In an increasingly urban and industrial society, gardens hold that last bond between man and nature. They are a true source of tranquillity and well-being, brimming with the life of colourful plants.
Even though a manicured space with organised pots and trimmed grass is usually the norm, a garden offers the unique opportunity to create a self-sustainable wildlife ecosystem. You can wake every day to the melodic song of birds as your kids experience nature up close and personal with tadpoles in the pond and hedgehogs making the occasional visit.
Seducing small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, insects and birds into your garden isn't so difficult, you just need to make it a colourful haven for wildlife. And in this article, we're going to show you how.
Take notes and, as always, be inspired!
There are few things that drive away birds and bees more than new constructions and the smell of fresh paint. On the other hand, old stone walls offer a natural habitat for this little travellers as they nest in the small holes and crevices.
If you want to attract wildlife into your garden make sure to keep old stone structures, such as crumbling walls. Even if your house is brand new you can still integrate these structures into your outdoors landscape. You can also grow creeping plants, such as ivy, along the walls and create a small wildlife habitat.
Another attractive habitat for wildlife is rotting wood. While it might seem strange, a pile of logs or an old wooden structure – if left untreated – can provide shelter and food for insects and little reptiles. Birds and little rodents, such as hedgehogs, will highly appreciate the insect and reptile life and they will use the rotting wood infrastructure as a permanent shelter.
Rotten wood is also an excellent way to encourage wild mushrooms, further expanding your garden's biodiversity. Be careful though as these mushrooms can sometimes be poisonous and therefore hazardous, especially to children.
You can also create a habitat for amphibians in your garden by placing an old bath or building a small pond, which are perfect for this type of wildlife. If you build a pond make sure it has shallow access points, which will allow tortoises, frogs and toads to enter the water feature with ease.
Amphibians will play an important role in your garden wildlife ecosystem as they feast on insects and act as the pest police. If you choose to add fish to your pond then ensure they are suited to the environment. You should also avoid introducing an excessive number of fish as there is a high risk they will deplete your amphibian life by eating their eggs.
If you include water features in your garden you should keep a regular maintenance schedule to avoid the accumulation of waste and stagnant water but don’t use chemical cleaning products!
For more inspiration, see: How To Build Your Own Garden Pond.
You can seduce feathery travellers to your garden with food. Whilst this sounds simple, birds will highly appreciate it, especially during winter when food is scarce. Birds usually consider seeds, fruits, peanuts and breadcrumbs as delicacies so your food mixture doesn't need to be overly complex.
You can scatter their food on the ground but it will get mixed with dirt so it's a better idea to use bird feeders, as shown in the image above. It's also recommended to offer the little songsters some clean water to drink and bathe.
Bees are perhaps the most important piece of the ecosystem puzzle, tasked by evolution to pollinate and thus facilitate the reproduction of plant species. No bees, no trees. They are instrumental to the survival of life on this planet. Therefore, there is no better way to create a self-sustaining wildlife ecosystem in your garden than by encouraging bees to join the party with nectar rich flowers.
Plants such as lavender and dandelions are excellent choices but you can also plant herbs, like rosemary or thyme. As for trees, fruits like cherries, chestnut or linden are ideal. Besides bees, these plants will also encourage the emergence of butterflies and other insects with pollination duties.
Another effective way to attract birds in your garden is by creating nesting sites. Install a bird house or two, such as the one shown in the image by Changes Home Design. By providing suitable nests, wild birds might visit you year after year, filling your garden with beautiful melodies. Of course, you need to adjust the bird house to suit the endemic species of your geographic region.
For example, house sparrows, blue tits and starlings are commonly found in the UK. Depending on the nests you provide, you will attract larger or smaller bird species.The site of the bird house will also play an important role in what bird species you will attract.
There are birds, for example, that prefer to nest in dark and humid areas, such as closed forests, lush gardens and riverside woods. Nevertheless, there are a some characteristics that should be common to all bird houses; namely, they should be insulated with thick walls of untreated wood, have holes for ventilation and drainage and a roof for protection against rain.
A final good way to attract insects into your garden is to pile up leaves in a secluded area of your garden, which is dark and damp. You can also use the leaf pile for composting. This will attract worms, beetles and other insects that will be served as culinary delicacies for birds and small mammals. The damp corner will also attract frogs and toads which, as we have mentioned, will help keep pest numbers under control.
With these simple measures your garden will transform into a self-sustainable wildlife ecosystem. A living thriving natural community just outside your door!