How to Encourage Birds to Nest in Your Garden
When birds come to nest in your garden, you get to see their life cycle from a ringside seat. You’ll hear beautiful birdsong as your garden birds woo one another. You’ll see nest building taking place. And you may even get to witness fledgling birds taking their first solo flight.
So how can you encourage birds to nest in your garden? Here are a few top tips:
Birds are attracted to gardens with a ready supply of food. They certainly won’t nest anywhere that doesn’t meet their basic needs. So that means providing bird food all year round. This could be a mix of bird seed, berries and fattier foods in winter months.
Ensure a Constant Water Supply
As well as food, birds need a reliable supply of drinking water. A bird bath or any shallow water-tight container will do the trick. You’ll need to change the water regularly to keep it clean. And remember that birds will feel much more comfortable taking a drink if they are in a raised position. That way they can easily spot any approaching predators.
Birds won’t want to visit your garden unless they feel safe. Perfectly manicured lawns, decking and bare fences don’t provide the cover from predators that birds look for. Provide some kind of shelter in the form of shrubs, trees and climbing plants. Hedgerows are another popular bird hideout if you have the space.
Maintain a Welcoming Bird Box
Birds can be pretty picky about where they choose to nest. This means just hanging a nest box isn’t necessarily enough to attract a courting pair. Put up nest boxes as early in the year as you can as birds sometimes scope out nesting spots during winter. And place them in a sheltered spot, away from feeders and the reach of cats.
Leave Out Nesting Materials
To really give nesting birds a helping hand, you can leave out some the materials they need to build strong, stable and cosy homes. You may be able to find wool scraps, feathers, twigs and even pet hair lying around the house. By forming these into a wreath or leaving them in an empty plant pot, you’ll provide a veritable DIY warehouse for nest builders.
Getting birds to nest in your garden means covering all of their needs. If your garden feels safe, provides food and water, and offers some cosy nesting spots, garden birds are much more likely to set up home there.
How to Create A Butterfly Garden
Butterflies are beautiful creatures. But they’re also an important part of the food chain. A range of birds, bats and insect-eating mammals all depend on butterflies and moths as a food source.
Why Create a Butterfly Garden?
Worryingly, three quarters of butterfly species across the UK are currently in decline. Habitats are being destroyed and weather patterns are changing, making their future uncertain. There’s never been a better time to welcome these amazing creatures into your garden.
How to Create a Butterfly Garden
Want to encourage butterflies to visit your garden? Here are a few key things you can do:
Create Butterfly Food
Butterflies like colourful, nectar-rich flowers. Clusters of short, tubular flowers or flat-topped blossoms provide a great landing and feeding spot for butterflies. Try to create a garden that flowers throughout the spring and summer, providing a constant food source for butterfly visitors.
Add Caterpillar Friendly Plants
You’re unlikely to see many butterflies in your garden unless you’re happy to welcome their offspring too. Caterpillars feed on nettles, thistles, grasses, holly and ivy – and female butterflies tend to lay their eggs on these plants. Include a few of them in your garden and let the grass grow a little longer in one patch of lawn.
Make Your Garden as Sunny as Possible
If your garden is very shady, you won’t attract many butterflies. Butterflies rely on the sun to raise their body temperature each morning, allowing them to fly and stay active. Try to create at least one sunny spot within your garden.
Put up a Butterfly Box
A butterfly box will provide a safe haven for your garden butterflies during cold and rainy summer days. Some butterflies also overwinter as adults and need a warm, dry place in which to hibernate. Place a butterfly box close to the shrubbery that would usually attract butterflies in need of shelter.
Pesticides can be extremely harmful to butterflies and other pollinating insects. Avoid using them near any flowering plants. And be careful not to introduce new plants into the garden unless you know that they are free from potential harmful chemicals. It may be worth growing your own from seed or seeking out an organic garden centre so you can be sure.
Creating food, shelter and warmth will make your garden very attractive to butterflies. Put in a little work and you’ll be able to admire your beautiful garden visitors throughout the spring and summer.
Keep your bird feeders clean to prevent diseasesScientists have warned that garden bird feeders are contributing to the spread of avian diseases. Even previously rare diseases are turning into epidemics amongst some bird species.
