Top tips for attracting wildlife to your garden

There are many wildlife visitors coming to your garden, some you will see, others remain hidden. The Moment magazine online's garden guru ANNE SMITH investigates...

The easiest to see are birds. There are various ways of attracting them to your garden and the most popular way is by feeding them, either by using seed/nut feeders or from the bird table. Never put food directly on the ground as this will encourage vermin. Whichever method you choose hygiene is important as with a large number of birds attracted into an area to feed, the danger of disease increases. Supplementary feeding cannot provide all the natural proteins and vitamins that adult and young birds need, so it is important to create and manage your garden to provide a source of natural foods as well, through well managed lawns, shrubs and flower beds. Autumn is a good time to consider planting fruit and berry bearing trees or bushes in the garden including rowan, holly, whitebeam, dog rose, elder, hawthorn, honeysuckle and ivy. Attractive shrubs like cotoneaster, pyracantha and berberis are especially good for a wide range of birds. Berry- and fruit-bearing trees provide food for a range of insects and animals too. Hedgehogs, badgers, mice, squirrels and even foxes will happily feed on them. All sorts of fruit are attractive to insects, especially as they ripen.

Plants which butterflies find attractive are sedum, tagetes, yarrow, lupine, hollyhock, lavender, sweet William, to mention but a few. One rare and exciting visitor who may come to your garden is the humming bird hawk moth. Its long proboscis and its hovering behaviour, accompanied by an audible humming noise, make it look remarkably like a hummingbird.  Adults are particularly fond of nectar-rich flowers with a long and narrow calyx since they can then take advantage of their long proboscis and avoid competition from other insects.  Examples of such plants are centranthus, buddleia, nicotiana, primila, viola, verbena, phlox.

Bees are happy to visit any flowering plants or shrubs so make sure you have plenty in your garden.

Although not considered very attractive in well kept gardens, the stinging nettle is one of the most important native plants for wildlife in the UK, supporting over 40 species of insect.  Another important but often overlooked element in the garden is a heap of dead and decaying wood. Standing and fallen decaying wood is very important for wildlife such as insects, fungi, mosses and lichens, so if you can find a corner for this it would be beneficial.

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