/ Home & Energy, Sustainability

Do you try to attract wildlife to your garden?

Gardening and wildlife go hand in hand. Do you do a little more to attract wildlife to your outside spaces? I discuss the results of our recent member survey.

Our outside spaces are a haven for a diverse range of creatures, from beneficial insects, such as butterflies, bees and hoverflies, to birds of prey and nocturnal mammals.

We wanted to find out which birds, animals and insects visit your gardens, which are the most common and what you do to encourage wildlife.

In February, we asked our members what wildlife they’d seen in their gardens in the past 12 months, and what they’d like to see but haven’t.

We asked about where they live (urban or rural areas), the size of their gardens, if there are any creatures they’d prefer didn’t visit their gardens, what they do to attract wildlife and which actions they think are most effective.

A wealth of wildlife

Of the 3,378 people who responded to our survey, six in 10 told us they were looking after a garden smaller than a quarter of a tennis court up to 200 sq m (about the size of a full tennis court).

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Almost all of them (bar seven respondents) did something to encourage wildlife, from having bird baths and piles of logs to compost heaps and areas of unkempt grass.

The most popular wildlife aid was a bird table or feeder (just over three quarters of respondents have one).

It was also rated as the most effective way to get more wildlife into your garden – just over half of people involved gave it top spot.

Growing plants that produce berries, nuts or hips was also popular for helping wildlife, along with having native trees and hedges, nectar-rich plants for pollinators, leaving out food for animals, delaying cutting back perennials and putting up nest boxes.

This contribution to Which? Conversation first appeared in the May 2019 edition of Which? Gardening (page 24: β€˜Garden Wildlife Survey’).

Do you try to attract birds and other wildlife to your garden? If so, do you have any tips to share about the best methods? On the other hand, would you rather wildlife stayed away? Let us know why.

Sue says:
25 May 2019

The types of flowers you buy are also relevant – open single petal (rather than hybrid double blooms) – lavender it perfect for bees, poppies, Rosemary, thyme – and water. You don’t need a pond – an old shallow tray will do and the insects will attract a huge variety of birds

Don’t mow all the lawn at once when trefoil and clover is in flower – the bees and other insects love it.🐝
Don’t prune pyracantha and other bushes with berries until the berries are over – the birds love them. 🐦 🐀
Don’t use weed killer.☣ ⚰

Leave windfall apples for deer and birds.🦌
Leave slabs in shady places for toads and lizards to hide. 🐸 🦎
Leave a wild patch of old wood, leaves, brambles and stinging nettles. πŸ¦” πŸ› πŸ¦‹ 🐍 πŸ¦•

Provide ground and raised bird baths. πŸ› 🐀 🐦 πŸ¦” 🦊 🐿 πŸ¦†

Use old flour and fatty liquid to make fox biscuits. 🦊 It’s what you call recycling and the circular economy. πŸ’© ♻️

Dick says:
26 May 2019

I’ve replaced my front lawn with a mixture low growing shrubs (helianthemums), heathers (mostly erica carnea), creeping thyme, sedums and alpine phlox. I keep it all in check using a heavy duty strimmer after flowering (twice a year). It looks good and the birds love it. Every summer it is populated by grasshoppers – I hadn’t seen or heard one for years until I did this!

Our urban garden is about 2 meters square and it attracts bumble bees, snails and other lovely things. We’ve got window boxes too for more bumble bees, bees, spiders, etc. We’ve deliberately planted flowering species that attract all sorts of insects.

Thank you for all sharing your tips! Delighted to see so many on Facebook, too:


I’ll be passing this all on to the Gardening team – we could well follow this up with a round-up of all your advice πŸ™‚

I am loving these comments – so nice to hear about what people are doing to help wildlife in their gardens.

We have recently created a wood pile in the garden and hoping to attract stag beetles and other wood loving insects.

Another top tip is connecting your garden to the ones around you with a CD case sized hole to help hedgehogs.

I was talking to someone who remarked they hadn’t seen any swifts or swallows this year so I said I would investigate for them.

I was absolutely sickened by this article I found:

The simple truth is that our migrating birds are being ‘harvested’ in huge numbers as they fly south in the autumn and north in the spring, and many of our conservation charities have not yet caught up with the horrific consequences.

Trapped in cheap Chinese mist nets slung between tall poles, millions of our summer visitors are being caught, sold and eaten.

Accurate figures are hard to find, but up to 140 million birds a year are being slaughtered as they pass through just one country: Egypt.

A investigation by German TV estimated that mist nests are erected along 700 kilometres of the Egyptian coast and in the Nile Valley, capturing a range of birds from the stunning golden oriole to the tiny but beautiful willow warbler.

There is similar bloodshed in Lebanon, Morocco and in most of the North African countries…

I moved home in 2016 and one of the attractions of the garden was light, sandy soil, unlike the heavy clay that I had struggled with for years. After years of having to dig out weeds I can now pull up most weeds, which makes gardening easier.

My disappointment has been that I have struggled to grow familiar plants that grew happily in my old garden. None of the heathers I brought with me have survived. I have had mixed success with azaleas and rhododendrons. All my efforts to grow various lavenders failed, but one I left in a pot is thriving and the bees love it.

