Gardening for Wildlife
When I first moved here five years ago the garden was pretty bare. There was a patch of mossy lawn, some shrubs and a large tree but very little else. That first summer the thing I noticed the most was the lack of wildlife. There were no bees or butterflies because there was nothing for them to feed on. There weren’t many birds because there wasn’t really anywhere for them to hide or roost. It felt barren and lacking in life.
Birds and Bees
Five years on and we have transformed the garden to make it a haven for wildlife. This spring two lots of blue tits have successfully fledged from the nest box we put up in the birch tree. Throughout the year we have goldfinches, chaffinches, blackbirds, starlings, song thrushes, wrens, dunnocks, gold crests and house sparrows visiting our garden.
We have two wood mice, at least, living in the compost heap and a whole range of bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects visiting the flowers in the borders and containers.
In the pond
We have a resident frog in the pond we created two years ago. I was delighted to find the outer casing of a damselfly larva on the leaf of an iris growing in the pond. The larva of a damselfly lives in fresh water and when it’s ready to become a damselfly the larva crawls out of the water and holds on to a leaf and the damselfly then emerges. A larva need plenty of food while it’s in a pond in order to feed so it’s a great sign that our pond is home to lots of tiny creatures.
Solitary bees are laying their eggs in our bee hotel and in holes in the concrete in the garage walls. They lay their eggs in the holes, fill the holes with a supply of pollen so that when the egg hatches it has something to feed on, then they seal up the holes with soil.
We have a moth trap, which is a way of seeing what types of moth you have in your garden without harming them. It’s a simple wooden box that’s fitted with a bulb that attracts the moths when it’s switched on at night. We put lots of egg boxes in the bottom of the box so that the moths have somewhere to hide, then in the morning we check to see what has been attracted to the light. Once we’ve recorded what we’ve seem we release the moths into the safety of the hedge. While people love butterflies, people tend not to like moths so much. Perhaps it’s because they don’t get to see them as they mostly fly at night or because a small number can eat their way through fabrics in our homes, but moths can be stunningly beautiful and many have the most wonderful names. We have found some incredible ones such as the elephant hawk moth and the poplar moth.
All of this life that didn’t used to be there makes me smile, but it’s also good to know that with climate change and the biodiversity crisis gardens can make a difference.
My top five tips for creating a wildlife haven would be:
- Plant at least one tree, preferably a native one such as birch, hawthorn, rowan or hazel.
- Include a pond – it doesn’t have to be big. Mine is about 90cm by 60cm.
- Don’t use chemicals to control pests and diseases and don’t use weed killers. These chemicals affect wildlife one way or another.
- Plant a wide variety of annuals, perennials, bulbs and shrubs that will provide a range of food sources and habitats throughout the year.
- Put up at least one bird box.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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