Walk on the wild side

Posted 15 August 2016 by Richenda Oldham

Everyone can make space in your garden for nature, just let your imagination run wild with ponds, hedges, scented plants and even a wild flower meadow...

For urban gardeners who would like to share their outdoor spaces with wildlife but are unsure of how to take the plunge, there are many ways that creatures can be encouraged to take up residence without having to relinquish complete control of beds, borders and lawns. It's just a questions of deciding how far you want to go.

Certainly, if you can provide a welcoming haven for wildlife, there are many positive benefits to reap. From watching the varied activities of resident creatures to having your own built-in pest control team, who can help establish a balance between plants, beneficial insects and their natural predators. For example, toads, frogs, newts, hedgehogs, slow worms and birds such as song thrush and blackbirds feed on slugs and snails, while centipedes, spiders, lizards and bats will all eat insects.

Tips for creating a successful wildlife garden

Log piles and compost heaps

There are a number of homes you can create for wildlife. Log piles for example should be placed in a shady place and allowed to decay. They will provide a habitat for stag and bark beetles, as well as fungi, frogs and amphibians. Compost heaps of garden waste, including lawn clippings and leaves, will make healthy sustainable soil full of nutrients. They will also provide shelter for animals such as slowworms, grass snakes and hedgehogs.

Flowers and shrubs for food

There are plenty of plants and flowers that you can grow to provide food for both insects and birds. Lots of plants and trees have berries, such as cotoneasters, pyracantha, rowan and mulberry trees. To attract bees and butterflies, choose nectar and pollen rich plants that provide a succession of flowers throughout the year and avoid double or multi-petalled flowers with little or no pollen/nectar. Suitable species include crocus, honeysuckle, common box, hebe, hollyhock, buddleja, heliotrope, lavender, ox-eye daisy and sage.

Pond life

Even a simple half buried shallow bucket filled with rainwater and a few pebbles or a branch to help animals get in and out will attract frogs, toads, newts and other wildlife. But if you do have room for a pond, make sure it is situated in a sunny spot and has gently sloping sides so hedgehogs can escape if they fall in. 

Wildflower meadow

If space allows, nothing beats the pleasure of having a patch of meadowland filled with wildflowers. The great news is that they are low maintenance and are a beautiful alternative to labour intensive lawns. Alternatively, you could just let your lawn grow and allow daisies and dandelions to flower. Failing that, mow your lawn but leave the edges long to provide cover for mammals such as wood mice, voles and shrews.

Images:

1. Creating an attractive rock garden using natural stones and low maintenance plant species will provide a habitat for a wide range of creatures

2. Wildflower meadows are great for insects and are low maintenance

3. Installing a garden pond will provide a place for birds to bathe and drink and newts to swim

4. Buddleja is a fast growing plant that is a favourite with butterflies

5. A pile of logs will provide shelter for frogs, hedgehogs, amphibians and beetles                                                             

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