Gardening Ideas for Wildlife


A wildlife-friendly garden is becoming an essential part of living sustainably. 

Urban gardens will play an important role. I’ve been speaking with Alisa Balih, a garden designer who has created gardens for top flower shows.

Green Leafed Plants

A wildlife garden has a wide range of effects.

For starters, there is ‘insect armageddon,’ this is the disappearance of insects. Many insect species have shrunk to a fraction of what they once were. Since insects are at the bottom of the food chain and humans are at the apex, the extinction of so many insects could have significant implications for our food supplies.
Other biodiversity is still suffering. Common garden birds and pollinating insects are also suffering from population declines.

Then there’s the issue of soil productivity depletion as a result of over-farming.

There’s also flash flooding, which is mostly caused by the earth’s ever-growing blanket of concrete and stone.

Red Squirrel on Brown Table Top

Keep an eye out for animals in your backyard.

During lockout, Alisa says she has always loved being able to see the animals in her backyard. Seeing the garden is beneficial for our mental health at a time when so many of us are restricted in any way.

Alisa has seen sparrows sipping nectar from a salvia plant and a wren scurrying around the bottom of her doorstep in search of cobwebs and spiders, all of which wrens love.

She really likes to watch the birds taking their showers. ‘I saw one blackbird taking a long bath – he’d have a good shake, a little thought, and then another shake. Two robins were watching, and when the blackbird stopped, they took over in the bird bath, so they were waiting their chance.’

The most important wildlife-friendly gardening tip

Alisa recommends that a wildlife-friendly garden provide at least one source of water, no matter how little. Insects and birds need water and a place to bathe. Alisa’s garden features a shallow stream as well as a mini pond hidden behind some pots and a bird bath.

Hairy Woodpecker

Since there is water in many locations, larger and smaller birds do not have to compete with one another. ‘Make sure you have a variety of depths,’ she advises. Different sizes of creatures have different desires, and it also makes getting out faster.I have a mini pond consisting of a high-sided barrel, so I’ve added a smaller dish as well as planters inside to provide a variety of depths. Here’s how to make a mini wildlife pond.

Alisa says that you should use anything as a bird bath, even an upturned trash can lid. Surprisingly, that is just what I have, and it gives me a decent watering can full of water.

There are problems with leaving stagnant water in mosquito-infested areas. Check local advice and rules, so stocking the pond with fish or using a pump to keep the water flowing will help a lot.

Reduce the use of chemicals.

This is Alisa’s second suggestion for creating a wildlife-friendly garden.

Thirty years ago, gardening was all about pest management, but there is now a much greater understanding of the role that each insect plays in the eco-system. For eg, the Royal Horticultural Society recommends simply leaving ants in the garden or spraying ant nests with water.

You don’t have to be rigidly ecological in it. Only wait to see what happens if you do nothing. Viburnum beetle and black spot on flowers, for example, are also unsightly. They may not, however, cause significant harm to the plant. It can take some time for predators to build up, but don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results.

Plants are even more susceptible to pests and pathogens when they are unhappy, as Alisa points out. Healthy plants don’t have these issues, or if they do, they’re less obvious. Slugs may eat a few leaves from a large healthy dahlia, so you won’t notice; however, if slugs eat a few leaves from a failing plant, it may not survive.

Soil is alive and must be cared for…

Soil used to be thought of as an inanimate material, but it is now a living organism. It’s a massive ecosystem.

Alisa told me that there are more microorganisms in this teaspoon of soil than humans on the planet. This is also verified on the United States Department of Agriculture’s website.

Brown Shovel

This covers bacteria, fungi, and small organisms that you can’t see as much as larger insects like beetles, ants, and mites. There are fungi, viruses, nematodes, and other species. They all need feeding, which is why applying garden compost, mulches, and manure to your soil strengthens it.

They all have their own interconnected system as well. Digging disturbs and damages all of these. According to a US Department of Agriculture report, a farmer’s healthiest soil is always located near the boundary where there hasn’t been much digging or planting.

Globally, soil fertility is rapidly declining. This, in turn, threatens our food supplies in the same way as the lack of pollinating insects does.

A light touch of rough landscaping…

Soil also serves as a reservoir for water. It acts like a sponge, soaking up rain and holding it in place. So it can’t do that because it’s coated in tarmac, stone, or concrete. Heavy rain will run out and through our irrigation channels, flooding them.

For a wildlife-friendly garden, Alisa suggests using “a soft hand with rough landscaping.”

Aerial Photography of Plants

According to the US Department of Agriculture, you can see the soil as little as possible to keep it safe. This includes covering it with plants or mulch and digging as little as possible.

Garden clippings are used as mulch by friends in Australia. It suppresses weeds and gradually decomposes to feed the dirt, and we’ve been doing the same with lawn mowing clippings and garden shredder shreddings.

Don’t be too neat…

Shelter is essential for wildlife, particularly during the winter. Alisa believes that you don’t necessarily have to buy stuff to save animals. About the fact that certain insect hotels and bird boxes are very attractive. We recently purchased some bat cages, and Alisa still has some.

Free stock photo of art, bark, beads

However, stacks of leaves and old logs can also provide enough cover for a large number of wee beasties. And evergreen trees, such as ivy, can provide a safe haven for birds. Alisa’s garden is a long, narrow town garden that leads to a large area of protected woodland. She’s removed some brambles and a couple of dead trees to create a sitting area, but she’s left tree trunks and roots to decompose naturally. These provide many habitats for wildlife. ‘Drill through the ends of the trunks to provide a habitat for solitary bees,’ she suggests.

Above everything, clusters of leaves and twigs can be left in corners. Insects will seek refuge there, and birds will sift through the leaves for bug and slug treats.

Grow flowers all year…

Winter flowers are beneficial to pollinating insects.

What flowers you have depends on how winter goes where you live, but ivy flowers in early winter here in the UK. If you don’t want ivy, Alisa suggests fatsia, which is a member of the ivy family and can be found in a variety of shady and gloomy spots in the garden.

Closeup Photo of Sprout

Alisa’s garden contains plants such as teasel, which provide seeds for wildlife at this time of year. She also claims that they have lovely structure when wearing her garden designer hat.

She has also planted fruit trees in her garden to provide fruit for wildlife as well as spring blossom for bees and general enjoyment.

Other winter flowers to consider for a wildlife-friendly garden

Other winter flowers in the UK include mahonia (which has a recent spineless variant, Mahonia Soft Caress.

Winter bedding flowers, such as pansies, aren’t normally very successful because the flower doesn’t have an open heart. Pollinating insects must be able to enter the herb, so seek out single flowers.

Alisa also mentions that plants that bloom in the winter are often heavily scented in order to attract pollinators. Nice jar, witch hazel, and mahonia are a few examples.

Snowdrops, primroses, pulmonaria, hellebores, bergenia, and anemones all occur in late winter/early spring and can thrive in much colder climates than the UK. Alisa receives a lot of her plants from local plant exchanges, both formal and informal, so it’s always worth looking for one or organizing your own.