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Simple pleasures don’t come much finer than relaxing outside on a sunny day to a gentle soundtrack of buzzing bees and twittering birds.
Many of us don’t have the luxury of a large garden or hours and hours to spend on carefully nurturing it – but it’s actually a lot simpler than you might think to turn your own outdoor space (big or small) into a magnet for wildlife.
We’ve teamed up with The Wildlife Trusts to come up with these seven essential creature comforts that will help you establish your own nature haven at home.
1. Open a bee hotel
Mason bees are more effective pollinators than bumblebees, and they lay their eggs in hollow stems – so a great way to encourage them and other insects to your outdoor space is with a ‘bee hotel’ made from wooden tubes of different sizes. They’re widely available to buy online for as little as around £10 (more if you prefer a luxury hotel!) or if you’re feeling creative you can watch The Wildlife Trusts’ Vice President Nick Baker show you how to make one.
2. Feed the birds
It’s a myth that you should only feed birds during the winter. With natural food sources dwindling, they need all the help they can get to find food all year round – especially in the spring when they have chicks to feed. Bird feeders are available in all shapes and sizes, and there are even designs which attach to windows so you don’t even need a garden at all. The best food to put out is live food such as mealworms, which are readily available online.
3. Help nest-builders
From early spring onwards you’ll see birds gathering material to build their nests – and you can give them a helping hand by hanging bundles of straw, hay or grasses (or even an old shredded woollen jumper!) close to your feeding station. Many birds raise broods of chicks well into the summer so be sure to leave your bundles out throughout the warmer months.
4. Get wild
Sowing wildflowers is a fantastic way to attract bees and butterflies to your outdoor space, and you can buy packets of seeds from any garden centre. Sow them in a flower bed, pots, window boxes or even on your lawn, and choose plants that flower at different times of the year to keep the insects coming back for more.
5. Encourage social climbers
As well as being pretty to look at, climbing plants provide valuable shelter and food for wildlife. They’re also pretty versatile and don’t take up much space on the ground – so you can use them to hide an ugly fence or grow them on the wall of your home or your balcony. Ivy and clematis are good climbers for bees and butterflies, jasmine is great for moths and birds love honeysuckle and Virginia creeper.
6. Keep the dead wood
Dead wood is a valuable habitat for a wide range of insects and other invertebrates, so consider leaving fallen branches or old logs in your flower beds to give them a place to take shelter. Log piles can also make an interesting feature for your outdoor space and you can get hold of log bags for just a few pounds from most garden centres, DIY stores and large supermarkets.
7. Let it grow
If you have a lawn and aren’t keen on mowing it, consider letting part of it grow a bit longer than the rest or cut a section of grass annually (instead of every couple of weeks) – the perfect option for lazy gardeners! Long grass is excellent for grasshoppers, beetles and amphibians.
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