These days as our lives get busier more and more of us are opting for less grass and planting in our gardens choosing low maintenance alternatives instead.
Sadly this means that wildlife is struggling to find a place to call home.
Here are some tips to help you encourage the wildlife back in to your garden.
If you are lucky enough to have room to plant flowers then you can encourage butterflies to your garden with Buddleia (also known as the butterfly bush because it is usually alive with fluttering butterflies), lavender, marjoram, perennial wallflower (also known as Bowles Mauve) and Verbena Bonariensis. These plants provide nectar in the summer which attract butterflies however your choice does not end there.
The Butterfly Conservation site has a wealth of information including a straight forward do and don’t list so it’s worth visiting their site HERE to check out their advise.
To get the best results you need to avoid using pesticides, insecticides and peat compost in your garden and make sure you remove the dead heads off flowers regularly.
Another way to attract butterflies to your garden is using a butterfly feeder which is extremely simple to put together using things you already have around the house.
PLEASE NOTE : This will also be attractive to bees and wasps so if you have children be careful where you put it.
To make your butterfly feeder start with a shallow dish. A heavy weather proof ceramic dish would be best but in the end use what ever you have to hand as long as it’s not your best baking bowl. Just be aware that a light container might blow away so try to anchor it down.
Make a substitute nectar solution using 1 part granulated sugar to 4 parts water and boil this until the granules of sugar dissolve in the water then make sure it is completely cool before pouring a small amount in to the base of your dish.
Opinion is divided about storing unused homemade nectar. Some say you can freeze it as ice cubes, others say that you can keep it in the fridge for up to a fortnight but some say you should always make it fresh and as it is so simple to do this it is not really a chore.
Finally you just need to add a few pieces of over ripe fruit. Soft fruit like bananas, peaches, strawberries and oranges work well but don’t over do it as other wildlife will love this too and you don’t want to attract the wrong sort.
You can also drizzle a small amount of runny honey over the fruit or some left over beer.
Now sit back and wait for your visitors.
ATTRACT FROGS WITH A MINI POND from Rollercoaster Mum
Garden ponds need work to maintain them and when you have children they are a safety issue so why not make a mini pond like the one we spotted on Rollercoaster Mum’s website?
This clever lady used a metal tub but you could use one of those shallow plastic orange planters from your garden centre.
For full instructions on how to make the mini pond you can visit Rollercoaster Mum by CLICKING HERE.
Clean water is a must but rain water is preferable as tap water can have high nutrients levels. Don’t worry about the muggy appearance of the water when you first set up your pond as it will settle.
A shady spot can stop the mini pond getting too hot and drying out but make sure too many fallen leaves are not left sitting in it. You don’t need to be over the top about clearing twigs and leaves as they provide habitat and shelter for garden birds and creatures but at the same time you don’t want too many dead leaves turning to sludge in a small pond.
Be patient and let things develop naturally.
Frogs will find their own way to the new home you have made them … but in their own time.
ATTRACT BIRDS – MAKE A NEST BOX
To encourage birds in to your garden you can make a simple nest box. Nothing elaborate is needed. In actual fact the box can be constructed from just one piece of wood cut in to sections. It should have a slightly sloping roof to make sure rain drains away and although you might be tempted to make everything lovely and smooth a rough surface helps fledglings to grip.
You can find clear instructions to make a nest box at the Gardeners World website by CLICKING HERE.
Don’t be tempted to paint or stain the box to make it look pretty because the birds might peck the chemical and it could make them ill.
You need to think carefully about where you put the nest box to keep it out of reach of predators like domestic cats or wild foxes. It should be out of direct sun and excessively windy spots.
For more advice making, siting and cleaning nest boxes CLICK HERE to visit the RSPB webiste.
ATTRACT INSECTS WITH A BUG HOTEL
Insects will provide food for the other members of your wild life family and they will pollinate your plants. They love wiggling in to nooks and crannies.
There are plenty of insect houses on the market but why not pop to your local DIY store and see if they have any waste timber off cuts which you can drill in to and combine with bamboo style poles to create your own creepy crawly des res?
Drilled wood and bamboo canes attract bees and wasps who lay eggs. Drill a variety of different sized holes.
Put rotting wood at the bottom of the insect hotel so it stays damp and this will attract millipedes and woodlice which birds will happily munch on. It also encourages centipedes which like to feed on slugs so if you grow your own veg this will be handy.
Make bundles of different sized twigs and sticks which will attract beetles who eat aphids and other pests that damage crops.
Arrange the whole lot in to a wooden packing crate if you can get your hands on one.
An optional extra is to place a wire mesh across the front of your bug hotel to reduce the number of insects that are picked off by hungry birds before they get chance to do their good work.
Thompson And Morgan have a comprehensive list on their website of which plants are most suitable to attract wildlife.
To visit Thompson And Morgan and have a look at their list CLICK HERE.
You can see at a glance whether the plant attracts bees, butterflies or birds (or any combination of those three) plus there are handy symbols highlighting each plant’s interesting points for example if it offers good shelter for birds or has autumn leaf colour.
MAKE A COMPOST HEAP
A compost heap is not the most glamorous of garden features but if you are serious about encouraging wildlife to your garden then this is quite an inexpensive way to do so. Not only will it be a haven for all kinds of creatures but the end result is a great soil improver which will give your plants a better chance to grow.
In it’s most basic form it is a collection of organic kitchen scraps which are taken through the composting process by animals, bacteria and fungi so small the human eye almost can not detect them. The rotting scraps are eaten by passing bugs which in turn attract birds, hedgehogs, toads and frogs who eat them. As the scraps decompose heat is given off and this attracts reptiles. So you can see how having a compost heap in your garden will encourage wildlife visitors to come calling.
If you can bring yourself to have an uncontained heap this will produce the best results, from a wildlife point of view, as there are no access restrictions. Do not use a chemical activator to get your compost heap moving, just let things run their course.
Planet Natural have a great in depth list of things to include and what you should avoid HERE .
If you enter your post code in to the search field on the Get Composting website you will be able to see if your council has joined the scheme to make discounted compost bins available to you … CLICK HERE to enter your post code.
Hedgehogs are very cute but they are not suitable to be kept as domestic pets and it would be cruel to take one from the wild for this purpose. However if you make your garden an attractive proposition you might hear the patter of tiny feet and you can sit quietly and watch as they go about their business.
We mentioned above that hedgehogs will feed off the creatures that live in your compost heap so that is a good place to start. The also like to shelter under wood piles and they will use hedges as cover.
Do not use slug pellets or pesticides on your garden, this is a good rule of thumb in a wildlife garden in general.
Hedgehogs will drink from a garden pond so make sure it has shallow points and easily exited areas.
Keep your dog or cat well away.
To visit The British Hedgehog Preservation Society CLICK HERE… you can find out more and also donate online if you choose to.
** If your kids love animals check out our range of animal themed bedding HERE **
** We also have a section dedicated to butterflies HERE **