungry birds into your garden, which will feed on them. Wait until late winter to cut back any grass to provide shelter from the cold for any animals that have hidden and hibernated during the previous months.

Fill your garden borders with flowering plants and shrubs, this will allow nectar rich foods to attract butterflies and bees. Seeds, berries and shelter from plants will also prove beneficial for small animals and birds. Try growing climbing plants against any walls or trellis to allow shelter for animals as these can be a great haven for roosting and breeding. Planting a variety of different flowers and seeds at varied times throughout the year will also provide food over different periods of time, attracting animals all year round.

Hedges and trees offer nesting sites for many birds and mammals, as well as cover from wind, rain and snow and a hideaway from possible predators. Bird boxes, bat boxes and hedgehog homes prove good artificial shelters and are a great safe alternative. Bird baths, ponds and water features are also a great introduction to your garden and can attract a variety of different animals including invertebrates and amphibians.

Compost areas and woodpiles can also be a great place for animals to live, feed and hibernate. Meanwhile, dead wood, trimmings and foliage can be a great place for all insects and minibeasts to hide from any predators. Alternatively you can purchase bug hotels, which allow shelter for many insects; and providing these homes can increase the number of beneficial insects, as well as help those which are currently declining in numbers such as bumblebees and solitary bees, allowing us to contribute to their conservation.

Creating a sustainable environment is also important when introducing a wildlife friendly garden as many of our actions have an impact on nature. Avoid using any peat as this destroys vital habitats; instead produce your own by investing in a composter or create a compost heap in your garden. Saving rainwater in waterbutts and barrels is also great for topping up any water features; natural rain water is preferred to tap water and it will also allow you to save money on your water bills. You should also try to recycle where possible; you can even used reclaimed old materials like pallet wood to build raised borders and other garden structures.

There is a variety of different wildlife which we can find in our gardens including: Badgers, Foxes, Hedgehogs, Squirrels, Moles, Rabbits, Mice, Birds, Bees, Bugs and beetles, Ants, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Moths, Frogs, Toads, Newts, Slow worms, Snails, Spiders and Slugs.

What to avoid

You should avoid using any pesticides. However, you can use non-chemical and non-toxic alternatives. The traditional slug pellet is responsible for killing many hedgehogs as well as song thrushes; they can eat their own body weight in slugs and snails which have been contaminated. Why not let nature take its course and create a hedgehog house to attract the natural slug predator instead?