How to Look After Wildlife in Your Garden

The benefits of promoting biodiversity in your garden are threefold. First, you’re contributing to the natural ecosystem, providing animals with food and shelter in the form of flowers, fruits and seeds.

Second, you’ll promote more diverse plant growth and encourage new species to thrive in your home environment. Finally, you’ll experience all the mental health benefits of gardening, from lower levels of depression and anxiety to improved cognitive function in old age.

So, how can you turn yours into a wildlife-friendly garden, whatever the season?

How to build a garden that promotes local wildlife

The key to a biodiverse garden is a rich array of environments for insects and animals. Try not to focus on being too ‘tidy’ – artificial grass, for example, is a no-no. Instead, try to create different areas based on the wildlife you’d like to see. For example:

Attract butterflies and other pollinators with native flowers

While more exotic plants may look beautiful, they’re not always best if you want to encourage pollinators like butterflies and bumblebees. These plants may have been crossbred, which could lower their pollen, nectar and scent content.

To see what native plants grow best in your soil, you’ll need to know their type. The Royal Horticultural Society has tips on how to identify your soil, for example, if it’s highly acidic or alkaline. Once you know what soil you have, you can plant native species – such as Forget-Me-Nots in acidic soil.

If in doubt, English lavender is an absolute favourite among bumblebees and butterflies!


Encourage more garden birds with food and nesting sites

Increases in agricultural activity and climate change are leading to the rapid decline of British birds. To reverse this trend, as well as pollinate our flowers and promote pest control, we can create the perfect environment for wild birds.

Start with a bird feeder. You may want more than one if you want to encourage a more diverse range of birds – loading up each feeder with different food sources. Sunflower seeds are a great place to start, a favourite among sparrows, dunnocks and bluetits. Dried mealworms work best for thrushes and starlings, while woodpeckers, robins and finches prefer suet balls.

You can add nest boxes if your garden doesn’t have trees for birds to rest in. Don’t forget a water source too – either a man made bird bath or a simple bowl on the floor. Make sure it’s not accessible to small mammals like dogs or cats.


Go easy on the mowing

While nobody wants an overgrown lawn, it’s possible to have your own wildflower meadow without compromising on aesthetics. Avoid products like pesticides, which are hazardous to green spaces and animals like birds, hedgehogs, frogs and wild plants.

Longer grass is ideal for insects to lay eggs, creating its own microclimate. It also encourages flowers to bloom, perfect for bees and butterflies. That means being selective with weeds, too – dandelions, for example, are a great source of food for insects. Caterpillars also thrive on nettles and thistles.

To keep areas contained, consider planting nettles in pots or having smaller areas of cut lawn. Shorter grass can be advantageous for birds, assisting them in locating prey such as slugs and slow worms.


Find an outdoor space for a compost heap

This is what we mean when we say not to focus too much on being tidy! A compost heap is great if you love to recycle and want to see your organic waste put to good use. You can start by piling up leaves and garden waste, before adding in vegetable peelings to attract a range of wildlife.

Before long, your compost heap will be home to millipedes, woodlice and spiders, as well as worms, which promote soil drainage. If you also spot slugs or snails in other areas of your garden, you can move them here. This enrichment of habitat may lead to:

  • Hedgehog habitat enhancement: Your compost heap could become an inviting spot for hedgehogs to cosy up and hibernate. During winter, refrain from moving your compost pile if you spot hedgehogs, as it may disrupt their hibernation.
  • Healthy ecosystems: Wood and log piles can foster a huge number of insects, promoting healthy ecosystems. Designate a specific area for dead wood, which provides an ideal habitat for hibernating beetles.

For more information, read our beginner’s guide to composting.


Create wildlife hotels

You may have heard the term ‘bug hotel’ or ‘hedgehog house’. Again, if you’ve got enough space, you can create designated areas for these creatures to thrive. A bug hotel should be made of organic materials like twigs, sticks and pinecones. You can build your own hedgehog hotel out of timber, and dig holes under fences to encourage free movement between gardens.

If you want to promote more activity from the bee population, consider a bee hotel. These are not for nests but rather for solitary bees. You can hollow out a bamboo cane to create the perfect environment for a bee to grow up safely. Keep it in a sunny spot and watch out for signs that it’s occupied, like mud and leaves.


Provide a water source

If you’re blessed with lots of outdoor space, think about installing a pond. This doesn’t need to be large – it simply needs to have sloping sides so that animals can get out if they fall in. An accessible water source encourages amphibians, while birds can bathe and have a drink.

Try adding plants that oxygenate pond water such as hornwort. Speak to your local garden centre if you’re not sure what other plants to buy, as some exotic breeds can be harmful. With a clean water source, expect sightings of dragonflies, frogs, toads and newts.


Our Top Tips for encouraging wildlife in your garden

From rich plants to bird boxes and fruit trees, there are so many ways you can increase biodiversity in your garden. Living in an off-grid property gives you all the wonders of the great outdoors, so expect to see anything from badgers to frogs and wild birds.

You don’t have to do everything on this list, so stay within your budget and focus on promoting a healthy environment for wildlife, including:

  • Planting attractive native flowers like English lavender, honeysuckle and foxgloves to encourage pollinators
  • Giving birds rich food sources as well as shelter and a water source, also helpful for other wildlife
  • Letting grass grow a little higher and encouraging ‘friendly’ weeds like daisies for pollination
  • Promoting compost and wildlife hotels to balance ecosystems.

Other resources for off-grid properties

Looking for more tips on how to look after wildlife in your garden? Learn more about flora and fauna with these key sources.

Find out more about the benefits of living off-grid with our free content hub.

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