Aside from the usual resolutions we see each year – quit smoking, lose weight, travel more – there is one thing that should be on more New Year’s resolution lists, and that’s loving and looking after our wildlife (tell me your resolutions in the comments below!).
It may not seem like it at first glance, but we have a huge variety of wildlife in the UK. From different types of bees, all the way up to magnificent grey seals, our wildlife is really quite amazing. In fact, there are actually animals which are uniquely native to the UK wild, including some very rare species:
Unfortunately, some of these species, and many more not on this list, are under threat. In fact, 1 in 10 UK wildlife species faces extinction. However, we can all do our bit to stop this from happening.
As a Plant Geek, it’s really important for me to improve how I look after wildlife, and encourage others to do the same. Our wild world can only get better if we look after it!
Here are some tips for attracting seven types of UK wildlife into your garden, to improve the population, create better habitats and, in turn, to help your garden thrive:
How to attract bees to your garden
Did you know that there are over 250 species of bees in the UK? Bees are really important to our ecosystem and the way we live. A third of our food is created through pollination, and bees are one of the biggest pollinators in the world!
However, bees are declining in population due to the use of harmful pesticides, disease and a loss of habitat. Across the world, more needs to be done by governments and large corporations to conserve bees, but we can all play our part in helping bees locally.
Bees love plants such as Crocus, Buddleia, Lavendar, Foxgloves, Fuchsias and more, including some vital winter plants. They’re attracted to these plants because they are brightly coloured, and they can easily get to the pollen. Plant any of these in your garden, and bees will visit time and time again!
However, bee conservation doesn’t just stop at plants. Bees need to nest, too. However, many people think that a bees nest in their garden is a bad thing – but they’re not necessarily dangerous or mean that you’ll get swarms heading your way.
If you want to encourage bees to take up residence in your garden, this gorgeous Bee Mug is the perfect place for solitary bees to hide away.
How to attract butterflies to your garden
Butterflies are also important garden pollinators, whilst also helping us control weeds by eating them when they’re caterpillars! But did you know that three-quarters of UK butterflies have shown a 10-year decrease in either their distribution or population levels?
Attract butterflies to your garden by introducing plants such as Buddleia, Red Valerian, Verbena, Sedum, Hebe and other ‘fluffy’ flowered plants. However, you can also help by providing shelter in the form of trees, tall grasses and rock piles. Butterflies will use these to protect themselves in bad weather, or at night when sleeping.
This Butterfly Home works really well as shelter for non-migratory species!
How to attract hedgehogs to your garden
Hedgehogs are almost a mascot for Britain. However, these cute little creatures are in severe decline, with the loss of hedgehogs in the UK comparable to the loss of tigers globally. It’s estimated that there are less than one million hedhehogs in the UK wild, compared to over 30 million back in the 1930s.
Hedgehogs are important because they’re excellent population controllers for insects, small rodents, frogs and even small snakes. Encouraging hedgehogs into your garden will mean your plants are better protected!
One important method of encouraging them into your garden is to give them access. You can create a five inch hole in your fence for hedgehogs to roam through, and try to ask your neighbours if they’ll do the same.
If you can, keep areas or your garden a little more wild – this creates shelter for hedgehogs and gives them a better environment for finding food. Remember, don’t leave milk out for hedgehogs as they are lactose intolerant and drinking milk could be fatal. Instead, leave out some water in a saucer or feeder, like this one from QVC.
Spotting hedgehogs can be difficult as they are nocturnal – and very sneaky! If you see one, don’t disturb it. Just make a note and be on your way!
How to attract birds (when feeding)
Birds can be fed all year round, however, different foods apply to different seasons. In winter, birds benefit from high fat foods, while in summer high protein foods are important. But whatever season it is, using quality food is the most important.
This bird feed developed by Richard Jackson is an excellent choice for feeding at any time of year. Containing all the nutrients bird could need from a bird feed, this will keep birds coming to your garden throughout the seasons. Not only that, but the range of ingredients will attract many different types of birds, depending on your location, including woodpeckers, robins, song thrushes and greenfinches.
Store your food in this storage bin to keep it dry and secured from the possibility of spillages. Made with powder coated galvanised steel, this container is both stylish and sturdy.
If you want to attract birds to a particular area in your garden, these bird feeders do the job very nicely. Hang them from a bird table or other surface away from predators, and use the provided Peanut Butter Bird Food to fill them.
For those who love everything in their garden to have a decorative vibe, this bird feeding station is essential! It’s statuesque at two metres tall, and comes equipped with a water dish and two bird feeders.
How to attract birds (when nesting)
Nesting varies by species, but are most likely to nest in the UK between early March and late July. During this time, it’s important to avoid cutting trees or making alterations to hedging, in case birds are nesting there.
Birds use a range of organic material (and some manmade materials) to make their nests, such as:
- Small pieces of animal remains such as fur
The main requirement of their location is safety. Birds need to raise their young in an environment protected from predators and bad weather, in order for them to thrive.
Like all animals, birds understand their environments best, and are very intuitive when it comes to finding the perfect place to nest. So when creating a manmade birds nest, location is one of the most crucial points to consider. Choose a space out of direct sunlight and away from strong winds, and ensure that birds have a clear flight path in and out of the box. Also, make sure that the entrance, or any other holes, are facing slightly downwards so that rain cannot get in and flood the nest.
How to attract bats to your garden
Bats tend to get a bad rep with their links to vampires and Gothic horror. However, they’re great pest controllers, especially for nuisances such as mosquitos.
Bats are rarely spotted nesting in UK gardens, however, some which you’re most likely to find using your garden as a food spot or daytime resting space are the common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat, noctule and Daubenton’s bat.
Bats are excellent indicators of biodiversity, so seeing them in your garden means you’ve got a great selection of insects and shelter. However, you can encourage them by tailoring your garden to insect life, introducing night scented nectar filled flowers as well as native trees and hedging. If you have a pond, this is also excellent for bats hunting insects with aquatic larvae.
They also benefit from shelter which is dark and confined, such as tree holes.
How to attract beneficial insects to your garden
Insects create food your all the wildlife mentioned above, so if you’ve got plenty of insects in your garden, expect wildlife to flock to you – literally! Insects also controls the populations of other insects, which helps keep your plants free from pests.
Insects which benefit your garden include:
- Worms (although not technically an insect)
- Certain types of fly
You can encourage insects to your garden by creating habitats with wood, rocks or mulch, and leaving them undisturbed throughout the year. Insects love hiding away to do their thing!
This Bee Log was obviously made with bees in mind, but placing it on the floor of your garden in a sheltered area can create a nice home for insects.
How to attract frogs to your garden
Frogs are, again, natural pest controllers. They feed on flies, mosquitoes, dragonflies, grasshoppers and other small insects,, with larger \species of frogs being known to eat small mammals (however, it’s unlikely you’ll see these often in UK gardens).
If you have a pond or water feature in your garden, you’re already ahead of the game. Frogs are amphibians, and love water. However, it’s important that they are able to get out of the water easily to hunt. Make sure there are no steep drops or blockages of access at the sides of your pond or water feature.
Frogs also benefit from other types of shelter, like burrows in soil or other shady, damp areas. You can create your own shelter by upturning a pot, placing it on top of a shady area of soil, and securely propping it up with rocks to create a small opening for a frog to slip inside.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.