You can easily invite wildlife into your garden. Photo: Jardins de fleurs
Article by Kimberley Cornish
Does your heart beat faster when you hear about increasing insect deaths? Well, it should, since, believe it or not, all life on our planet depends on the wellbeing of these tiny creatures. With the insects dying out, the small animals who depend on them as a food source would also stop existing. That way the whole natural food chain would start collapsing. The good news is that all of us are capable of contributing to saving our planet’s primordial biodiversity since even a small wildlife-friendly corner in your garden can offer many animals refuge.
Biodiversity Starts With Plant Variety
Having various plant species is the first step to take on the way of attracting wildlife to your garden. Replace a homogeneous lawn with a wild-like flowery meadow or at least creating an area in your garden which offers plant variety.
If you value your spotless lawn too much, a perfect alternative for you might be a mixed border. It’s a biodiversity-friendly type of garden bed which is designed to ensure bloom from the early spring until late in the autumn. In setting up a mixed border, make sure you have something to serve as a shelter and a food source for your garden wildlife. A good mixed border combines woody and herbaceous (soft stem) plants, perennials and annuals, bulb and seed plants, etc. The more colorful and various the better!
Set Up Several Habitat Areas
Each group of animals has its preferences. So, if you aim to help as many animals as possible, create different habitat areas in your garden.
For a while now, setting up a natural pond has been a real trend. Since that time, it hasn’t lost its benefits for wildlife. The more gardeners strive to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, the more popular this water feature becomes.
Many animal species depend on water for their reproduction. Frogs and newts are the first and most obvious animals that come to mind. Many insects can also be added to this list, among them the dragonflies and mosquitoes, who lay their eggs in water. The larvae of these insects serve as a food source for many birds and ensure a natural food chain. Additionally, birds can get a refreshing sip of water in the shallow areas of the pond. When setting up your pond, you should take into consideration the frost line of your area to ensure that your pond inhabitants will have a non-frozen area of deeper water for hibernation.
Do not get rid of the stones in your garden, even the opposite: collect all you have and bring more.
Stone piles represent great hiding spots for toads and hedgehogs. And that is far from the whole list of stone lovers. Think of shrews, chipmunks, grass snakes, slow worms, lizards, ground beetles and many others. As a bonus, many of them are your allies in the war against plant parasites and excessive slugs and snails. Along with the long list of inhabitants, stone piles have various types of design. For instance, you can set up a raised bed decorated with stones. Animals in search of shelter from frost will appreciate your effort.
You’ve probably observed birds taking a dust bath. This odd ritual helps birds maintain their plumage maintenance and prevent parasites. That is why it’s important to have a small “bald” area in your garden. A pile of clay or sandy loam would work wonderfully, not only for the birds but also for many insects, such as mason and mining bees who can use it as a building material for the cells in their nests. They usually reside in the naturally occurring gaps and holes in the trees but also snail shells and plant stems. Some species of wasps, like digger wasps, also use mud and clay to burrow and nest in deadwood. This brings us to the next point.
Less Is Sometimes More: Don’t Exaggerate Cleaning
As we have already revealed, deadwood and stone piles lend a helping hand to the animals seeking shelter. If you have ever disassembled a pile of old wood, you might already have an idea of how many insects can reside there. The same holds true for dead plant stems. That is why excessive cleaning of deadwood, plant rests and fallen leaves can ward off wildlife from your garden.
To help the insects to inhabit the deadwood in your garden, consider drilling holes in it. Be careful in doing so, because you can actually do more harm than good if the holes have sharp edges. The holes should be as deep as possible and pretty narrow (approximately ⅛–¼ inch/3–10 mm). Don’t drill them symmetrically, rather chaotically. It will help insects to orientate and find the way to their nest faster. If possible, make the holes of different sizes to make them fit for the widest list of insects.
In case you feel the need to keep your garden tidy and the deadwood neatly collected, there are some options for you too. For example, you can compost the plant rests and fallen leaves. Also, for the insects’ sake, you can construct a wooden insect hotel.
A deadwood hedge might be a good alternative for you too. Basically, it’s just two rows of stable wooden posts placed parallel to each other with deadwood, wood cuttings and twigs as a filling. Place larger branches at the bottom of the deadwood hedge to give shelter to small mammals like shrews, mice and hedgehogs (the latter, in the Old World only). Right on the top place smaller branches and twigs, to create a place for insects to stay over winters. Avoid the wood that has any signs of diseases and pests.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to make your garden wildlife-friendly and lend a helping hand to the animals of your area. Choose what option suits your garden best.
Kimberley Cornish is a blog author at Summerhouse24.co.uk, garden shed manufacturer and supplier. He is enthusiastic about everything that relates to garden and building and gladly writes his blog posts on these topics for a wide audience. Eco-gardening is his strongest passion.