As well as providing interest from your window, encouraging wildlife is beneficial to your plants and soil. Bees and butterflies aid pollination, whilst frogs and hedgehogs control pests. A balanced ecosystem is the key to a healthy garden – but don’t think that you have to create a wilderness to attract animal life. A careful choice of plants and the addition of a small pool can invite hundreds of species to your doorstep.
If you grow vegetables, you may be worried about insects on your crop. However, sowing flowers in your kitchen garden can encourage useful creatures such as the hoverfly. Attracted by the flowers, they will lay eggs on your produce and the hungry larvae will prey upon pesky aphids.
The popularity of organic methods has led to a renewed interest in companion planting. Rather than using pesticides which disrupt the natural balance of the ecosystem, aim to confuse potential pests with strong-smelling plants. Grow marigolds alongside your tomatoes to deter whitefly, or try nasturtiums with your cabbages to stop caterpillars from feasting on your produce. For a combination which is practical as well as beautiful, sow red-flowered nasturtiums against the deep green leaves of your cabbages.
Bees are essential in the garden for pollinating both vegetables and ornamentals. The larvae are raised during the spring, and require the protein and fats provided by pollen. Try to avoid mowing the lawn and tidying too early in the year, as bees will appreciate the odd weed flower as a source of food – violets, clover and dandelions are among their favourites.
A meadowland mixture provides nectar all year long. Sow in spring for summer flowers and next year you will be rewarded with wild flowers in spring, summer and autumn. It isn’t necessary to have a huge swathe – the mix can be used to fill gaps in the border, or to create a single patch. It is advisable to avoid sowing seeds in shadier areas – bees love the sunshine and may ignore plants situated in dark corners!
At gardens4less, we stock an array of insect houses. The pollinating bee log provides a winter home for Mason and Solitary species, whilst the solar study chamber allows different creatures to be observed and studied – ideal for children learning about wildlife.
Butterflies and moths
There are over fifty different species of butterfly in the UK, although they are sadly becoming a rare sight. Careful planting can help encourage these beautiful creatures back into your garden. Buddleja is a superb choice, as the flowers are full of nectar. Our buddleja mix contains a variety of colours to attract beneficial, summer insects. Earlier in the year, aubretia provides an abundant food source for butterflies emerging from hibernation. Our butterfly habitat feeder offers roosting space for over wintering species and can be filled with food. We also offer a special feeder which can be charged with sugar/water solution, or soaked with butterfly attractant to encourage rarer species.
Rather than using pesticides, invite predators into your garden. Frogs, toads, hedgehogs and bats will feast upon your slugs, snails and greenfly, saving your plants from devastation. Almost all wildlife will appreciate a small amount of water so think about building a small pond. If space is an issue, a sunken washing up bowl will suffice – but ensure that you include a rock or piece of wood to allow creatures to get out easily. Unfortunately, visiting frogs and toads may become easy prey for prowling cats. Offer them a safe haven in the form of our purpose-built frog/toad house. The dual-chambered design provides both dry, over wintering space and a separate access door to a damp, soil-level haven.
Althea, Wellington Park,
Burton On Trent,
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