Ensuring that our fellow birds, animals and plants can live sustainably alongside we human beings is important to me and I am working with land owners and farmers to encourage this approach whilst at the same time being well aware that producing healthy food is crucial to feed our ever growing population.
With habitats under pressure, I practice gardening for wildlife in my own garden and would encourage anyone and everyone, no matter how tiny their outside space is, to help too. Here are some top tips for wildlife gardening.
Wildlife Gardening Tips:
1) Make space for water
A pond (without fish) will support a wide range of animals and provide a place for amphibians and dragonflies to breed, as well as becoming a focal point for wildlife within your garden. If a pond is not practical, go for a simple bird bath or pebble fountain to provide drinking water.
2) Leave perennials uncut until the spring
The seed heads look amazing when covered in frost and provide valuable food for birds and other animals through the winter. Many perennials also have hollow stems that provide valuable shelter for over-wintering insects.
3) Compost your organic kitchen and garden waste in the garden
The compost heap will provide welcome food and shelter for a host of animals, including hedgehogs and grass snakes, and provide a year-round source of food for insectivorous animals. The compost also provides a free source of mulch and soil conditioner for your garden.
4) Grow climbing plants against bare walls, fences and trellises to create new vertical habitat
Climbers provide great cover and food for birds, insects and mammals. Climbing plants can also help add privacy to your garden and disguise unsightly sheds and boring walls. Set trellises 10cm from the wall or fence to allow ample room for nests.
5) Leave dead wood
Dead wood is a valuable habitat that supports a wide range of invertebrates, as well as providing shelter for amphibians and small mammals. You can collect cut or wind-blown wood and pile it up in shady corners, or use larger limbs and stumps to create an interesting sculptural feature.
6) Bird, bat and hedgehog boxes
Bird, bat and hedgehog boxes provide valuable nesting, roosting, sheltering and hibernation opportunities, and it’s not just for the larger animals. Invertebrates can also benefit from the provision of shelter. Collecting together some hollow stemmed plants and placing them in a quiet corner of your garden will also help.
7) Feed the birds with nuts, mixed seeds, scraps and fat balls
If you start feeding, keep it up through the year, and always ensure any bird tables or feeders are kept clean. Make sure these feeders are close to shrubs and trees for cover and near enough to the house so you can enjoy the daily dramas. Fat balls are also perfect if you have little outside space!
8) Leave parts of your lawn uncut
Leave part of your lawn uncut, perhaps where it borders a native hedge or runs down to the compost bin. Long grass is great for small animals like grasshoppers, beetles and young amphibians and provides cover for small mammals out foraging at night. Grasses are also important food sources for the caterpillars of some butterflies. Also consider introducing some wildflowers to these areas to increase diversity.
9) Use mulches to control weeds where you can
Reduce your use of chemicals in the garden by encouraging predators of common garden pests - frogs, toads and song thrushes all eat slugs and ladybirds, and lacewings love greenflies. Encourage and develop a balance in your garden through planting a wide range of plants (some of which could be disease or pest resistant) in varied ‘habitats’.
10) Grow plenty of different nectar-rich plants
Try to include as many plants as possible that will provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other pollinators throughout the flowering seasons. Having a variety of flower-types is important in order to cater for the different insect species. Consider too having some native shrubs or trees for the caterpillars of many moth and butterfly species, while just a patch of nettles is ideal for the most common garden butterfly species.