Are you keen to create an urban wildlife garden? If you’re living in a town or city centre, even a tiny backyard can be transformed into a haven for wildlife.
You might think that if you live in a town centre there’s no point trying to attract wildlife to your tiny garden, but you couldn’t be more wrong! Local wildlife will be grateful to find a green oasis and will very happily move, whether on a temporary or permanent basis. Here are some practical tips to help you create an urban wildlife garden.
Urban wildlife garden tip 1: Plant as many plants as possible
This one might sound obvious, but it’s the most important. All wildlife likes cover, and if your garden is mostly paving stones and gravel they’ll feel too exposed. That doesn’t mean that you have to dig up all your hard surfaces and put a lawn in though – just maxmise what you have. Grow climbers such as clematis and jasmine up any fences.
If you do have any flowerbeds around the edges, then cram these full of plants. You can plant taller perennial shrubs such as buddleias and spiraea japonica at the back – just make sure you check how tall/wide they’re going to grow first! At the front, add bright, insect-friendly annuals such as cosmos, sweet williams and snapdragons. Depending on how much space you have, you could also let a corner of the bed go wild for a varied habitat.
If you don’t have flowerbeds, use pots! Larger pots are easier to look after and don’t need watering as often. You could try putting up a trough on legs and then filling the space underneath with terracotta pots, to get the maximum plants-for-space ratio.
Urban wildlife garden tip 2: Add water
All creatures need to drink, and in the summer local wildlife may be hard-pressed to find water. Adding a water source in your garden can be really helpful for them. Moving water such as a small fountain is ideal and will keep fresher for longer, but otherwise install a bird bath or just a large, shallow bowl of water such as an old baking tray.
If you have room, you could also consider adding a small garden pond – the wildlife would love it!
Urban wildlife garden tip 3: Add a food source
This can be a slightly tricky one if you live in an area with lots of cats! It’s still possible to put bird feeders out, though, just make sure you put them high enough. A tree is ideal, as it also provides cover, but otherwise you could position feeders on a high fence or the wall of the house. Top them up regularly with a varied offering of nuts, dried fruit, seed, suet and fresh fruit to attract varied visitors.
Urban wildlife garden tip 4: Don’t use pesticides
It’s a little more work to garden organically, but as long as your urban garden is fairly compact it shouldn’t be too onerous. Pull weeds up rather than spray them, pick slugs off rather than use slug pellets and if you do have to use a commercial product make sure it’s organic and wildlife friendly. Using pesticides disrupts the whole food chain, not just the pests you’re aiming at, as birds can eat poisoned slugs and become ill themselves.
Urban wildlife garden tip 5: Create shady areas
Wildlife appreciate having shady areas, so try and include some in your wildlife friendly garden. Small shrubs and perennial plants can create shady areas in borders and trees are an obvious choice too. You could create some shady places for hedgehogs by making your own hedgehog hideaways.
Urban wildlife garden tip 6: Install bird and bee boxes
If you’re keen to have more wildlife in your garden, installing areas where they could take up residence is a good move. A bird box can be attached to any existing trees, the top of a fence of even hidden in a bush. If you’re a dab hand at DIY, you could make your own using recycled materials.
Likewise, you might want to put up some bee boxes to attract bees or other insects into your garden.
Urban wildlife garden tip 7: Make compost
If you have the space, then installing a small compost bin for food and garden waste is helpful for everyone. It’s better for the planet, as you’re reducing your household waste; it’s better for you as you’ll have some free compost to use and it’s definitely better for the wildlife! Compost heaps or bins, as long as they’re placed directly onto the earth, will quickly become an insect hotel with worms and woodlice moving in. This provides more food for other wildlife such as birds and hedgehogs. You could also try leaving logs at the back of flowerbeds to decay naturally, which will offer a haven for insects.