How to Get the Right Amount of Life
Into Your Garden This Summer
by Josh Nicholas
Are you hoping to attract wildlife into your garden this summer? Birds and insects can be fantastically helpful for our gardens, as well as a joy to behold.
In this post, we've rounded up some tips that will hopefully help you to create a garden that attracts wildlife in a balanced way, so that, in the words of Goldilocks, the amount is "just right".
1. Plan for diversity
The best way to prevent any pests, or even helpful birds and insects, from taking over your garden is to create a balanced eco-system.
Choosing plants that will attract natural predators of pests will help to keep the population of those pests down; for instance, toad and frogs will eat slugs for you, and ladybirds and hoverflies will tackle your aphid problem.
Of course, too many ladybirds or hoverflies may become a nuisance eventually, too - if that becomes the case, you may want to attract birds that will eat them. If you plan your plants so that they attract various members of the food chain, then you should be able to create a balanced system and prevent any populations getting too out of hand.
Here are a few plants / foods / features to attract helpful predators:
- Hoverflies: perennial cow parsley, raven's wing, and any small orange or bright yellow flowers.
- Ladybirds: dill, fennel, tansy.
- Bees: plenty of flowers.
- Song thrushes and blue tits (which eat caterpillars and insects): seeds, fruit and nuts.
- Swallows (which eat ladybirds): an open area of long grass - these birds generally shun bird feeders, so with a bit of luck a large population of insects may be enough to attract them to your garden.
- Great tits (which have been known to eat bees, as well as caterpillars): fruit and nuts.
This post over on the Mill Race Garden Centre blog offers some more tips on attracting birds to your garden.
2. Deter bad bugs
Chances are, the wildlife that you'll want to keep away from your garden the most will include slugs, snails, aphids and the like. As gardeners, we're more likely to be bothered by wildlife that is going to have a negative effect on our plants.
If attracting natural predators hasn't quite solved the problem, these tips might help:
- Plant garlic. Garlic can repel insects like aphids and ants, and even snails. Plant it next to any plants that you're particularly keen to protect.
- Use coffee grounds. Add to your compost heap, or place directly on top of your soil, to repel mosquitoes, slugs, aphids and ants. Coffee grounds will attract worms, though - great for your soil!
- Repel mosquitoes with plants. Rosemary, basil, marigolds, lemon balm and lavender are all said to deter these insects.
- Create an eggshell barrier. Use coarsely crumbled, sharp eggshells to stop hungry caterpillars, slugs and snails from reaching your prized plants.
3. Plant flowers away from seating areas
While flowers are delightful to look at, they will almost definitely attract bees and birds, which are lovely to watch from a distance, but perhaps not be so welcome when you're trying to enjoy an al fresco lunch. To avoid being bothered by buzzing, place flowers and other plants that may attract winged insects away from benches or outdoor dining tables.
4. Dig a pond
Flowers and plants can attract a great range of wildlife, but the addition of a pond can really make your garden a much more diverse place for wildlife - and with diversity, comes population control. Ponds will attract toads, frogs and dragonflies, which will help to control the levels of slugs and other pests in your garden.
Jeremy Biggs from The Garden Pond Blog offers a detailed guide on creating a wildlife pond here. "I've tried to bring together a design which takes account of the many myths that exist about ponds and which have come to dominate garden pond design," says Jeremy.
5. Create shelters
Alongside food and water, birds and insects need a home to stay in. Install bird boxes in your garden to attract feathered friends, but don't forget about bug boxes, too.
Cerys from Rainy Day Mum offers some great tips on offering a safe haven for insects. "We've been putting up bug houses...as well as our log pile house and keeping dead bamboo and pampas grass within the clumps around the garden as they provide great habitats for the bugs to live in."
Of course, the more shelters you provide, the more wildlife you're likely to see - so, like with the amount of food you provide and number of certain types of plant you sow, start with just a little and add more if you'd like to see more wildlife.
The main thing to remember when trying to create a balanced level of wildlife in your garden is that each garden is unique. Monitor your own garden carefully so that you can decide for yourself whether any elements of the wildlife population are getting out of control.
By making careful notes of your garden, you'll be able to make an informed decision about how to deal with any potential problems.
Josh Nicholas is a digital content manager at Swallow Aquatics (and sister company Mill Race Garden Centre). When he's not busy writing about aquatics and gardening, he can usually be found eating chilli and drinking craft beer...in any order and often at the same time.