Welcome Wild Garden Guests

The right plants, shrubs and trees encourage all sorts of insects, birds and animals to visit your garden

Do you enjoy relaxing in your garden at the end of a busy work day? Perhaps you enjoy the fragrant flowers or unwind as you listen to the soothing sound of running water. You may enjoy your garden, so why don’t you invite some guests to enjoy it too? If you create the correct environment in your
garden, you can welcome birds, butterflies, frogs and beneficial insects to find food and shelter within your property boundaries. Helen Lachenicht, co-author of Making Sense of Garden Design (Briza Publications) and founder of the Irene School of Garden Design, says that wildlife in our gardens adds to the quality and pleasure we get from them. “Small conservancies and even tiny sections of the garden that provide for our natural flora and fauna make a difference to the survival of a surprising number of creatures,” says Helen. “Once established, a natural garden requires much less maintenance and water.”

Perfect planting

Even before other garden elements are put in place, plants and trees have an impact on the type of wildlife that will visit your garden. Colourful scented plants attract a wealth of insects and birdlife, as do fruit trees. Butterflies and bees feed on nectar and assist in pollination as they move from flower to flower. Indigenous plants should always be considered first. Not only do they attract wildlife, but they are usually very water-wise. A selection of plants that bear fruit, berries, seeds and nectar will attract an array of different visitors. Dense, private shrubs and taller trees provide homes for birds and other elusive visitors. Helen says that if you want to attract wildlife you must avoid the use of all synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Choose from a range of organic

Just add water

An appropriate water source is a magnet for creatures great and small. “A water feature or pond has the added bonus of being a visual attraction in the garden, a place of joyful activity for little humans and it attracts myriads of birds, insects and small creatures, many of which are predators and will happily gobble up destructive bugs in the garden,” says Helen. Whether you choose to add a small fountain or garden pond, first make sure the feature you decide on fits in with the size of your garden. Larger features in small gardens look out of place, while a small pond in a very large garden may look lost. Plant the area next to the pond with plants that are in proportion to the pond size and the size of your garden. Natural ponds, whether small or large, attract all sorts of aquatic life to the garden. Helen says that frogs often appear, as if by magic, and are a sign of a healthy garden.

A place for the birds

Wild birds have simple needs – food, water and shelter. If you can provide for any of these needs, the birds will visit your garden. Set up a bird table and start introducing simple food items. The birds may take a while to find the new food source, but give them a chance and you’ll soon be rewarded with a wonderful display. Feeding patterns change with the season. For summer, Helen suggests organic seed and grain as well as spoilt fruit (either from your home, or ask your grocer for discounted crops). Also consider a bird bath to attract birds. These must be kept clean and refilled with fresh water daily.

A garden pond will attract not only birds, but also other small animals, reptiles and frogs

Hidden from view

You may not think of what goes on under your soil, but earthworms are also welcome guests in the garden. They help to aerate the soil and their castings are good
compost. Don’t throw away grass clippings when you mow your lawn. Sprinkle it on the soil surface as mulch. It will help to prevent the soil from drying out and reduce weed growth. It also provides food for earthworms and creates a safe,

Keep critters safe

If your pets have access to your garden, you will need to consider your wild guests and make sure that they are safe. Helen says that domestic cats do pose a danger to
some wildlife in the garden but cat collars aren’t ideal – for the cat or her prey. She suggests using a cat-proof bird feeder or placing the bird table in an open area
where cats would have difficulty stalking undetected. Provide escape routes and hiding places for small visitors – like plastic pipes, hollow logs and plenty of rocks.

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