Encourage Visitors to Your Gardenbignet
Is your garden your oasis? If so then how can you encourage others to join you? Frogs, birds and insects all need a home and with minimal effort you can invite them into your garden and watch them help you maintain it.
Birds, frogs and insects are all vital for a balanced ecosystem in your garden. They can help keep pests at bay and your flowers and plants to flourish. All that these creatures need, like the rest of us, are food and shelter.
Birds respond well to feeding throughout the year but particularly in the winter, when natural foods are scarce. Foods with a high fat content, as well as the usual bird seeds are welcome in the colder months. You can buy special bird feeding fat blocks, or just melt lard into a mould. Nuts have a high fat content too and the more varied your offerings, the more diverse the birdlife you are likely to attract.
The only difficulty with offering food to birds is that squirrels may come along too. They are greedy and incredibly adept at leaping off trees and fences onto bird tables so hang your bird feeder from a special pole. And if the squirrels master that, you may have to regularly cover the pole with oil or WD40 to make it too slippery for them to climb.
Birds will also enjoy foods that occur naturally in your garden. Worms are of course a favourite, but also berries and fruits go down well. If you are growing fruits for your own enjoyment, these may need to be protected from both birds and insects with netting or shiny hanging objects.
Amphibians that are native to the UK include frogs, toads and newts. These can be very useful in cutting down on pests and their lifecycle from spawn to tadpoles to adult is fascinating to witness. If you want to attract them then you’ll need to provide a source of still water for breeding – a small pond is ideal. It’s a good idea to have a gentle slope rising out of the water so that young frogs can set foot on dry land easily. Birds love to eat these young creatures so some shelter in nearby shrubbery will help keep the numbers up.
Amphibians hibernate during the winter so again they will need shelter to do this safely. A compost heap, pile of logs or stones are popular. Other good hibernation spots include spaces under shrubs and hedges. It’s best to avoid cleaning out your pond if you can, as sometimes amphibians like to hibernate at the bottom!
A pond will not only attract amphibians, but some interesting insects too. Water skaters, snails, dragonflies and water beetles are all common pond inhabitants and will help to create some healthy biodiversity in your garden.
A whole range of insects live in our gardens at any one time but probably the most popular are butterflies. Butterflies like to get nectar from clumps of flowers grown in sunny, sheltered places. Some butterflies such as small tortoiseshells, peacocks and cabbage whites are relatively easy to attract. Others are migratory and tend to come from early Spring to late Summer to breed, but then leave the UK for the winter. These include painted lady and red admiral.
Even with the right planting it’s very difficult to get butterflies to lay eggs and breed in gardens. Suitable conditions for larva to feed are notoriously difficult to recreate so it’s best to concentrate on attracting visiting butterflies rather than trying to establish a breeding ground.
There are a very large number of flowers that butterflies like. Some of the most common include buttercups, clovers, dandelions, thistles, marigolds, wallflowers and sweet williams. Herbaceous plants that they favour include dahlias, elephant’s ears and globe thistles. And if you want to plants shrubs then choose blackberry, lavender, thyme and heather.
With a combination of a pond and some well thought out planting, together with a birdfeeder and plenty of shelter your garden can become a haven for wildlife.