Our back gardens are the perfect spot for wildlife to make their home. All it takes is a little encouragement, and your garden can become a favourite destination for a wide variety of visitors! Wildlife garden design doesn’t have to be difficult, and once you’ve established your garden, it will all be worth it. Here are our tips on creating the perfect wildlife garden to get you started.
What Is a Wildlife Garden?
A wildlife garden, sometimes known as a wild garden, is an outdoor space that provides habitats and food for wildlife. Although wildlife is present in every garden in some way or another, a wildlife garden is designed to cater to a range of species and provide them with safe places to stay, feed and nest.
Wildlife gardening is essential to conserving many of Britain’s wild species since it supplies food, water and shelter that may be hard to come by in the wild, providing them with safe stepping stones to their natural habitat.
Wildlife Garden Design Steps
A wildlife garden may look unkempt and wild, but there’s a bit of planning required to ensure that you optimize the space for a range of wildlife. There are several design elements that you should consider while you plan your wildlife garden design, including:
1) Use Up All Your Space
When planning a wildlife garden, the important thing is to think outside the box. Wildlife species can use all available surfaces, so consider how you could optimize your fences, walls and roofs to accommodate them. For example, many beneficial wildlife gardens are full of plants, so you could consider covering surfaces with climbers, or you could hang bird boxes.
2) Choose The Right Plants
Plants, flowers and trees provide a range of benefits to wildlife, so any successful wildlife garden needs them. To supply shelter and food to any passing species, you should plant a variety of native seeds. Some good plants for a wildlife garden include:
- Star jasmine
- Evening primrose
- Silver birch
- Hawthorn tree
3) Plant A Wildflower Meadow
A regularly mown lawn does very little for our broad spectrum of wildlife, so letting it grow a little crazy will support a range of species. However, if you’d like to keep your manicured lawn, you could consider planting a wildflower meadow in your garden to provide insects and pollinators with a place to shelter and breed. Wildflowers are incredibly beneficial to the environment since they are pollen-rich and provide needed food and shelter, particularly during the winter months[iv]. So adding a patch to your wildlife garden design could make a world of difference to the visitors your garden receives.
4) Consider A Pond
Ponds are perfect for a wildlife garden because they attract insects, birds, small mammals, and amphibians. A pond also provides a natural place for animals to bathe and drink. If a fully-fledged pond is too much for you or you don’t have the room to spare, you could try making a container pond or investing in a small pond kit. To transform your pond into a liveable habitat for various water-loving animals, you could add some stones, logs and aquatic plants. Good aquatic plants for a wildlife pond include:
- Purple loosestrife
- Slender club rush
- Water crowfoot
- Water lily
- Marsh iris
5) Create Shelter
Providing shelter for animals to rest and nest in is vital to a wildlife garden, particularly for animals whose natural habitats may be missing from your local area. Nesting areas are critical since many species struggle to find secure nesting areas in the wild.
To add safe shelter to your wildlife garden design, you could plant tall, leafy trees such as silver birches or native shrubs like holly, hang nesting boxes for birds, build an insect hotel, or put together a hedgehog home.
Bringing Your Wildlife Garden Design To Life
Once you’ve got a good idea of how you want your wildlife garden to look, it’s time to put your plan into action! Establishing your garden and optimizing it for wildlife may seem a little tricky, but here are the basic steps you should take to bring your wildlife garden design to life.
Provide Food and Water
Providing food and water is essential for any garden hoping to attract wildlife, whether a few garden birds or a whole menagerie! Try to cater to a range of species to create a healthy ecosystem that will keep animals coming back for more. You could:
- Hang bird feeders filled with seed mixes, nuts or mealworms
- Add feeding stations for other visitors
- Plant nectar plants for insects
- Grow fruit trees
- Include a birdbath for a range of animals to drink from
Let Your Grass Grow
We mentioned planning a wildflower meadow in your garden design earlier, but an easier way of supporting the valuable ecosystem of insects and bugs is to leave your lawn alone. Allowing your lawn to grow will encourage a range of wildlife to take refuge in the grass because it will provide seeds for birds to eat, give insects and beetles a safe place to wander and encourage wildflowers to bloom naturally.
