How to make your garden wildlife-friendly

Jess Price from the Sussex Wildlife Trust shares her top tips for attracting plenty of wildlife to your garden this autumn and winter. 

1st October 2014
©Thinkstock - How to make your garden wildlife-friendly

Whether you have large country garden, a concrete patio or a small balcony, by following just a couple of these garden resolutions you can help to improve the biodiversity of your local area.

1. Just add water

Water is the number one resource that will instantly improve the attraction of any garden to wildlife. It’s not just frogs and newts that will appreciate the addition. Birds, hedgehogs, bats and bees all need water to survive, so having it available at a range of heights day and night could make a big difference. This is especially vital in freezing temperatures when water may be hard to come by.

Why not build a garden pond? Or in smaller spaces use an old bucket, sink or bath to add some water. Use stones and logs to build up sloping sides that creatures can use to get in and out of the water, and remember to add some native oxygenating pond plants to prevent the water going stagnant.

2. Make a connection

You can have the most fantastic wildlife garden in the world, but it won’t be much good if animals can’t access it. Think about how wildlife can get in and out of your outdoor space and where they will go once they leave. Add a hole in the bottom of your fence so that low lying creatures such as toads and hedgehogs can move through or even better, replace your fence with a native hedgerow.

3. Think outside the box

Don’t feel that your space is too small to be valuable for wildlife, a garden of any size and shape has the potential to welcome furry visitors. Vertical surfaces, textured walls, even bin stores and the tops of bird boxes can be used to create extra habitat. Why not hang some wildflower baskets or plant low lying herbs into the cracks and crevices of your patio. Small holes drilled into fence posts can be used by solitary bees in spring or hibernating ladybirds and lacewings in autumn.

4. Build a home

Bird boxes are a great addition to a garden, and by adding a camera you can really get to know your feathered friends. Remember to think about providing the resources that the birds will need if they decide to nest such as water and insect-rich sources of food. Bird seed is not nutritious enough for baby birds; they need lots of natural sources of protein to have a chance of making it to adulthood.

5. Add something edible

This can be a good time of year to add something edible for you and for wildlife into your garden. You could add a fruit bush or even a whole hedge. In smaller spaces plan for a herb garden or a small veg patch and start preparing the area. You could simply use a grow-bag on your balcony or roof terrace.

6. Keep an eye on cats 

Birds are especially vulnerable to cats at dawn and dusk when they cannot see very well in the half-light. By keeping cats in at night you can make a big difference to the number of birds and small mammals killed in your local area.

7. Get your clippers out

Late autumn and early winter is the ideal time to trim any hedge plants you have, as their berries should have already been gobbled up by hungry wildlife but the breeding season hasn’t started yet. Aim for an ‘A’ shaped hedge with a wide base tapering into a narrow top. This allows light to flood into the hedge whilst creating a wide space at the bottom for creatures to move along.

8. Notice what you see

Wildlife sightings from gardens are particularly important as there are usually relatively few records from more built up areas. By noting down what you saw, when you saw it and where, you can help to build up a clearer picture of wildlife in the UK. Why not leave a simple recording sheet pinned up in your kitchen or on a window ledge so you can note down things as and when you see them? You can then pass all the records onto your local recording centre in one go.

9. Reuse, recycle and be a responsible shopper

Think about the bigger picture when deciding what to buy for your garden. The distance products have travelled and the processes used for their production can impact the environment. Choose plants that benefit the environment and are not invasive or potentially harmful to the wider countryside and avoid peat based products. 

You are currently reading: How to make your garden wildlife-friendly - 1st October
Subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine today!

Choose a subscription offer to suit you and benefit from generous savings on the shop price, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.

Countryfile Magazine - Current Issue