OTHER GARDEN WILDLIFE
You might be surprised at how much wildlife makes use of your garden. Some are visitors, others make their home alongside you. They might be unseen but their role is invaluable in creating and sustaining healthy eco-systems. You can encourage a wider variety of wildlife to take up residence and then help them prosper by how you choose to garden.
Take it easy
Relax and let the grass grow, don’t rush to cut things back after they’ve flowered, leave piles of leaves, sticks and logs to decay. By embracing a shaggier garden you’re not only saving yourself some work you’re also aiding wildlife. Even just deciding to stop using pesticides will make a huge difference to the diversity of wildlife in your garden.
Insects in all their amazing variety are the building blocks of a good garden eco-system. Native plants evolved alongside the insects that live here so ensure that you plant them in your garden. Old fashioned roses with simple flowers, erigeron, leucanthemum and candytuft are good places to start. A pond will be home to countless types of insect and their larvae.
Earthworms are the unassuming heroes of the garden. They eat decaying plant materials, improve and aerate garden soils and provide food for birds and hedgehogs. They dislike soil that’s too acidic or regularly waterlogged but will otherwise soon colonise a new garden. Allow leaf litter to decay, bury vegetable and plant matter just under the soil, avoid pesticides and only dig when completely necessary. A thriving worm population is an indicator of healthy soil quality. Earthworms that avoid the spade and predators can live for an amazing 9 or more years !
Attracting more birds to your garden is relatively simple. Put bird feeders in your garden and if you’ve got space and somewhere suitable bird boxes. As insect numbers increase so too should garden visiting birds. When it comes to planting think berry bearing plants such as cotoneaster and even if you’re garden is only small it can probably still find space for a rowan.
Frogs & Toads
There is something magical and slightly otherworldly about discovering frogs or toads living in your garden. A garden pond doesn’t have to be big to attract frogs. Even an old washing up bowl filled with rainwater sunk into the ground will do. Place a couple of stones that peek out of the water at the edges and an aquatic plant or two and it won’t be long until amphibians discover it. Adult frogs in any number will make short work of the garden’s slug population.
The UK hedgehog population is struggling with numbers down by 50% since the turn of the century. If any garden visiting animal needed our help it’s the hedgehog. They can roam an incredible 2km a night so ensuring they can travel freely in your neighbourhood is vital. Leave gaps at the bottom of fencing and encourage your neighbours to do the same. Leaf piles and long grass are a helpful source of bedding. Leave out dried cat, dog or special hedgehog food and a supply of fresh water. They’re adept swimmers but ensure any pond has a banked edge to help them climb out should they slip in while taking a drink. A hedgehog house should be placed in a sheltered, protected spot out of direct sunlight and hedgehogs appreciate a garden with wild, untended patches.
Bats are the real show stoppers among garden visiting wildlife. The UK is home to 12 different species, with some being common visitors to domestic gardens. If your garden has a healthy supply of insects it’s likely you’ll see them dancing through your trees and flowers as night falls. Ponds that incubate flying insect larvae and a variety of trees and shrubs even in a small space will make your garden attractive to them. Keeping cats indoors before and after dusk allows bats to emerge from their roosts safely. Bat boxes should be sited on south or east facing walls that get some sunshine at around 12 to 20 feet from the ground.