Spring has sprung – now it’s time to give nature a home

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

WoodesI’ve got everything crossed that this summer will be as glorious as last year’s.  But whatever the weather, wherever you live and however big or small your garden is, you can attract a whole array of wild visitors. And now spring has sprung, it’s a great time to get started – rain or shine…

If you think about it, all we really need to survive is a home, food and water. OK, so perhaps it’s not quite that simple for us humans, but wildlife really does have such basic requirements. With every new house and office block, nature is squeezed into a slightly smaller space so it’s vital that we make our gardens places where wild creatures can live, eat and breed.

In turn, your gardens could play host to all manner of wriggling, crawling, snuffling and flying creatures, adding colour, song and activity. Everyone’s a winner!

There are loads of ways to make your home a home for nature. Some are quick and inexpensive and others involve not doing something. Those ones are my favourite!

There are big projects to get your teeth into over time and smaller ones you can do on a quiet afternoon. And, if you want, all the activities could involve the whole family.
Step away from the lawnmower

GirlThe first thing you can do is leave your lawnmower in the shed a bit more. You don’t want your grass taking over your pathways and borders but by simply cutting it a little less often and leaving it a bit longer when you do, your lawn can be a great home for wildlife. Even better, if you have the room, is to leave a small corner patch to grow as long as possible. This wild area could attract butterflies and grasshoppers and produce some beautiful wildflowers.
While nature’s own planters, the birds and bees, will take care of the wildflowers, you can give things a helping hand by getting some seeds next time you next visit the garden centre. Varieties like aubretia, teasel and snapdragon are a perfect and an inexpensive way of instantly attracting nectar loving insects.

They might not grow overnight but trees are well worth waiting for. And if you have a small garden or balcony you can still encourage wildlife with a mixture of pot grown shrubs, climbers and dwarf trees. Depending on the space you have, options include crab apple, lavender, privet and ivy; all of which are great for birds and insects.

Dead wood is dead useful

HomesiceDead logs and old branches might not look immediately attractive to us but they are irresistible to amphibians, bugs, birds and mammals who will use it as a place to live, shelter and feed. So, whenever you tidy and prune, add the cut branches to a pile. If you’re trying to attract wildlife to a balcony, you can simply fill a bucket with soil, wood chippings and small branches – you’ll be surprised at how quickly the bugs move in!

Adding a pond to your garden is one of the very best ways to give nature a home. Even the smallest ponds could attract dragonflies, frogs and newts. And they will provide a welcome drink for thirsty birds too. Don’t think you have to dig up your lawn to create a pond – a bucket or washing up bowl with small rocks or stones and some native water and floating plants will do a good job, too.

Feeding frenzy 

Over half of the UK population feed the birds in their garden and in doing so are rewarded by a host of colourful feathered friends visiting bird tables and feeders. A variety of foods, put out all year round will give birds’ natural diet a boost, so as well as bird seed mixes give them things like porridge oats, grated mild cheese and fruit too. It’s important to keep this up year-round because birds come to know where food sources are and use up vital energy getting to your gardens so they need some fuel when they get there!

jaysNestboxes are a valuable home for birds and will be used for breeding in the spring and shelter in the winter. But it’s not just birds that you can provide a box for – hedgehogs, bats and frogs have their own versions too! An artificial home can be just as good as a natural one and in many cases their only option.

Another excuse to be lazy

Don’t be tempted to fill in those annoying little gaps in garden fences or walls – you’d be surprised how little space creatures like hedgehogs and toads need to squeeze through. These openings act as nature ‘highways’, allowing creatures to pass between gardens and having a positive impact on the wildlife that visits your whole street or neighbourhood.

It’s so tempting to pick up the first products you see in the garden centre, but by spending a few extra minutes considering the options you could become a much more environmentally friendly gardener. Two top tips include avoiding peat products (peat is been taken from some of the UK’s most valuable places for wildlife) and pesticides, which can harm plants and animals.

Giving nature a home while giving yourself a good feeling

Homesitat,So, next time you look at something as just a pile of old bricks and twigs or an overgrown lawn you’ll know it’s actually a five star hotel for bugs, birds and other animals. And hopefully the help you give your special guests will be repaid with plenty of activity and colour, adding life to your garden and a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy.

For more information on how to turn your outside space into a wildlife haven and give nature a home where you live, visit rspb.org.uk/homes.  The RSPB has over 200 reserves spanning mountains, valleys, beaches, heathland and wetlands. To find out more visit rspb.org.uk/reserves

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