Alyson Chorley of the Somerset Wildlife Trust offers advice to attract wildlife to your garden

PUBLISHED: 19:55 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013

Lavender plants will attract bees to your garden

Lavender plants will attract bees to your garden

Get your garden a-buzzing with wildlife courtesy of some expert advice from Alyson Chorley at the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Alyson Chorley of the Somerset Wildlife Trust offers advice to attract wildlife to your garden

Most people want to see plenty of wildlife buzzing, snuffling and hopping about in their gardens, but how can you make it as welcoming as possible to all things bright and beautiful? One of the best things to do is actually absolutely nothing! But if living in the Somerset equivalent of a tropical rainforest is not your thing, then there are plenty of practical ways to encourage mini beasts and other wildlife into your backyard.

So why encourage wildlife? Well, wildlife-friendly gardening is about making a haven for you as well as for wildlife. By gardening sympathetically for wildlife you will be rewarded by a truly natural outdoor space where you can get up close to nature and create a haven for yourself, plants and animals. Remember, what's good for wildlife is good for people too!

Wildlife needs four things if it's to survive in your garden: food, shelter, water and a place to breed. By providing a few, if not all, of these things, you will bring your garden to life.

Here are a few things you can do:
Build log piles in a shady corner which will feed beetle larvae and shelter many other animals like frogs, toads and slow worms. Insects use them to breed in and hedgehogs (already a species in decline) sometimes use them to hibernate.

Make your own natural garden fertiliser by creating a compost heap filled with garden waste, kitchen scraps and old vegetables.

Creating a meadow sounds a lovely idea but is tricky to do. A good alternative is to plant meadow flower plugs into your lawn, but be prepared to alter your mowing pattern to allow the flowers to grow. This way you may be rewarded with ox-eye daisies, yellow rattle and even cowslip in your garden. These flowers encourage bees and butterflies as do primrose, buddleia, honeysuckle, cat mint, thyme, knapweed and sweet scabious.

Building a pond doesn't have to involve a JCB digger! Why not use an old sink or bucket of water placed in the ground, or dig a hole at least 77cm deep with shallow edges? Choose a sunny site away from overhanging trees. Introduce native plants like white and yellow water lily, purple loosestrife, marsh marigold and brooklime, and wait for your pond to fill up with tadpoles, frogs, aquatic snails, pond skaters and common newts, and see if you can spot dragonflies and mayflies darting across.

Embrace your nooks and crannies! Solitary bees love holes in walls; beetles and fungi will take up residence in a log pile or shady, damp corner; amphibians and reptiles will hide in sunny rockeries and rock piles; and hollow stems left standing in winter provide important shelter for wildlife.

Friends of a feather
Birds need a safe place to nest. You can provide a bird box but also think about hedges instead of fences. Not only does a hedge provide living space and food for all sorts of wildlife, it allows wildlife to move more freely between gardens. Good native choices for hedges include hawthorn, blackthorn, wild rose, holly, hazel and elder. Birds also need food and water throughout the year. Try to provide nuts, seeds, fat and kitchen scraps in feeders, trays and on the ground. Move feeding places around your garden from time to time to guard against predators, disease and unwelcome visitors such as rats.

You can have an attractive and productive garden without using chemical fertilisers, slug pellets and pesticides. Try to find less damaging ways of controlling pests because if you use chemicals to control pests, you kill all the good insects on which the birds and hedgehogs depend for food. Gardeners' friends include frogs, toads, birds and small mammals like bats and hedgehogs, all of which eat insects and slugs.

Remember, gardens are increasingly important havens for wildlife as habitats in the wider countryside shrink and fragment, and climate change takes its toll.

Town and country
Although gardens in towns may be small, together they form a patchwork linking urban green spaces with nature reserves and the wider countryside.

Hedgehogs, sparrows, song thrushes and stag beetles are all declining species in the UK but if we manage our gardens sympathetically for wildlife, these creatures and more will feel the benefit.

And why not ditch the decking! Green gardens are in decline as the trend to pave over front gardens and deck back gardens becomes more popular. As well as depriving creatures of their habitat, this worrying trend can result in flooding and could be making our towns even hotter.

Children and nature
Let our children grow up connected with nature and wildlife. Gardening can be good for your health and well-being, and in these tough financial times it is a great free and beneficial activity to do with the family in your own back garden.

We can all enjoy protecting the wildlife of Somerset, no matter what size your plot is. Even a window box can be planted with flowers that especially encourage bees and butterflies. Happy gardening!

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