Going Wild

Creating a wildlife garden is like making a mini nature reserve for you and your family

A garden that attracts and supports wildlife needs the same basic elements as other gardens – trees and shrubs, a lawn or grassy area, flowering plants and, if possible, a water feature. Planting wildflowers or a strip of meadow helps to sustain and encourage a mini ecosystem in your own back yard. And even if you just have plants on a balcony or in a window box you can still play a part in maintaining wild species and preventing them going into decline.

The main things that wild creatures need are safe habitats, to protect them and allow them to breed, as well as sources of food and water all year round.

Birds

  • Trees, thick thorny shrubs and hedges provide shelter and nesting sites for a wide range of birds, such as bluetits, starlings, sparrows, blackbirds and robins, commonly seen in the garden.
  • Climbers, which are home to insects, and plants bearing berries are also very important as a source of food for birds.

Insects

  • Caterpillars and insect larvae can overwinter in long grass and they also provide another source of food for birds. Leave the edges of lawns uncut or allow some rough grass to grow under trees or in front of shrubs.
  • Lavender will attract honeybees, butterflies and even goldfinches and other kinds of small birds.
  • The berries of honeysuckle are not only eaten by thrushes, bullfinches and warblers, but its summer flowers may also attract insects such as the wonderful hummingbird hawk moth (which looks like a tiny bird).
  • Dead wood makes an ideal habitat for all kinds of insect, so allow some logs to rot in a cool dark corner or under a hedge.

Hedgehogs

  • Hedgehogs will make nests from leaves, moss and grass during the summer, and come out at night to feed. In winter they need a sheltered spot, perhaps under a hedge or shrub, so that they can hibernate.
  • These spiny little creatures will eat slugs, snails and earthworms from the lawn and around the garden as well as finding beetles on the log pile, if you've made one.

Pond life

  • A water feature needs varying depths as this is great for wildlife. Shallow areas can be used by bathing and drinking birds, insects such as dragonflies, and by frogs and toads to lay their eggs.
  • Deeper areas help aquatic insects survive cold spells, and are good places to watch newts swimming.

Just think what could be achieved for wildlife conservation if hundreds of thousands of people go wild and create such precious small havens for birds, creatures and insects in their gardens and homes.

Homes for wildlife

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is offering free wildlife gardening advice through its Homes for Wildlife activities. Manager of the scheme Richard Bashford says, 'If everyone does something for wildlife in their own homes and gardens it will make a difference – from putting pot plants on balconies to building a pond, you'll encourage insects and provide food for birds.

'We can all create habitats for wildlife in our own homes, no matter how much space we have.'

For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw or call
0870 240 1001.

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