- Nikki Boxwild
- Tags: birds
6 Best Garden-Friendly Insects
Gardeners often think of insects as unwelcome pests. When you spend lots of time caring for your plants, you don’t want them to be damaged by a hoard of ravenous bugs. But there are some six-legged creatures that help rather than hinder the growth of your garden.
Here are six of the best garden-friendly insects:
Hoverflies are often mistaken for wasps. They have a similar black and yellow colouring. But they don’t sting and they don’t have a bulgy abdomen and waspy waist. These flies feed on nectar and pollen so they help to pollinate your plants. Their larvae also feed on aphids and other garden pests.
Ground beetles love nothing better than feasting on some of our most troublesome garden pests – slugs and snails. And they like gardens where shady hidey holes are available during the day. So create a log or leaf pile or even a bug hotel to attract these helpful insects.
Parasitic wasps (which are all non-stinging) lay their eggs on or in other insects. The egg hatches and then eats the host alive before turning into an adult wasp. This is bad news for the caterpillars, ants and aphids that act as a host. But good news for your garden.
Butterflies and Moths
Butterfly and moth larvae will eat your plants. However, by growing a patch of long grass or giving over an ivy or holly plant to caterpillars, you can enjoy all of the benefits their parents bring to your garden. Butterflies and moths are excellent pollinators, helping your plants to reproduce year in, year out. A butterfly box gives them much-needed shelter on cold and rainy days.
Ladybirds are carnivorous. They feed on aphids and on red spider mites. A ladybird will lay its eggs in aphid colonies so its offspring have a ready source of food. When they hatch a single ladybird larvae can eat up to 5,000 aphids.
Lacewings are beautiful creatures. They have a small green body and huge, lace-like wings. Both adults and their larvae love to eat aphids and mites. A single lacewing larvae can eat up to 500 greenfly in the two weeks it takes to develop. Put up a lacewing box (that will also double as a ladybird box) to help these insects survive the winter.
Not all insects are a gardener’s enemy. Even the aphids we try so hard to get rid of provide a food source for the good bugs. And if you like the idea of cultivating a wildlife garden, you need to provide tasty treats for creatures at every stage of the food chain.
How to Protect Garden Wildlife in Winter
During the winter, garden wildlife is particularly vulnerable. Cold weather means less food, chilly temperatures and fewer places to hide from predators. Some of our bird gifts are perfect for helping garden birds through the winter. But here are a few other tips on how to protect garden wildlife during the coldest months of the year:
Defrost Water Sources
Insects, birds and mammals need clean drinking water. Leave out a bowl of fresh water every day. If you have a pond, defrost it on particularly cold days. Rest a warm pan on the ice to create a drinking hole. Don’t use boiling water or break the ice as this can harm creatures living in your pond.
Avoid Cutting Back Perennials
Your garden may look a little unruly but all of that extra foliage is providing a much needed hiding place for garden wildlife. Avoid cutting back your shrubs for as long as possible. You could even consider adding a few new shrubs to the garden. Because perennials are so hardy they don’t mind being planted during the winter.
Leave out a Regular Source of Food
The birds and mammals who visit you garden come to rely on the food you leave for them. Their usual food sources are scarce and they need lots of energy to maintain their body heat. If you’re in the habit of leaving out food, be sure to continue during the winter, including fatty food options when you can. This is when your garden wildlife needs your help most.
Create Leaf Piles
Gather leaves from your lawn and place them in piles at the borders or corners of your garden. These leaf piles will attract insects. Ground-feeding birds will love to turn over the leaves looking for a tasty snack.
Choose Christmas Traditions Wisely
Many shops now sell “reindeer food”, which children are encouraged to sprinkle on the lawn as a treat for Santa’s helpers on Christmas Eve. But many of these food packs include glitter and foil. These could be damaging to birds and mammals who are liable to eat them along with the other edible ingredients. The RSPCA recommends making your own reindeer food mix – a great Christmas tradition that could help rather than hinder your garden wildlife.
Surviving the British winter is tough for many species of wildlife. By doing a little garden maintenance and providing a helping hand, you can protect your garden wildlife and ensure they make it through to spring.
- Nikki Boxwild
Boxwild featured in The GuardianBoxwild's Bird Feeder Gift Box was lucky enough to feature in The Guardian online and Observer Sunday Magazine a few weeks ago. It has been a busy few weeks since then!
- Nikki Boxwild