Create a garden for wildlife
Make your garden fit for the many wild animals seeking shelter, food or simply a place where they can feel at home. It does not take much to let hedgehogs, ladybirds, etc. feel welcome. Besides fixed abodes such as insect hotels, there are many other opportunities to encourage beneficial creatures in the garden. We can show you how to go about it.
The best way of protecting birds is to have a naturally designed garden. Here birds will usually find so much food that, in one of our normal winters, they will not necessarily need additional feeding. Here's what you can also do for birds:
- Don't prune shrubs until the spring to allow birds to find natural food at their seed stems.
- Only use environmentally friendly pesticides.
- Provide nesting opportunities with natural-looking woody bushes.
- If possible, leave old, rotten wood in the garden. It will offer opportunities for nesting, food and will provide bathing and drinking opportunities for birds.
- Hang up nesting aids and make sure that cats are kept away.
You should take down and clean nesting boxes by October at the latest. By washing the boxes thoroughly, you will remove parasites and other bugs that otherwise could give young chicks problems in the following year. Hang the boxes back up again as soon as you have cleaned them. Some animals such as the dormouse like to use these boxes for their winter hibernation. Autumn is the time to hang up new nesting boxes or to make your own. Don't forget to protect them from cats that love to hunt. You can buy ready-made "thorn rings" which make it impossible for predators to climb the trees.
Look at your garden through the eyes of a hedgehog or bird. There will be many spots where you can make life easier for larger garden dwellers. Secure cellar wells and stairs so that hedgehogs, toads and other four-footed animals can easily escape. A diagonal board or bricks that halve the height of the steps are a big help.
- If possible, you should cover water tanks and rainwater barrels to make sure small animals don't drown in them.
- Water basins and ponds close to the ground should always offer animals a way of crawling out. It can be a board leading to dry land or a flat bank.
- If you have piles of sticks or wood that is only disposed of after lengthy periods, please proceed very carefully. Many species of animal may have already set up home.
- Don't leave any synthetic nets lying around in which birds or hedgehogs can become entangled.
Small and large stones constantly collect in the garden as you remove them from flower beds. Pile these stones up in a quiet, sunny spot in the garden. Here they will offer a place in the sun for many animals and at the same time a place of retreat. They include sand lizards, for example, which can be easily observed in such spots. Weasels, shrews, toads, slowworms and various insects may make their homes in a rock pile. In the summer they will help you to control pests as they eat a lot of aphids and in some cases snails, too. The cavities also serve as living space for various insects. The red-tailed bumblebee, for example, likes to build its nest under stones, and these nests can consist of 100 to 200 workers.
Dragonflies are a protected species in Germany as many types are threatened by the disappearance of their habitats. Depending on the species, they need clear streams, water courses, meadow ditches, ponds, wetlands and other waters with as few fish as possible. Because fish love to eat dragonfly larvae in the water, here's what you can do to protect dragonflies:
- Construct a garden pond partially in the sun with just a few fish.
- Line the bank of your garden pond with marsh plants.
- If possible, don't mow the edges of ponds. Otherwise you will destroy the dragonflies' habitat.
- Support the renaturation of streams and other waters in your area.
All of us are pleased to see gaily-coloured butterflies hovering over blooms on sunny days. You, too, can entice them into your garden. To do so, you need to find as sunny a spot as possible with no breeze. You can attract these flower fans with a special range of plants they like to feed on:
- Lilacs attract butterflies like a magnet.
- Plant lavender, rudbeckia, asters, thistles, boneset, viper's bugloss and cornflowers.
- Bushes such as blackthorn, bramble and raspberry, in addition to hazel and roses are suitable for offering food for plant-eating caterpillars. Nettles, purple loosestrife, meadowsweet, rosebay willowherb, red clover, bird's foot trefoil and vetches, to name but a few, are also helpful.
In the autumn, leave some fruits hanging on apple-trees and pear-trees. Late butterflies such as commas or admirals will be attracted to them. It is also helpful to do without sources of light at night, or only to use them sparingly, in order to make orientation easier for moths.
Offer birds, hedgehogs and insects opportunities to drink and bathe in summer. Many animals cannot find enough water at times of the year with low rainfall and become distressed.
A bathing spot is also a wonderful place to observe birds. Plant saucers, hung from a firm branch by a chain or cord, are great for this. A height of 4 cm is quite deep enough, and a stone in the middle serves as an additional place to sit and allows insects to rest. You can also buy ready-made bird baths.
A drinking source close to the ground will help hedgehogs and other small mammals in the dry season. Make sure that the vessel is not too deep and that it has a flat edge or a ledge to ensure that lost animals can find their way out.
Bees have high endurance, and they can fly up to 3 km from their colony in order to find nectar and pollen. You need flowering plants to ensure that they can find enough sustenance. Here you can find plants that honeybees particularly like to feed on. There are many plants to consider, such as grape hyacinths, liverworts, aubretia, phacelia, ornamental leeks and globe thistles. It is particularly important to have a good supply of pollen-bearing plants in summer and autumn. In many gardens there are not many plants flowering at that time, and even in the countryside, there are only a few flowering sources of pollen. Please also remember that although double blooms look very beautiful,
their stamens have been converted to petals as a result of breeding activity. This means they offer no pollen and are thus worthless to our flower-seekers. It is preferable, therefore, to plant varieties with single blooms.
In caring for your garden, make sure you use pesticides that are not harmful to bees such as the ones from Neudorff. If a product is harmful to bees, it is required to say so on the pack.
Don't tidy up your garden too thoroughly in the autumn! Hedgehogs like to use piles of leaves and sticks as a hiding-place where they can go into hibernation. These piles should be in a somewhat protected and dry corner of the garden.
Many insects also spend the winter under leaves, such as the useful ladybirds. The adults hole up there and are easily able to survive temperatures down to –15° C. It will help them if you spread the leaves on beds and tree slabs and leave them there until the spring. The leaves will decompose faster if you spread Organic Compost Accelerator on them. It will not harm the animals.
Please do not use any leaf blowers or worse still leaf vacs. They will harm and disturb too many of your small garden residents!