Gardens are important habitats for wildlife, and can help form essential 'green corridors' between larger habitats such as parks and nature reserves, within our towns and cities.
You can attract a fascinating diversity of wildlife such as pollinators, amphibians and reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates, by making a few simple adjustments, no matter how large or small your garden. Below are six key elements of a wildlife-friendly garden. Don't feel you have to incorporate them all – just one or two measures can dramatically increase the amount of wildlife you attract.
More wildlife garden advice:
- Wildlife-friendly plants
- Help wildlife survive winter
- How to create a wildlife garden: part one (video)
Water is essential to all sorts of wildlife, for drinking, bathing, breeding and even keeping cool in summer. A pond is the single best way to add water to your garden, and will attract wildlife including amphibians, dragonflies and damselflies, birds, bats, mammals and grass snakes. If you're digging one, make sure it has gentle sloping sides so wildlife such as hedgehogs can get in and out easily. Watch our video on creating a wildlife pond.
A pile of logs in the corner of the garden makes a fantastic wildlife habitat. It will provide nooks and crannies for small mammals and amphibians to shelter, while invertebrates such as beetles and centipedes will shelter beneath the logs. If placed in sun, solitary bees may nest in dry wood. As the logs break down they will attract fungi and detritivores such as woodlice, which will provide food for those further up the food chain.
Even a small patch of grass left to grow long will make a difference to wildlife. Hedgehogs, small mammals and amphibians will shelter here, butterflies and moths will breed here, and birds will strip the grasses of seed. You may even attract grasshoppers.
Wildlife gardens are packed with pollinator-friendly flowers from March to November. Single, not double, flowers are key, as are flowers of different shapes. Discover some bee-friendly plants in our guide.
Trees, hedges and shrubs
Trees, hedges and shrubs provide shelter for birds and mammals, leaves for caterpillars to eat (and therefore more food for birds), and flowers, fruit and berries for all manner of species. Native species, such as hawthorn, hazel, oak and beech, are especially important, as these are needed for breeding moths. Discover more caterpillar food plants. Even a small garden has room for a tree – read about our recommended trees for small gardens.
A compost heap provides a warm, moist environment for a host of wild species. Invertebrates such as woodlice, centipedes and rove beetles will make a home here, which birds, amphibians and reptiles will eat. Slow worms and grass snakes might breed in the warm waste, and you may even attract nesting or hibernating hedgehogs. The best compost heap is open, which enables wildlife to get in. Closed bins still have some wildlife value but they are less well used.