There is the belief amongst some that a wildlife garden means one that is left to become tangled with undergrowth and weeds. Or, there is the myth that a garden needs to be wild to attract wildlife. While this is true to some extent as you will find some wildlife such as birds and rabbits, but the diversity is far less than you will find in a well managed garden with a range of plants and habitats such as log-piles and a garden pond.
By simple definition, a wildlife garden is one which is planned in favour of wildlife.
Some gardeners do prefer a slightly overgrown garden while others prefer a more formal plan – if you are a person who is tidy and orderly by nature then a less formal plan will start to irritate you so go according to the style that suits you.
Even the smallest garden can be used to provide an island of support for wildlife.
Any garden with a good range of different plants can be perfect for wildlife. It need not require a huge effort to change a conventionally managed garden into one that you can share with a variety of wild creatures.
Understanding the connection between plants and wildlife
The most important first step in wildlife gardening is to lay-off the pesticides and chemical sprays. The second step is to try to understand the connection between plants and living creatures – in other words to think more like an ecologist rather than as a gardener just managing a garden for its aesthetic appeal. Think about how your actions in the garden could affect wildlife, such as clearing away leaves or decayed plants which could be home to a number of creatures. Think before pruning a tree or hedge – getting your time right as there maybe birds nesting.
You may even consider creating specific habitats for invertebrates. Or, you may decide specifically what creatures you want to attract into your garden and plant to their needs.
Wildlife gardening is a gradual process. The range of wildlife you can attract and host will depend on the size of your garden and the habitats you can create for them. A garden with at least one native tree, plenty of ground cover, a variety of nectar filled flowers and autumn berries, free of pesticides and herbicides will provide a very welcome habitat for insects and birds.
Wildlife friendly features to consider adding to your garden:
- Native plants as these will host a wide range of insect species versus a non-native plant,
- Availability of water – build a garden pond lined with a pond liner with a slopping edge will attract wildlife such as frogs, newts, dragonflies and beetles,
- Wildflowers, grasses and weeds (nettles) – will attract butterflies and many other insects
- Nectar and pollen rich flowering plants – to feed butterflies, bees and numerous other insects that act as pollinators.
Build a garden pond and attract wildlife
Building a garden pond offers another great opportunity to attract wildlife into your garden. Line your garden pond with a pond liner and protective underlay and overlay to maintain an appropriate water level rather than lose water to ground seepage (unless you have clay soil). Then encourage a balanced ecosystem by including a variety of native aquatic plants which will attract plenty of other wildlife. Dragonflies and damselflies will flit about your marginal plants while flowering perennials will help to invite butterflies, bees and other invertebrates. The presence of insects will attract frogs which will take full advantage of sunny themselves on waterlily leaves. Add a log pile close to your garden pond to attract newts and toads – a safe place where they can hide away from predators. Snails may also populate but these may need to be controlled as they can damage your plants or pass on disease to your fish. If you do add fish to your pond, make sure that there are plenty of places for insect larvae to hide out. They are great for controlling mosquitoes and other pests but may end up eating other insect larvae of pleasant garden visitors like dragonflies.
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