How To Attract Wildlife To Your Garden

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Attract wildlife to your garden by learning what flowers and plants to grow.  Encourage wildlife such as bees and butterflies by planting their favourite wildflowers as well as trees and shrubs.  Want to know what food to leave out to to gain regular visitors to you garden?  Here are our top tips on where to start.

Bees

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Did you know there are over 240 species of bee in the United Kingdom?  Did you know there were 25 species of bumblebees?  No, me neither!  Bees are hugely important to our planet for many reasons.  Without bees we wouldn't be eating many of the foods we are now because these busy workers are our top pollinators for our crops, not just the crops we eat but the ones we feed to the animals we eat.  In-fact they pollinate about a third of everything we eat!  Without the crops being pollinated they would not produce seeds and would become extinct.  

 

There are 35 species under threat of extinction in the UK alone, and all species face serious threats from overuse of pesticide, habitat loss, and a number of devastating diseases.  

How can I attract bees to my garden?

Well the most obvious way to attract bees is by having a variety of plants and pollen-rich flowers in your garden.  Aim to have different shaped flowers that flower at various times throughout the year, the longer the better.  Bees have different tongue lengths so the varying shapes of flowers will help cater for this.  For example, the longest tongued species, Bombus Hortorum, prefers deep flowers such as honeysuckle and foxglove.  Avoid plants with double or multi-petalled flowers. Their flowers are filled with petals and pollinators find them difficult to access. The flowers also often lack nectar and pollen.

10 plants bees love

  1.   Scabious

  2.   Cerinthe major

  3.   Catmint

  4.   Foxgloves

  5.   Chives

  6.   Beans

  7.   Crocus

  8.   Ivy

  9.   Comfrey

  10.   Mint

Wildflowers are also a great option for bees as they have evolved alongside them.  Some trees and shrubs are also great for bees as they provide masses of flowers in one place. Choose winter and early spring flowering trees such as apple, wild cherry, willow and hazel. 

 

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Do not use pesticides!

Most common pesticides contain neonicotinoids (thiacloprid and acetamiprid), which kill bees!  Please read the label before buying.

 

Birds

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The top things that will attract birds to your garden are food, shelter and security. 

 

Food will always be the first thing a bird is looking for, so supplying it in abundance all year round will certainly bring birds to your garden regularly.  Set up bird feeders around your garden in a place that feels natural and secure, for instance hanging from trees so that they have cover from predators above and far enough from bushes that cats can't sneak up on them.  

 

Bear in mind, it can take a little bit of time for the birds to get used to a new feeder, so don’t be disappointed if not many birds visit at first.  It is important to keep your feeders clean and avoid the build up of bacteria.  You can do this in a bucket, (not your kitchen sink) use warm soapy water and a bristled brush.  Use a mild, non toxic disinfectant and dry thoroughly before re-filling. 

Different birds will require different seeds so it is a good idea to have a variety of feeders.  Be sure to buy good quality bird foods and not mixed seeds with fillers, such as peas, which birds rarely eat.

Some of your offerings might include:

Suet balls - Idea for winter months as they provide birds with extra calories to keep them going through the colder months.  They are a particular favourite of Robins, Blue Tits and Long-Tailed Tits.  

Sunflower hearts - These are high in protein and easy for birds to eat.  They are particularly popular with Siskins, House Sparrows, Robins and Finches.  

Niger seeds - Siskins and Goldfinches love Niger seeds.  You will need a specialist bird feeder for these though as they are tiny black seeds, too small for your usual bird feeder.

Meal worms - Live or dried, meal worms are a firm favourite for Blackbirds, Starlings and Robins in particular.  

Peanuts - Great for providing fats and protein, peanuts are likely to attract Tits, Finches and Siskins.

Don't forget fresh water!  Like all mammals, birds need fresh drinking water to survive, therefore providing them with a fresh water source will likely draw them to your garden.  You could add a bird bath to your garden or even a bowl of water will suffice so long as it is out of the line of predators, somewhere a bird feels safe.  Water should be no more than 2 inches deep, replaced regularly and remove ice during winter.  

Nesting

Providing a nesting area is also another great way to give birds the message that your garden is the perfect home for them.  There are various types of bird houses, so do your research and choose one depending on what birds you would like to attract or the most likely species to visit your garden.  

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Place your bird box in an area where birds will feel safe from predators, ideally sheltered and off the ground to avoid cats.  Make sure it is not in direct sunlight and avoid strong winds.  

Plants

Another great way to make your garden appeal to birds is to grow plants with berries on that birds enjoy.  These berries contain antioxidants, an important part of a bird's diet as they help them endure long periods of physical activity.  

