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Create a Garden for Wildlife

By Edited Feb 25, 2016 1 2


Plan a well-balanced garden for a variety of wildlife.

Designing your garden for wildlife will ensure that you have fewer pests and the diseases that they spread.




Plan your garden with wildlife in mind, plant shrubs, trees and flowers that will encourage millions of beneficial insects to inhabit your garden.




There are lots of instances where choosing a native species over an exotic one can mean that native insect species have nectar at a crucial time of the year and survive in greater numbers. If there are more insects, there will be more birds to eat them. You will not have to use insecticide sprays to control aphids and damage beneficial insects like bees.




A garden for wildlife is one that has no greenfly on the roses. A Garden for wildlife is one where there are always birds singing. Why would anyone garden any other way?




Using natural predators to control insects that damage your plants need cost you nothing. It is just a matter of planting the right plants to attract hoverflies and ladybugs. Usually these are going to be native plants, which are rich in nectar or are the plants these species' larvae feed on.




Any seed catalogue will tell you if the seeds you are thinking of buying are going to encourage beneficial insects into your 'garden for wildlife'.

The only common insect pests are aphids, and only then if their numbers are out of control. Almost every insect in your garden has benefits. Some will be pollinators, others will be a food source for other insects or birds. Some will provide food for frogs and newts. Just think 'A garden for wildlife is a garden for insects'




Flat, bowl-shaped flowers like the Poached Egg Plant provide the nectar that hoverflies need. Buttercups are one wild flower much loved by hoverflies, but few gardeners would want to encourage this insidious weed. Maybe think about allowing buttercups to grow behind the shed or in other out if the way corners, though.




Tubular flowers, like roses, flowering currant and apple blossom provide nectar for bees, the most important pollinators in gardens and agriculture.




You can take cuttings from shrubs in friends' gardens throughout the summer. Plant them in pots, if they grow then you will have a full sized shrub in two years time. Take softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings of any shrub that you can see is attracting insects. Some will survive, some will die, but what have you lost if they die? Nothing




Summer is the best time to take cuttings, because it is warm and most will root, if they are kept moist. Keep your cuttings in a shady spot, to prevent dehydration. Remove any flowers and some of the leaves before you stick them in the compost. You can use hormone rooting powder if you are desperate for a higher success rate, but it is not really necessary.




Plant seeds of biennial species in July and August. These will give you flowers next summer. Keep half the seeds to sow next year. After that you can collect seeds from your own plants and sow them wherever you want more plants to grow. Honesty is one biennial species that produces masses of purple or white flowers in spring. Insects love the flowers because they have lots of nectar. They attract butterflies too; Orange-Tips lay their eggs on honesty leaves.




Consider planting shrubs and trees in your garden for wildlife to attract insects. Both shrubs and trees have more flowers per square foot of ground than any other plants. More flowers leads to more insects, as long as the species you plant are native ones.




Some excellent, insect-attractive trees in your wildlife-friendly garden include Rowan (mountain ash) and Amellancher. Both these trees produce flowers as well as berries, a double whammy. The insects take the nectar from the flowers, and in turn provide food for amphibians and birds. The flowers that the insects pollinated then turn into berries that feed more birds.




Almost all trees, except flowering cherries, support an extensive ecosystem of insects in your garden designed for wildlife. If you want cherry blossom, plant cherry trees, they give you cherries, blossom and insect benefits.




Oak trees support the biggest variety of insects, birds and mammals, but you should only plant one if you live in the country and have a large garden. They grow much too large for suburban gardens.




Consider a silver birch tree if you have room for an upright tree that only gives light shade. These support several varieties of moths. Moths in your garden provide food for amphibians, spiders, birds and mammals, including bats.




Develop your garden for wildlife by planting mixed hedges of low-cost native shrubs. Mixed hedges are particularly useful in a garden for wildlife because each shrub provides the perfect habitat for different species, so you are encouraging more species of wildlife into your garden, than if you just planted a monoculture hedge using just one species of shrub.




Plant a hedge of evergreen shrubs such as the small-leaved honeysuckle or laurels. This will provide cover for birds to nest next spring. Honeysuckle grows well from cuttings, just stick hedge clippings into a bucket of used compost. Next spring each cutting will have an extensive root system and can be planted in the ground. You can use this hedge to divide off part of your garden, whether it is for the children, or for vegetables.




Plant a couple of fruit trees. You can buy ones on dwarfing root-stock that will only grow to about six feet. The flowers provide nectar for bees and other insects, the fertilized flowers turn into fruit for you.




Always look for dual benefits from any shrub or tree. There are many trees that give you berries, fruit or autumn color in addition to nectar-rich blossom. Think about an almond tree rather than a flowering cherry. Buy anything except a flowering cherry if you really want a garden for wildlife.




A pond is essential if you want a complete garden for wildlife. This will attract frogs, toads and newts, which will help keep insect populations under control. It will also attract colourful damselflies and dragonflies, which are voracious carnivores, devouring aphids by the hundred. Do not put fish in your pond. Fish eat tadpoles and you will not have many frogs. You do not need a large pond, and this might be something you would rather plan for the future, when there are no small children around to fall into it.




Jul 23, 2010 10:18am
Lovely advice for planting a garden for wildlife, so many planting suggestions, thank you.
Jul 23, 2010 10:18am
Lovely advice for planting a garden for wildlife, so many planting suggestions, for insects and birds, thank you.
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