The local wildlife garden asked me to write a short guide to the garden, which they’ve printed as a leaflet for visitors to read as they wander around. In it I listed some ways of encouraging wildlife into home gardens, something I think is a really important aspect of gardening. Recently though I’ve been more selective about which forms of wildlife are welcome in my garden. The pigeons that stripped the leaves from my cauliflowers, and the rabbits that have been feasting on the lettuces I carefully grew in the greenhouse are no longer on the guest list. But, for the less destructive wildlife, there are lots of easy ways to make the garden more attractive. These are just three that I included in the garden guide.
• Provide some water. It doesn’t have to be a pond – although if you have space a pond would be great. An upturned dustbin lid, birdbath, even a plant pot saucer can provide somewhere for birds and insects to drink. It’s important to make sure that visiting insects can get to the water safely, a shallow sided container is best, but if yours has steeper sides pile up some stones in the water to make a safe landing stage. And don’t forget to keep the water clean and topped up (especially when the weather is hot and dry).
• Grow wildlife friendly plants. Choose single flowers (not double varieties) for lots of nectar to encourage bees and butterflies into the garden. These lovely insects are becoming less common, but gardens can provide food and shelter to help their survival. Now is the time to sow some annuals for colour and nectar in the summer. Cornflowers, borage, sunflowers and Californian poppies (Eschscholzia) all look great in the garden and attract lots of insects. Thinking ahead to autumn, you could also plant a shrub or tree that will have berries for the garden birds to eat.
• And last, but probably most important – avoid using insecticides in the garden. Although they are a good ‘quick fix’ for pest problems, they aren’t selective and will kill beneficial insects too. Studies have found that after a dose of pesticides, pest numbers build up faster than those of their natural predators, leading to bigger greenfly problems in the long run. Go on, just give nature a chance to sort things out before you resort to the chemicals!