The hedgehog population has suffered a rapid decline in recent years, and coupled with the loss of large numbers of bees in the UK too, there’s no better time to do what we can to attract important wildlife back into our gardens. Outdoor space provides the perfect home for a variety of wildlife, and there are lots of ways we can do our bit to help increase populations. Gardens occupy over 1 million acres of the UK so there’s no excuse not to dedicate a small corner to creatures great and small.
In conjunction with the Sunday Express we’re launching our Amateur Gardener of the Year Competition and this week’s blog is all about our Best Wildlife Garden Category. With a £100 Wilko voucher up for grabs for the winner of this category, and the potential to go home with an extra £250 if you win Best Amateur Gardener of the Year as a result, it’s not only the wildlife that will benefit! To give you a helping hand, we’ve got some great ideas on different ways you can create a wildlife-friendly garden, as well as some inspiration to help you get ahead.
Go wild for birds
Attracting birds to your garden is so easy. Provide them with three basic elements, food, water and shelter, and they’re sure to pay you a visit (and keep coming back too!). The most common varieties to look out for include blackbirds, blue tits, house sparrows, robins, great tits and chaffinches. Place some bird food in a feeder, on a bird table or on the ground and simply wait for your feathered friends to flock. It can take a while for birds to start visiting a new feeding location, so don’t lose faith if they don’t use it straight away. It’s important to give them access to fresh water too. Not only will they drink this, they also love to take baths in it! Finally, give your birds somewhere to shelter, and you’ll be the hottest property on the street for visitors! Take a look at our great nesting box blog which includes tips on making your own, where to locate it and lots more.
Bees need our help! In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic decline in the population of bees due to changes in farming methods leading to fewer wildflowers. Two species of bee are now completely extinct in the UK. But all is not lost, and by growing wildlife-friendly flowers in our garden, we can encourage the bee population to flourish once again. The key is to choose varieties that flower at different times of the year so you can provide wildlife with a reason to visit all year round. Look out for the ‘bee’ on our seed packets accompanied with the ‘RHS perfect for pollinators’ text. We’ve pulled together a selection of the range here to get you started. Or why not try our easyflower mix for a quick and simple way to grow a range of wildflowers? It contains lots of different varieties, perfectly combined to bloom at different times throughout the year – simply shake, rake and water!
Home sweet home
What better way to encourage wildlife into your garden than by providing them with a place to stay? After all, who would say ‘no’ to a free B&B for life? Insect hotels are really easy to make and will attract lots of different creepy crawlies. Simply stack 2 to 3 old pallets on top of each other and stuff the gaps with lots of different materials. Bugs will love crawling in amongst all the little hidey holes, finding shelter and a place to sleep. Make sure you include corrugated cardboard, dead wood, dry leaves, bamboo tubes, sticks and straw. Don’t forget to add a roof too, old planks with some spare roofing felt nailed to each corner is ideal.
And why not have a go at creating housing for your spiky visitors too? Hedgehog houses require some basic principles when building and locating but don’t require too much upkeep. The house itself should be around the size of a wooden wine box crate and the entrance tunnel into the crate should be no wider than 5 inch square to stop pesky predators from getting in. Ensure there’s some ventilation in the house too and line with a handful of dry grass and leaves. Hedgehogs can be fussy, and it’s really important that it’s located under cover and sheltered from any wind.
Another great way to attract wildlife into your garden is by building a pond. Enjoy watching frogs, toads (and maybe even newts) pay a visit to their new habitat. Simply choose a sunny spot where your creatures can enjoy the warmth of the sun. Fill with natural rainwater from a water butt where you can rather than filling with tap water.
Safety first: If you have small children, always make sure they’re supervised around water, and take precautions to cover or block off your pond where possible.
Whatever you do, remember, wildlife won’t be looking for the neatest garden, so here’s a great excuse to embrace your garden’s wild side a little!
For full details on our competition, including how to enter, click here. Good luck!