07:14 Tuesday 24 September 2013

Looking after Wildlife

Written byLiz Peck

Making your garden wildlife-friendly is one of the most positive contributions you can make to the environment – and the rewards are great.

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is passionate about encouraging people to welcome some wild things into their gardens – no matter how large or small. Liz Peck from the Trust tells us more.

If you want to attract a wide range of creatures into your garden, why not encourage them to set up home there? Creating homes for wildlife is easy – and it is extremely satisfying when new residents move in.

One of the simplest and quickest methods is to make a log pile, by stacking a dozen or so short logs on top of each other. It is best located in part shade – for example under a tree or hedge – directly onto the soil to keep it moist. Creepy crawlies will crawl into the cool, damp spaces between the logs, and birds will visit to snack on them! Frogs, toads, mice and if you’re lucky, hedgehogs, may also use them for shelter. You could also make another pile in a sunny spot, drilling a few holes in the logs to provide hibernation sites for insects.

bee

Many bee species – including the solitary bees and bumblebees – are under threat, but gardeners can do their bit to help to ensure their survival. As well as growing nectar-rich flowers, shrubs and trees, such as cornflowers, delphiniums, lavender and hardy geraniums, you can provide them with potential habitats. A queen bumblebee will make a nest in places like hedge bottoms, overgrown walls or long grass. Solitary bees – such as mason bees – look for holes to nest in, so it’s easy to cater for them. Cut some 30cm sections of bamboo cane and bind them together, or pack them into some old piping, and hang in a sunny spot in the garden. Bees will fly into the holes with various materials to construct cells – it’s a fascinating watch.

A pond is one of the best ways to bring wildlife into the garden. To maximise its attractiveness to frogs, create lots of dark, damp places for them around the edges. Leave piles of rocks, logs or even old slabs in shady areas for them to hide under, and keep an area near to the pond ‘wild’, i.e. leave the grass uncut. Make sure your pond has sloping sides so wildlife can get in and out easily and grow lots of native plants around the edges to provide them with cover. The pond will also attract a host of other creatures, such as dragonflies.

Encourage birds into your garden by planting lots of thick trees and shrubs for both shelter and nesting sites. You can also provide ready-made ‘nests’ in the form of bird boxes. Boxes with a 3cm diameter entry hole will attract small birds such as the Bluetit, while a 5cm entrance will be used by larger starlings. Robins and wrens favour open-sided boxes. Site nest boxes in a partially shaded, sheltered, ‘secret’ area, away from disturbances. Growing ivy up a healthy tree will also provide lots of shelter for birds and encourage them to nest.

If you have bats in the garden, you could also mount a bat box in a tree. Purpose-built hedgehog boxes can also be purchased, although a log pile or a thick area of uncut grass could be equally as effective. Hedgehogs, along with mice, have also been known to make their homes in compost heaps. The main tip I would give to people – and I’m sure this will be a popular suggestion – is to not be too tidy. Wild creatures like to have plenty of shelter and hiding places, rather than a perfectly manicured garden. So sit back, relax, and leave that patch of lawn un-mown.

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