By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 26 July 2011)
Would you like to create an animal-friendly garden that provides plenty of nature-watching opportunities? Here are some things you can do to attract more wildlife to your garden.
Let Your Garden Grow Wild
Allow your garden to grow a little wild. Leave a few weeds, which are great sources of sustenance for bees and certain birds, and don’t cut your perennials back until spring so that they can provide seed and shelter for various animals and insects throughout the winter.
Let your grass grow long to provide a habitat for amphibians, beetles, grasshoppers, and other creatures. Also, when you mow grass or trim plants, leave the cuttings on the ground, as organic material supports a broad array of plants and invertebrates. It’s best to shred leaves with a mower rather than raking them off the lawn for the same reason.
Grow climbing plants against fences and walls, or over garden features such as arches and pagodas, to provide food and cover for various animals.
Provide Food and Water
Add a bird bath, pond, fountain, or all three to provide drinking water and bathing opportunities. Ponds in particular attract a wide variety of creatures. A pond can be a fancy, elaborate construction, or simply a large pot sunk into the ground and filled with water. Add a few water plants to make the pond more attractive.
Grow a wide range of native plants to provide food and shelter for local animals. Shrubs and trees that produce berries are particularly good choices for birds (see the Bees page, the Birds page, and the Butterfly page for top tree, shrub, and flower choices).
One or more bird feeders will also be a big draw. See the Bird Food page for tips on what to put in your bird feeders to attract various species.
Create Homes for Creatures
Add nesting boxes, bee houses, and other features to encourage assorted creatures to make your garden their home.
Use dead wood as a decorative garden feature. It provides an excellent habitat for invertebrates, and is an attractive natural accent to the garden décor.
Strategically placed piles of stones can also become homes for many different creatures. Placed near ponds, the spaces between the stones create apartments for amphibians such as frogs. Certain birds and bumblebees also create their nests among stone piles or walls, and voles and woodmice breed under stones. In addition, plants such as wild thyme (which attracts many beneficial insects) can be grown on sunny rocky slopes.
Create an Environmentally Friendly Garden
Maintain a compost heap in the garden. Not only will it reduce waste and improve your garden soil, but compost also provides a home and food for various birds and insects (and has the added benefit of drawing slugs and snails away from your plants).
Use natural garden pest control rather than toxic chemicals and control weeds with mulching.
For more gardening articles, visit the main Gardening page.