“Ahh… the glory of gardening… hands in the soil, head in the sun, and heart in tune with nature!” As Alfred Austin, the English poet rightly said, “To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” Gardeners shoulder a modest albeit important responsibility of creating and maintaining biodiversity over a small patch of land. Plants, birds, insects and small animals come together to create an ecosystem in your backyard that can look and feel amazing.
Imagine opening the door to your garden, to watch the butterflies flutter, and the squirrels scurry. Imagine enjoying the hum of the bees interrupted by an occasional croak of a toad. All of these in a setting straight out of a fairy tale land, bursting with flowers and greenery and feathery visitors.
It is not too difficult to create dynamic gardens or living gardens. Like all things in gardening, attracting garden wildlife requires time, patience, experimentation and a heart full of love. Here are 7 easy garden hacks to get you started.
Old fencing, brick walls and tiled roofs provide tiny niches and hiding places for garden wildlife. To add some more, you can use old bricks to create an outline along your pathway or around old sturdy trees. You can even use bricks to specially create your very own creepy-crawly tower.
Go for a raised brick structure for a flower bed or to line you patio. You can even incorporate a small water feature with the bricks. Use bricks innovatively to write the names of various trees and plants, and leave them around as markers!
If you have the space, go for an eco-shed with a green roof which can be an amazing little haven for small insects and butterflies. To make one, you can use recycled wood with a special coat of wood protector for the walls, and line the base with recyclable polypropylene tiles. Before you create a green roof, make sure your shed is fortified with high quality timber to be able to withstand the weight. Living roofs can especially be lined with sedum (flowering plants with succulent leaves) which is perfect for encouraging insects to visit.
Creating a shed on your own is quite a DIY project. So take this up only if you have some skills in carpentry, and can invest sufficient time and effort in maintaining the shed.
Don’t frown on those words because without tiny little critters, your fruit trees won’t be pollinated and birds will have nothing to feed on. But if you feel that old bricks may hamper the appeal of your garden, you can go for a readymade insect hotel.
Yes, you heard that right! Made entirely of recycled materials such as, old pallets, logs and bricks, amazing looking insect hotels or homes are available in the market for the little residents. While some bugs may stay just during the season, others could become long-term residents. Keep your hotel relatively close to your flowering herbs and voila, you have little helpers to maintain your garden for you.
If you are not up for investing in this, then simply leave an old unstained or unpainted wood log partially buried in a corner. It will add a rustic feel to the garden and make a great home for insects.
A small pond or stretch of water is ideal for attracting frogs, newts and dragon flies into your garden. It adds to your garden’s aesthetic value and creates a naturally soothing atmosphere that can reduce stress and improve overall health. Here are some tips to help you build a pond.
1. Start by thinking where you want to build your pond. Do you want it to have a cascade of flowing water or a quiet space to hold the water lilies?
2. Excavate the area (3 – 5 feet depth for small ponds) and line it up with a tub liner
3. Attach the pump and lay the hose along the bed. You will need to make it inconspicuous by hiding it with some garden stones.
4. Add your water plants. You can introduce water lilies for a start. Also be sure to add some submerged plants to keep the water oxygenated. You can also add certain kinds of fishes to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
5. Line the pond’s edges with stones and turn on the water!
If you are unsure to take on this project or its maintenance, you can even create a mini pond in a large garden pot. Other than plastic and metal, you can pretty much use anything to make a mini pond. Place it anywhere in your garden and have a nice variety of tall and short plants like tall spiky cattail, water lettuce and spider lily.
This makes a great addition to your garden to attract a variety of local birds at different times of the day. But the placement of your birdfeeder is a slightly tricky thing. Place it too close to your home, and it may result in the birds hitting a window. Place it too close to a tree, and you may have squirrels or even bird-eating cats jumping on them. The trick is to keep them where you can see at a distance of about 10-12 feet from your home, in a slightly shaded spot.
The quaint feeders shown above are from Green & Blue, suppliers of garden and landscape accessories in United Kingdom. It takes time for birds to discover feeders, so be patient and leave some seeds sprinkled outside for a few days. Once they start flocking, consistently provide food to keep the visitors coming back for more.
Bees need two things – food and shelter, and you need to provide both of these in your garden to attract them. Start by planting pollen and nectar rich plants such as hardy salvia, rudbeckia, lavender and nepeta. Create a mix of wild flowers; mainly single flowers (that have just one ring of petals), as they have more nectar.
The aforementioned critter hotels offer a safe place for bees too, besides insects. You can also provide a bush pile and dry grass to help bees create their own cosy nesting.
Bird boxes add an amazingly snug feel to living gardens. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes in the market, you’ll never know who will make these their homes and start a family there! Just like your home, pick a birdhouse that has insulated sides (thick wood), slant roofs to keep out the rain, drainage holes, ventilation, and no outside perches. The hole should be of the size of the feathery tenant you expect to have.
This involves simply not picking up the dry leaves that fall from the trees in certain areas and provide nutrition, food and shade to your garden’s inhabitants. If you want your garden to be neat, you will need to create a deliberate corner where old leaves can be collected and left for wildlife to take on an unhindered course.
With a dynamic garden, you will never experience boredom in your life. Because there’s always something happening out there, and you are an important part of it! For more inspiring ideas, check out this ideabook – How to Attract Helpful Animals for My Garden