I truly believe that there is a place for everything in the garden – yes, even slugs! Slugs are an important food source for songbirds, frogs, slow worms and hedgehogs. In truth a healthy, balanced ecosystem will look after itself far better than we ever could and so I encourage you to ‘rewild’ your garden. By this I mean create habitats beneficial to wildlife – this could be as simple as leaving a patch of long grass, planting pollinator friendly flowers or providing nest boxes. We follow these principles in all areas of our garden and I’m always looking for ways to create and improve habitats. I cannot tell you the excitement of seeing the first damselfly visiting your garden or discovering a jewel-like beetle you have never seen before. Below are some ideas to get you started:
1. Leave a wild edge around your lawn – less mowing, more wildlife, beautiful long grass and even wildflowers allowed to flourish.
2. Make a wildlife pond – as tiny as a small half barrel planted with water-loving plants will an important water source for a huge amount of wildlife. Just make sure there are plants for insects to land on and a route out for any small mammals. Watch out for honey bees lined up having a drink! Even if you don't have space for a pond, a bird bath or saucer filled with gravel will provide wildlife with an important water source, specially in hot weather.
3. Put up nest boxes – choose different sized openings for different birds and watch them as they build their nests, feed their young and teach their fledglings how to fly. My project for this year is to build an owl nesting box!
4. Buy or make a solitary bee hotel. There are around 250 species of solitary bee in the UK – see if you can spot them all! It is fascinating to watch the female laying her eggs in small cells along with the food for the larvae when they hatch out. I recommend these boxes, some have perspex windows - Garden Bee Nest Boxes | Heather Bell Honey Bees (cornishhoney.co.uk)
5. Put out a basking tray for reptiles. A simple scrap piece of metal for slow worms and even snakes to warm up on and hide underneath.
6. Plant pollinator friendly plants – single, open flowers are perfect. Great, easy examples from seed are borage, foxgloves, Phacelia and poppies. Perennials like lavender, Monarda and Buddleja are much loved by bees and butterflies. If you have the space plant hedges and trees for blossom.
7. Leave a gap in the bottom of your fence for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs can move up to 11-13 miles per night to find food, a partner or a new place to sleep. Lets make their lives a bit easier by making gaps to allow them through.
Don’t forget to go on a little wildlife safari in your garden, you will be amazed at what you find!