You don’t need to go on safari in Africa or venture down into the depths of a South American rainforest to spot amazing animals. Gardens are important ecosystems, filled with a variety of extraordinary creatures. Follow these tips to increase your chances of getting up close and personal with your local wildlife.
1. Hedgehog shelters
Hedgehogs are becoming a rare sight due to their sadly declining population. Help them out by giving them a home in your garden. You can build a cute little house for them if you’re a woodworking genius, although a big pile of leaves is an equally good sleeping spot for the spiny mammals. Just be sure to leave them alone between November and March when they hibernate.
Position nestboxes on trees and the side of your house to give birds a cosy shelter. The size, height and location will depend on the bird. Find all the info you need, including how to make and where to site nestboxes, on the RSPB website.
3. Ponds and water features
By building a pond or water feature you’re helping all sorts of creatures. Obviously they’re ideal for amphibians like frogs and newts which live and breed in the water, but thirsty birds who fancy a bath will also benefit. Don’t feel you have to dig a giant lake in your garden—even something as simple as an upturned dustbin lid filled with rainwater can become a thriving hub for your garden’s wildlife.
4. Compost heap
A big pile of garden waste is the perfect place for reptiles like slowworms and grass snakes to call home. Those adorable hedgehogs might also benefit from a warm pile of compost to sleep in, and there’ll be lots of woodlice and worms to snack on if they get peckish.
5. Flowers for bees and butterflies
These pretty pollinators are fun to watch buzzing and fluttering around your flower bed during the summer months. Bee and butterfly friendly plants include buddleia, sunflowers, foxglove, lavender and honeysuckle—you can find a longer list on the RHS website.
6. Bird feeders
One of the best ways to invite feathery friends into your garden. Fill your feeder with fat-rich bird food in the spring to help newly born chicks; protein-packed seeds are good for winter. Place it near a dense bush to give smaller birds a hiding place from predators.
7. Insect hotel
Creepy crawlies aren’t everyone’s favourite, but they’re a vital part of the food chain. Making your own insect hotel is a great way to help important animals like beetles and spiders survive. Create lots of small, dark crevices for the bugs to hide in using rocks, bricks, flower pots and wood.
8. Fence holes
Small mammals like rabbits, hedgehogs and voles won’t be able to get into your garden if it’s fenced off, so create little doorways for them on all sides. This will allow them to pass through without any problems.