Gardens and outdoor spaces provide a crucial place of refuge for wildlife and birds. The best way to encourage wildlife to our outdoor spaces is to create a welcoming and well stocked feeding ground that will attract them, and then encourage them to stay or revisit in the future.
Creating a wildlife haven needn’t mean letting things run riot and get overgrown. You can still maintain your outdoor space while giving homes to wildlife and creating healthy habitats.
Start with planting
Fill borders with nectar rich, flowering plants that will attract butterflies and bees. When choosing the plants try to extend the season with a combination of spring bulbs, late flowering perennials and everything in between. This not only gives an extended flowering season for you and visitors to admire but it also continues to attract pollinators and will provide food for the animals and insects that are active over different periods. The RHS has a fantastic and extensive guide on the best pollinator-friendly plants.
Trees and hedges
Planting trees is a great way to boost biodiversity and create a healthy habitat for a variety of species. When planting, consider species that are native to your local area too.
As well as being fantastic for insects, hedges can also provide a home for birds by giving them somewhere to roost and to shelter from the elements and any lurking predators. Thick foliage can also help boost insect population.
Encourage our flying friends
Hang nest boxes to give birds somewhere to escape to. There’s a multitude of designs, styles and colours on the market but the RSPB has some information on how to choose the right box, as well as the best place to put them.
Hanging feeders or putting out food on a feeding table can be another way to attract birds to your outdoor spaces. Remember to keep feeding areas clean and wash them regularly with a mild soap to stop any diseases from spreading. You can also put some water out for them to bathe in or drink from. Again, remember to keep the dish clean and to change the water regularly.
When it comes to feeding, different birds are attracted to different types of food at different types of year, but you can’t go wrong with a complete seed and nut mix, or something that is suitable for year-round feeding. Take time to look into the best type of food to be putting out, or if you have a certain type of bird visiting regularly buy a mix specially aimed at that species to give it the best diet possible. When temperatures drop, consider putting out a feed that is high in fat to give the birds a helping hand.
It’s not just birds to be thinking about, you can also create homes for bees and insects. Beehives not only give you a supply of homemade, local honey but they are also another great means of furthering pollination in your outdoor space and are said to increase the yield of fruit and vegetable plants. If beekeeping isn’t for you, how about building an insect hotel? By simply layering piles of twigs, wood and rocks you can easily give bugs and insects a place to explore. If your outdoor space is open to the public, then they provide great attractions too and are educational and engaging for younger visitors.
Be on the lookout
Sadly, hedgehog numbers have dramatically fallen by 50% since 2000 and there are now believed to be less than one million hedgehogs left in Britain. To give them a helping hand, put gaps at the bottom of any fences, or in between panels, so that they can move around freely.
If you are leaving food out for them remember that they are lactose intolerant so avoid leaving milk for them. Similarly, bread is bad for their digestive systems – they prefer worms or meaty pet foods.
Hedgehogs love to bed down in piles of leaves, so make sure you check areas first before getting to work and possibly disturbing their habitats.
The main thing to remember is to be incredibly careful when using our powerful machinery and to check the areas that you are working on thoroughly before starting up the engines, particularly when it comes to leaf clearing.