Encouraging Wildlife in Your Garden by Andrew Halstead

Over the years farming has changed and the use of herbicides means that fields no longer contain the flowers and weeds essential for insect life. This has made the garden much more important to maintain the insects. It doesn’t matter how big or small the garden is there are ways of ensuring support for wildlife.

If possible there should be a water feature in some part of the garden whether it be a pond or something smaller. If there is a pond it could be planted with Marsh Marigold, Caltha Palustris, or Lady’s Smock, Cardamine Pratensis, the latter attracting the orange tip butterfly. The edges of the pond could be disguised with logs and stones with rotting logs attracting various insects. The pond should have sloping access on at least one side to enable insects, frogs and toads a way of reaching dry land. The first insects to visit the pond are likely to be the pond skater and the common blue damselfly. Frogs and toads are also likely visitors with the frogspawn appearing at the surface in early spring followed three weeks later by toad spawn which is laid below the surface attached to vegetation. Any emergent vegetation such as Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia Vulgaris, would attract nymphs and the Yellow Loosestrife Bee. The pond should be weeded in early autumn before the plants start to rot.

All gardens should have a compost heap to get rid of decaying vegetation and vegetable scraps. These heaps will attract bacteria, fungi, worms and nematodes and the resulting compost can be spread around the garden.

Bundles of canes will overwinter insects and it is now possible to make or to purchase ready made bee hotels which are hollow tubes fastened together. These will attract solitary wasps and bees some of which will use mud to block the ends of the tubes whilst others may use leaves.

Lawns that aren’t manicured contain clover, birds foot trefoil and cowslips plus cowslips and bugle grow in shady places and all attract insects. The common Ice Plant attracts tortoiseshell butterflies and bees during the day and different moths at night. Dry stone walls are a haven for wildlife as are hedges, with hawthorn and blackthorn being particularly good for attracting insects. Growing flowering plants through these hedges will attract other insects as well. If space allows different size bird boxes could be added to the garden to bring in a variety of birds. Ivy is especially beneficial as it flowers late in the year with the flowers attracting insects and the berries attracting birds.