Getting Started

Wildlife gardening is a little different from the normal style of gardening because you have to think about the wildlife with everything you do. The good thing about this is that a wildlife garden does not need a lot of maintenance. Let’s look at some of the beginner steps to creating a wildlife garden.

Think like a wildlife gardener

A wildlife garden is a little less tidy than a formal garden and this is the first thing that you have to get used to. This does not mean that your garden will be untidy and look bad, it is just a different way of gardening.

Bare ground under and around plants does not help the wildlife in any way so you have to learn to leave fallen leaves and twigs lying under the bushes and around some plants. You should even add grass clippings to this and spread them over the ground between your plants. This layer of grass, leaves and twigs forms a mulch that also helps your plants by keeping the ground cool and moist and you will also need to water the plants less often. Many little creatures will make their homes in this layer of mulch and they will also turn it into compost to feed your plants.

Many of the visitors to your garden, especially the birds, will want to have seeds to eat. They will prefer the seeds that grow naturally in your garden. If you keep on cleaning up old flowers and not allow grasses to grow tall and go to seed then you will be taking away their food. Leave some plants to go to seed to feed these birds and also have an area where grass is allowed to grow tall and set seed. This can be at the back of the flower bed, or in a corner close to a wall.

As you start gardening with nature in mind you will find that it becomes easier to enjoy the new look of your garden and not want to keep it too clean. The wild visitors will make it worthwhile.

Know your area and your plants.

The wildlife in your area will prefer the plants that are native to your area. These are plants that grow there naturally and have not been brought into the area from somewhere else. These are also called indigenous plants. If you don’t know which plants are indigenous to your area then you should visit your local nursery or garden centre and see if they can help you. There are also many books on this subject, just make sure that you are choosing a book that is specific to your area or country.

Gardening with native plants is good for a few reasons. Native plants are already used to the climate of the area and usually easy to grow in that area. They also need less water and the wildlife will be attracted to these plants.

This does not mean that you can’t have other types of plants in your garden, but choose them carefully. Make sure you put plants with the same needs close to each other in the garden. This means that you should group plants that like a lot of water together and those that prefer a drier soil will be together. It will make it much easier to look after your garden.

Wildlife needs water

Some fresh water in your garden will be welcome with most of your wild friends. The birds, butterflies and dragonflies all like to have water. Even toads and other small animals will use water that they can reach. If you make a small pond, make sure it has a shallow side with a gentle slope so that the creatures don’t get trapped and drown. A bird bath makes a lovely feature in the garden.

Take it one step at a time

Most people have quite a limited budget for their garden and can’t afford to pull up all their plants and replace them. You don’t have to do this. Start by using the mulch we spoke about earlier and then buy one or two native plants to add to your garden. Most birds and other small creatures like bushes and small trees so add a few indigenous ones if you can. And think carefully before you clean up too much.

Keeping notes

It is a good idea to keep notes about the plants and creatures in your garden. Before you start making changes make some notes about the different creatures you have seen in the garden. After you make changes you can make a note of these and write down any different creatures you notice in the garden. It is interesting to see which changes are attracting more wildlife to your garden and also how long it takes for the creatures to notice these changes and come and visit.

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