 

Some plants with berries for birds include:

  1.   Barberry (Berberis)

  2.   Dogwood (Cornus sp.)

  3.   Cotoneaster

  4.   Hawthorn

  5.   Ivy

  6.   Holly

  7.   Honeysuckle

  8.   Parthenocissus sp.

  9.   Roses

  10.   Rowan

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Hedgehogs

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Hedgehogs need our help!  Over the past 10 years hedgehog numbers have declined by around 30% and there are now thought to be less than 1 million in the UK.  They are one of Britain's most familiar wild mammals despite their declining numbers.  Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals who typically hibernate from October and through winter, then reappear around April time ready for the mating season.  

These adorable creatures can travel up to 2km a night through various gardens and parks, while they search for food or shelter.  If you want to welcome hedgehogs into your garden, you will need to make sure there is a suitable opening for them to get in for starters.  

How to attracts hedgehogs to your garden

  • Hedgehogs mostly feast on slugs, snails, beetles, worms and caterpillars.  You can however provide supplementary food such as wet or dry cat food.  NEVER FEED HEDGEHOGS MILK OR BREAD AS IT UPSETS THIER STOMACHS.

  • Provide Hedgehogs with fresh water, especially during dry periods.

  • Keep a good amount of thick, dense undergrowth for Hedgehogs to hide in as well as varying lengths of grass.

  • Avoid using chemicals - they will kill off potential insects as food for the Hedgehogs and can be harmful to them too.  Find natural, alternative ways to protect your plants such as using beer or obstacles.  Slug pellets are particularly harmful to Hedgehogs. An alternative suggestion is to use crushed egg shells around your plants.

  • Provide a Hedgehog box, either bought or homemade, for Hedgehogs to nest in.  

  • If you have a pond, install a small ramp or sloping mound at the side to give hedgehogs safe access in and out of it. They can swim, but can find it difficult getting over steep walls.

If a Hedgehog is hibernating in your garden try not to disturb it.  

Always check bonfires before lighting them.

Do not mow your lawn without first checking for Hedgehogs.

Butterflies 

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Butterfly numbers are on a steep decline in the UK.  This is down to loss of habitat on a large scale as well as pollution and climate change.  Butterflies have been around for over 50 million years.  They are not only beautiful but an important part of our ecosystem.  As well as bees, butterflies are also pollinators and a food source for some birds.  

We can do our bit for butterflies by creating an inviting garden where they can thrive.  

How can I attract butterflies to my garden?

As with all creatures, the main thing that is going to attract butterflies to your garden is the right food.  Butterflies feed on the nectar from plants so having a good variety of flowers is must, preferably ones that flower at varying times.  It is important to keep the flowers well watered as the nectar depletes if the plant is struggling for water.

 

Adult butterflies enjoy:

  • Bluebells

  • Marigolds

  • Buttercups

  • Hyacinth

  • Buddleia

  • Clover

  • Garden mint

  • Knapweed

  • Thistles

  • Blackberry bushes

  • Heather

  • Lavender

  • Bowles' Mauve wallflower

  • Marjoram

  • Willowherbs

It is worth researching which species of butterflies you are likely to find in your local area, different butterflies feed on different flowers.  You may also want to consider providing plants for the larvae to feed from.  Again, what plants to provide will depend on which species is native to your local area so do your research.  A few examples are 

 

Alder Buckthorn and Purging Blackthorn - Brimstone butterflies

Birdsfoot Trefoil - Common Blue butterfly

Cabbage, other brassicas, nasturtium - Small and Large Cabbage White butterflies

Currants, Elm, Hop and Willow - Comma butterfly

Docks and Sorrels - Small Copper butterfly

Garlic/Hedge Mustard and Lady's Smock - Orange-tip and Green-veined White butterflies

Holly and Ivy - Holly Blue caterpillars

 

If you have fruit trees in your garden leave the fallen fruit on the ground.  Some butterflies, such as Red Admiral and Painted Lady, will feed on fruit juices in fallen over-ripe pears, plums and apples.​

If you do not have a garden then window boxes or potted plants on a patio is also a great idea.

Try to pick out a warm spot for your butterfly garden as butterflies love the warm.  At the same time be sure to provide trees or shrubs where butterflies can shelter if the weather does turn bad.  Avoid using harmful pesticides in this area.  

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We hope you enjoyed this blog post and hope you will see many new visitors in your garden very soon!

 

P.S. We love hearing about our customers success stories.  If you would like to feature in one of our blogs please email info@topsoiluk.com