Spring was a great time for watching birds at the feeders but much of the seed seems to end up on the grass where it is eaten by obese wood pigeons.

There is a short period in the spring when heavy clay is between the too wet and too dry stages that weeding is slightly easier, the 95% rest of the year, it is very hard work. Have you checked what plants found in sandy seaside areas might grow in your soil.

Do you have many wood pigeons? We used to see a lot of collared doves and wood pigeons maybe 50 of each at a time, but we now only have a couple of regular wood pigeons. We have seen a couple of collared doves this year the first for at least 5 years. They have been replaced by a few stock doves, a pair of feral pigeons, and white doves. The white doves (escaped from somewhere), started as a pair 3 years ago and have no problem multiplying. They are also the bullies of the garden and have no fear of us. If you think wood pigeons are greedy, white doves are even worse.

Do you put mixed seed in your feeders? We used to, but birds are quite fussy and drop what they don’t like that can end up a disgusting mess under the feeders and encourage the wood pigeons. The only seeds we now put in feeders are sunflower hearts, more expensive, but less waste.

The RHS give a comprehensive list of plants for sandy soils. Best to avoid unsuitable plants. Favourites can always be grown in pots and tubs.

I’m on clay and have lightened the soil over the years with compost, home grown largely from lawn mowerings and shredded hedge clippings (aided by Garotta) and spent mushroom compost. Makes the weeds easier to extract as well.

The crows work as a team on the bird feeder. One grabs the perch and flaps its wings to swing the feeder, spilling seed on the ground. The others then breakfast on that. They don’t seem to mind other species joining in, whether tits or pigeons

Although there is a small chalk quarry a mile down the road, there is little evidence of much free lime. I did check when I moved in. Nevertheless, the pH is probably fairly high and I’ve had to treat rhododendrons with sulphur and iron to deal with chlorosis. Lavenders did seem suitable for the well drained soil, but they did not thrive until I tried one in a pot.

The birds are safe round here because I’ve only seen a single cat and it’s not very athletic.

This morning we were watching a young greater spotted woodpecker being fed by its parent, such a wonderful sight.
(not my photo)

Just now we saw its remains on the lawn near the birdbath, so sad and it just makes me so angry.

In the rural-ish area where we live, the first thing newcomers do when they move in is get themselves cats. WHY???? They are just killing machines especially to the young wildlife who haven’t had time to learn to fear them.

Cats should be banned from going outside this time of year. GRRRRR.

We’re surrounded by hill farms, and they all have cats and small terriers, apparently to control the rat populations. But we also have huge numbers of nests in our trees (we have a lot of trees…) and one wood pigeon nest immediately outside our downstairs entrance below the canopy I fixed some years ago.

Daft as brushes, wood pigeons, They still haven’t cottoned onto the fact that they’re perfectly safe where they are, and every time we open the door there’s a huge panicked flapping as they desert the nest. Surely even a bird can make the link between being fed every day and the creatures who do the feeding?

Parrots might be more intelligent than pigeons.

I think there is a difference between cats who live on farms and those that are house pets.

Farms do tend to get more mice and rats and thinking of relatives farms where hay or feed is stored, cats are less pampered and spend much of their time in those barns keeping the rodent population down. We get the odd field-mouse but catch and release them in woodland a few miles away.

Cats that are house pets on the other hand just kill for fun. They live in residential areas where people feed and encourage wildlife and other peoples gardens become their playground.

We seem to have waves of newcomers to the area when they get themselves cats and there is a definite decline in wildlife until the cat population drops. Over the next few weeks, a cat running through the garden with a youngster in its mouth will be a common sight.

I just wish cat owners took more responsibility for their pets and kept them indoors during the breeding season to give the young a chance to survive.

I agree. Little bells on their necks would be a good start.

I might be wrong about the wood pigeons, Alfa. I will check. They don’t half make a mess of the car. πŸ™
The village shop seems to have stopped stocking the sunflower hearts, so I’m on mixed seed at the moment.

I think my soil is too well drained and needs to be improved to grow anything that is shallow rooted. At the moment I am looking at what grows well in neighbours’ gardens.

Good idea. Saves growing your own. πŸ™‚

πŸ™‚ I will ask before taking cuttings.

Yes, they are definitely wood pigeons.

Did everyone see the report last week that 2 hours a week in nature can help reduce stress? https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/13/two-hour-dose-nature-weekly-boosts-health-study-finds

I find it difficult to fit this in without a small child in tow so I have recently been getting up early to do some exercise in the garden. It is amazing how noisy my city garden is with birds singing and bees buzzing these days. πŸ™‚

I thought I’d share a bit of wildlife excitement from my garden this weekend! We called him Eddie-Bob.

Why not Eddie l’Izzard?

Husband wanted Eddie L’Izzard and son wanted Bob so we compromised. πŸ˜‰

Did you watch “Death in Paradise”?. One of the stars was Harry the lizard. I hope yours is not also CGI. https://www.radiotimes.com/news/2017-06-16/heres-how-death-in-paradise-brings-harry-the-lizard-to-life/