How to make a wildlife garden
PUBLISHED: 08:47 13 September 2014 | UPDATED: 08:47 13 September 2014
Top tips on how to encourage wildlife to your garden at home or school, by Bybrook Barn Garden Centre - sponsors of the Kent Life Garden of the Year Awards
Q: Why should we encourage wildlife?
A: By encouraging wildlife in the garden you are promoting biodiversity and getting the added benefit of biological pest control.
Q: What wildlife helps gardeners?
A: Birds, frogs, hedgehogs and slow worms are a great natural way to keep on top of snails and slugs. Ladybirds, lace wings and hoverflies are nature’s insect control.
Q: Is it a good idea to add a pond?
A: Even putting in a small pond will encourage frogs, provide drinking water for birds and hedgehogs. The key thing
to remember is to have shallow ledges so anything that gets too near can get out.
Q: What should I be planting?
A: The key thing to choosing plants is to avoid double flowers; you want to make it easy for bees and butterflies to get access to food. You also need to have something flowering for each season, from early on with winter aconites and crocuses through to sedums, which will flower right through summer into autumn. Native wild flowers are now widely available and you can buy seed mixes to create a wildflower meadow (and you don’t need acres of land either).
Q: Do I need to use a specialist outlet?
A: Most local, independent garden centres will be able to advise and supply suitable, plants, seeds and accessories from bird feeders through to bird box cameras so you can keep an eye on your garden visitors.
Q: Won’t my garden look a mess?
A: A wildlife garden does not need to look wild and unkempt. It can even be a productive area or boundary. By simply planting a native hedge to form a boundary to your property you too can reap the benefits of sloes and hazel nuts.
Any fruit tree will attract bees and birds, cherry trees are best grown under netting but apples, damsons and pears can be grown unprotected. You can even get dwarf varieties that will grow in pots.
Runner beans have beautiful flowers so are great for bees and can be grown in pots.
From a window box or hanging basket planted with violas, primulas, strawberries, lavender, chives and thyme there is no excuse to not give wildlife a helping hand.
Q: Advice for school gardening clubs?
A: If it is a school-based activity, is anyone able to look after it in the holidays? It’s no good planting things that will need regular watering or cropping; you don’t want lots of disappointed faces because everything has died. Know your site and its size so that you can get advice on what will grow and where. When gardening with children it is important to manage risks; a pond is great for dipping, but can you make it secure? Bird feeders need to be cleaned and certain plants that are great for wildlife are toxic, for example Digitalis (foxgloves).
If growing from seed, choose plants such as sunflowers which grow quickly so they soon get to see a result for their hard work.
Extra features such as nesting boxes and bug hotels are welcome, the latter giving shelter for beneficial insects like ladybirds and lacewings, which mean you can cut back on chemical intervention as you will have a natural workforce. Why not try making your own out of recycled materials?
Q: Should I be thinking about origins?
A: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the range of products available. Look out for the FSC logo on wooden products, it means the timber used has come from managed woodland. Buy British and in season.
Support your local, independent garden centre and get free, expert advice too. n