How to attract wildlife into your garden – from hedgehog homes to planting climbers

Monty Don follows hedgehog along his garden path

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According to the RSPB, a wildlife conservation charity, creating an appealing green space for animals doesn’t necessarily require leaving a garden to overgrow, but ensuring it provides a variety of habitats with a sufficient food supply will help them to thrive. The conservation charity has explored some key features to make a garden more wildlife-friendly.

Safe breeding space

Providing a safe place for animals to breed and shelter is vital and can be achieved through a number of ways.

Hedgerows, trees and bushes are a good source of shelter for birds and small creatures, such as hedgehogs.

Shelters, including bird boxes, hedgehog homes and bat boxes, can be installed in a garden, and while providing a safe space for animals, they also offer a good nesting or roosting site.

Conservation charity WWF suggests creating a pathway through fenced gardens to allow them to gain easy access. 

A campaign group called Hedgehog Street is encouraging people to create hedgehog homes and provide feeding stations to encourage them in gardens. 

The charity said making holes in fences and connecting gardens between neighbours are important ways to help the creatures survive.

In an effort to increase the hedgehog population, which has been declining, and create better habitats for the spiny creatures, the group has appointed volunteers to become hedgehog champions. 

Planting climbers

For other wildlife, planting climbers against walls can also provide shelter and good breeding spots.

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Growing certain plants can provide the right breeding places for butterflies.

According to the RSPB, buckthorn bushes can attract brimstones, while Honesty, an old-fashioned cottage plant, and hedge garlic, could encourage orange tip butterflies in a garden.

Old foliage, dead wood and trimmings can provide the ideal hiding place for insects, such as beetles, and minibeasts.

Enabling areas of grass to grow can provide a spot for wildlife to breed and keep safe. The RSPB suggested waiting until late winter or early spring before trimming overgrown areas.

Providing a range of habitats

A range of habitats can be created in gardens. Water features and ponds can provide a home to a variety of wildlife, including amphibians, such as the common frog. 

Introducing flowering plants and shrubs in garden borders can provide a good source of nectar for bees and butterflies, while also providing shelter for birds.

Conservationists at RSPB suggested leaving compost, trimmings or woodpile in gardens for animals to live or hibernate.

Good sources of food

Plants flower and seed at various times throughout the year and provide a good source of food for wildlife, so it is important that a garden offers a wide variety to provide during different seasons.

Fruit trees and berry bushes are a good food source, while ivy provides nectar for insects during the autumn. 

Ensuring there is a source of clean water in the garden is also important, whether it is in a dish or pond.

RSPB said featuring a range of host plants for caterpillars to feed is important. Some of these include Common Knapweed and Red Valerian.

According to Gardener’s World, Buddleja davidii is a good source of nectar for adult butterflies. The website advised growing different varieties to prolong the flowering season. The flowers usually bloom between summer and autumn.  

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