Choose The Right Pest Control
Pest control is essential in a wildlife garden – you don’t want all your hard work to go to waste! That being said, a wildlife garden should embrace all animals, even the ones that happen to be munching on your freshly planted shoots. So, rather than reaching for the chemical pesticides, try and find alternative ways to deter pests. For example, if slugs are attacking your flower stems, try spreading coffee grounds around the soil, as the smell will turn slugs away before they can reach your beds. You can find other wildlife-friendly deterrents here.
Try Vertical Planting
Vertical planting is the perfect way to add even more plants to your garden, particularly if you only have limited space. By fixing trellis or wires to suitable vertical surfaces, you can grow a range of wildlife-friendly climbing plants across the exterior of your home, outhouses and pathways. Vertical gardening will save space in your garden, reduce plant diseases and reduce the impact of an urban environment, encouraging more animals to embrace the environment.
Create A Gap In Your Fence
This simple addition to a garden can make a world of difference. Optimizing your garden for birds and insects is relatively simple since they can come and go easily, but mammals such as hedgehogs and voles will find it much harder. Drilling a small hole in your fence – about 13cm by 13cm – will allow these mammals easy access to your wildlife garden without letting in the predators that pursue them.
Swap Fences For Hedges
For an even more natural approach, you could remove fences altogether and swap them for hedges. Hedgerows are perfect for a range of wildlife, including birds, insects, frogs, and small mammals, because they provide shelter, protection, and food. Some excellent hedges for wildlife include:
- Field maple
Start A Compost Heap
The list of benefits that compost can bring to a garden is long, but a compost heap is fantastic for wildlife. The decomposing matter attracts a variety of animals, including worms, beetles, birds, toads, hedgehogs and bats. These animals will likely take refuge in your compost heap, so be careful when using or turning over your compost as you don’t want to disturb them.
Maintaining Your Wildlife Garden
Once your wildlife garden is established and up and running, there are a few things you should do to keep it that way. At this stage, you’re likely going to have spotted some exciting species already, and you want to keep them coming back! These are the best ways to maintain a thriving wildlife garden.
- Don’t Be Too Tidy – A wildlife garden depends on chaos. Overgrown areas provide shelter, fallen leaves and twigs can make the perfect nest, log piles make the ideal home for hedgehogs – the mess is more organized than you’d think! Try not to tidy up too much so wildlife will continue to feel safe to move freely around your garden.
- Avoid Chemical Fertilizers – Not only are chemical fertilizers terrible for the environment, but they can also harm several animals if ingested. Therefore, it’s best to keep chemical fertilizers away from a wildlife garden to help save the environment and the species it supports. Instead, try using compost, mulch, or cow manure.
- Garden Sustainably – Saving the environment is vital in a wildlife garden because our environment affects the animals you’re trying to help. Always be conscious of the decisions you are making in your garden, and try to recycle as often as possible. Also, avoid using chemicals, peat compost, plastics, and other harmful substances that contribute to climate change.
- Fill Up Feeding Stations Regularly – Providing a consistent food supply is important for the nourishment of animals, so try and fill up your feeders, feeding stations and birdbaths once a day. Animals are unlikely to touch messy feeders and birdbaths, so try to clean them regularly. If you consistently find that feeders haven’t been used, try and find out why birds aren’t eating your bird food.
Your Wildlife Garden Design
Most of us would appreciate more wildlife visiting our gardens and planning a wildlife garden is the best way to encourage them. From birds to hedgehogs, caterpillars to butterflies, your wildlife garden will soon be bustling with new visitors for you to help and enjoy. Let us know what animals you see in your wildlife garden!
Gemma Sharp is the resident writer for Garden Wildlife Direct, a supplier of premium bird food and accessories. She has had a genuine love for our feathered friends from a young age, and has dedicated a lot of her time to learning all there is to know about them. If you’re struggling to pick the right bird feed for your garden, need help identifying a type of wild bird, or can’t decide where to put a nesting box, Gemma is the person to go to! She is passionate about sharing her years of learnt knowledge with the public. In her free time, she can be found feeding birds at home with her three young boys.