Nine ways to make your garden more wildlife friendly

Spider web in the garden at Bateman's

The way we look after our gardens really matters. There are an estimated 16 million gardens in the UK, according to The Wildlife Trusts. Together they form a huge potential refuge for species that are declining in the wild. Here are nine ways you can bring more nature to your backdoor.

1. Bird box and feeding


Birds are an important part of garden ecosystems. By installing bird boxes and feeding birds you can make sure they thrive. Put your bird box up high in a sheltered site. In spring, provide protein-rich feed, such as fat balls. Seeds are best in the winter. If cats are around place your feeder near a dense bush to provide birds with cover.

Make a bird box like this one at Denbies Hillside, Surrey, to provide a safe home for garden birds
Bird box


2. Let the grass grow


Leave your mower in the shed. Long grass is one of the rarest garden habitats. By letting some or all of your lawn grow you will make space for many plant and insect species, including butterflies and wildflowers. Leave the grass long over winter and cut it again in the spring.

Leaving grass to grow means more space for wildflowers like this orchid at Hatchlands Park, Surrey
Orchid in the wildflower meadow


3. Grow climbers


Ivy is a very useful plant for wildlife. Both the flowers and seeds are good sources of food and pollen. Plus, it provides year round cover for birds and insects. Clematis and roses are also excellent climbers for wildlife.

Climbers provide save havens for wildlife, like this clematis cote de zore at Lanhydrock, Cornwall
Clematis cote de zore


4. Insect hotel


Leave piles of rocks, twigs and rotting wood in your garden. This will create shelter for all sorts of important insects, such as beetles and spiders.

Make a simple bug hotel out of dead wood, like these volunteers at Kingston Lacy, Dorset
Volunteers making bug hotel


5. Pond


A pond is a real boost for wildlife. It doesn’t have to be huge. You can use a buried bucket or trough. If you do want a big pond, make sure there are stones or branches to help wildlife get in and out. Ponds are best filled with unchlorinated rainwater from a water butt. Waterlilies will help prevent it from becoming stagnant. Avoid locating it in full sun or full shade.

A pond provides a haven for wildife and plants, like these waterlilies at Hidcote, Gloucestershire
Hidcote lily pond


6. Compost


A compost heap is a win-win. Making and using your own compost will naturally enrich your soil. It will also provide a habitat for worms, woodlice and many other insects, including frogs and slow worms. To avoid attracting rats, only use raw food.  

Do more to help slow worms, such as this one at Stoneywell, Leicestershire, which are becoming increasingly rare
A slow worm curled up


7. Fence


Don’t lock out hedgehogs and frogs. Make sure your garden fences have some gaps at the bottom. This will allow wildlife to move through from plot-to-plot. It will also help link different habitats together.

Hedgehogs like this one at Emmetts Garden, Kent, are becoming increasingly rare
Hedgehog at Emmetts Garden, a National Trust property in Kent

8. Flowers

Flowers look beautiful and bring colour and scent into your garden. They also provide food for many insects. Grow as many varieties as possible to ensure colour from spring through into autumn. Go for native species, if possible.

Flowers feed many insects like this bee at Hare Hill, Cheshire
Bee on a flower in the garden


9. Weeds

Learn to relax about weeds. Plants such as nettles, daisies and buttercups are important sources of food for many insects, including butterflies and moths. They flower for a long time, whatever the weather. And so provide food when other sources might be absent.

Wildflowers are great for wildlife, like these buttercups at Hatchlands Park, Surrey
Buttercups in the parkland at Hatchlands