5 ways to encourage wildlife into your garden

Micaela combines her love for all things digital and all things creative with a career in digital marketing alongside running her uk lifestyle blog Stylish London Living. Micaela has been blogging since 2012 and loves sharing new experiences, travels, products and her passions with her readers.

Right now things are tough. We’re staying in our homes and sometimes looking out of the window and seeing a bird or butterfly can take the edge off of an otherwise stressful time. I am a big animal lover and I particularly enjoy looking out into my garden and seeing wildlife such as birds, mice and squirrels wandering through looking for food or shelter. 

If you’d like to be able to gaze out into your garden and see more of our amazing wildlife there are a few simple things you can do to encourage them in. These are not big things and can be a fantastic project for the whole family to help with which makes it even more satisfying when you spot your first butterfly, bird or frog.

Build a Bug Hotel

If you ask people what they think about bugs most will probably say they are annoying or gross but not all insects and bugs are pests! These little creatures help to protect gardens from harmful nuisances, so it’s wise to encourage them into your space. 

Setting up an area suitable for bugs is easy. Why not set up a bug hotel? Pick a quiet spot and make a pile of rocks, bricks, logs, twigs and leaves - this will quickly become a home to all sorts of insects such as beetles and spiders. You can also find bug hotels available to buy online - all you have to do is put them somewhere suitable in the garden and the bugs will be checking in in no time. 

Decaying wood is especially important for our wildlife, helping to support an ever-rarer habitat to a range of specialist wildlife that is growing increasingly uncommon in the countryside, such as stag and bark beetles and their grubs, and many species of fungi. I’m lucky to live in a stag beetle area and I often see them in early Summer. 

Piles of logs, stones and bark create perfect spaces for hibernation.can also provide cover and hibernation sites for creatures such as hedgehogs. Any natural (unstained/ unpainted) ideally partly buried wood will work. 
Not only will a lively garden provide hours of entertainment, wildlife will repay your kindness by keeping your garden beautiful and free of harm.

Set up a Bird Feeder

I attract all manner of wildlife into my garden with my bird feeder. Natural food shortages are a constant danger for birds, especially in the colder seasons, so adding a bird feeder to your garden will help local species survive. I love watching a wide variety of birds which visit my feeder every day. 

I particularly enjoy spotting Goldfinches, Robins and Long Tailed Tits. On one occasion I looked up to find a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on my feeder! A common visitor to my feeder are Wood Pigeons (I call them fat pigeons because of their size), which are too big to sit on my feeder and like to perch on my ferret hutch in order to reach a tasty treat. 

You can build your own feeder or buy one ready made. Position your feeders at least 2m away from cover and out of the reach of pets (my Labradors have tried to steal nuts and fat balls from my feeder!) or children. 

Appeal to a wide range of birds by putting out a range of different foods. I offer mixed seeds, niger seeds, peanuts, suet pellets and fat balls on my feeder which is positioned just to the side of my bird bath so any visitors can have a drink or a paddle too.  Any plant that grows berries will provide an additional natural source of food for our feathered friends.

Although my bird feeder is set up mainly for birds, I have noticed that it also attracts other critters looking for an easy meal such as squirrels and the odd field mouse! 

Add a water feature

Water is of top importance to all wildlife but you don’t have to have an expensive, large pond in your garden to attract water-loving species such as frogs, toads and newts which will repay you by eliminating slugs and snails; both of which love to feast on your plants. It will also offer much needed drinking water to butterflies, birds and mammals such as foxes which might find themselves in your garden. 

Ideally dig a pond -  simply dig a hole, line it and fill with rain water and add some plants - but if you’d rather not dig up your garden you can simply add a water feature to your garden by filling any container, such as a shallow bucket or stone basin, or even an inverted dustbin lid with water in an out-of-the-way spot will do.

To encourage wildlife ideally, do not introduce fish to a pond as they will eat anything that moves including water-loving species you are trying to encourage! Make sure your pond has at least one sloping side to allow creatures an easy way out. Most wildlife, including amphibians such as newts and frogs, like shallower water. 

Sow a wildflower meadow

Something that I really want to add to my garden is more wildflowers. Our countryside was once full of meadows bursting with a gorgeous variety of flowering plants, supporting butterflies, insects, farmland birds and other wildlife. 
Sadly we have lost 96% of our diverse, species-rich  flower meadows since the 1950s, so re-creating them in our gardens is essential to turn the tide. Wild flowers are fantastic for all manner of insects, they need practically no maintenance and they make a more natural alternative to a labour-intensive lawn. 

Select an area in your garden and sow a mix of annual wildflowers such as poppies, Nigella, corn marigolds and annual grasses. This sort of seed mix usually needs to be re-sown each year but you can also choose perennial meadows which have more permanent plants such as buttercups, ragged robin and leucanthemum.

You will need about 5g of seed per square metre for your meadow. Simply scatter your seed mix as you walk across the ground. Try and get an even coverage - you can do this by splitting your seeds into batches and sow one batch walking in one direction and another batch walking at 90 degrees.

Once your flowers have grown you should see bees and butterflies start to use your meadow! Birds should feed there and bats may even fly over the top. Your meadow will become one of the most life-filled parts of your garden.

Make Your Own Compost

Having your own compost heap in the garden is a great way to recycle food waste and grass clippings and the resulting compost can be spread onto your garden which will improve the quality of the soil which, in turn, will provide more nutrients for your wildlife attracting plants! 

Not only will your nourished plants attract bees and butterflies, the compost provides an excellent source of food for worms, snails, woodlice, centipedes and can be a brilliant place for toads, slow-worms and grass snakes to shelter. 

Up to 60%of household waste is organic and can be recycled. Composting is good for the garden and reduces the amount of rubbish which goes to landfill. It also allows you to use home grown compost rather than buying products which may come with ‘fuel miles’. 

Making compost is cheap and easy. You can build your own container to hold the organic matter while it decays, or buy a wooden or plastic bin or you can even make your own from old pallets. 

Some top tips: 

Make sure your compost bin has no base and sits on the soil. This allows worms, insects and other creatures to get in and out.
Add a thin layer of waste at a time and intersperse soft, leafy material with twiggy prunings.  
It is important to mix the contents of the heap every now and again to aerate it – wait at least three months to turn the heap with a gardening fork.