Gardening for birds and bees

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Any garden is a joy to behold.  Colour, texture, scent are all important, but what is more important than anything for me is movement and sound.  And the best of these come from critters.

Flowers are great, but they become all the more interesting when there are butterflies flitting from one to another.  Shrubs shimmering as birds land on branches is always a distraction from the worries of the day.

honeybee on vipers bugloss

The gentle humming of bees adds another dimension to a garden

Peace and quiet is one of the aims of my own garden – but somehow if it’s too quiet it just feels wrong.  I don’t want to hear traffic noise or angry shouts.  I do want to hear buzzing bees and lyrical birdsong.

The best of it is – it doesn’t cost anything for these extra garden features – with careful plant choices – they’re absolutely free.  Consider them your reward for gardening unselfishly.

Encouraging birds and bees into your garden

Just like the art of planning an event or designing public spaces; the art of gardening for wildlife is to think of what your visitors would most like and make sure it’s there for them.

Birds and bees are less complicated than people, they don’t need parking spaces, advertising, invitations or signage but they do need food, water, safety and shelter.

If you’re very lucky, they’ll value your garden so much that they’ll move in – and then you’ll be able to watch them as they rear their young.  Your own personal “Springwatch” – awesome!

Providing food for wildlife

I have a story to tell here.  It involves my disabled Mother who likes to watch the birds from the window.  I can’t tell you how much she was spending on bird seed, nigella seeds, feeders, fat balls, sunflower seeds etc to encourage her little feathered friends.  I know it must have been a lot. 

It worked! All sorts of wild things came to her garden.  She even had a resident woodpecker.  But then the unwanted visitors started arriving and nobody was happy.  The squirrels were amusing and relatively harmless.  But oh - the rats!

Poor old Mum was forced to give up birdwatching because the rats became so adept at stealing the birdfood and so good at breeding that she and the neighbours began to feel uncomfortable.

So be wary of feeding the birds excessively – instead – you can encourage them to find food for themselves.

Plants that have tasty seeds and berries are great at attracting birds.  (Sadly, for me, that sharing my cherry crop with the blackbirds and rigorously netting all of the strawberries before they ripen.)

goldfinch - colourful garden bird feeding on flower seeds

This colourful goldfinch is feasting on wild flower seeds

Mulching plants with woodchip mulch encourages minibeasts such as small spiders, grubs, worms etc – all of which make tasty meals for birds.

Avoiding pesticides means you may see a few more aphids than you’d like – you’ll also see lots of aphid eating birds, lacewings and ladybirds – which are rather lovely.

Nectar rich flowers are what you need for butterflies and bees.  Many modern hybrid flowers are not particularly pollinator-friendly.  Look out for the “perfect for pollinators” symbol on plants in the garden centre and opt for wild flowers whenever you can.

Don’t forget that butterfly lavae (aka caterpillars) need food too.  I can understand you wanting to remove them from your food crops but if you let them eat just one of two of your cabbages (not the whole row) you will be rewarded with butterflies fluttering by. 

Leaving that patch of nettles behind the shed will provide nesting space for peacock butterflies.  Growing a wildflower meadow – even if it’s a tiny one – will help no end of butterflies that like to lay their eggs on specific plants like sorrel, plantain or grass.

All of the Meadowmat products have been designed to provide food for pollinators and caterpillars – Meadowmat for Birds and Bees also has plants with tasty seeds for birds to eat in autumn.

Give them water

A wildlife pond, a birdbath or even a “pond in a pot” water feature will allow all manner of creatures to quench their thirst.  My honeybees like to drink from the little muddy patch beneath my garden hose.

Provide Shelter and safety

To you and me, a patch of long grass looks like an untidy mess.  To an insect it’s like a dense jungle or a city of skyscrapers where no predator can ever find them.  To a bird – it’s a good place to hunt for insects to eat.

A mini wildflower meadow is like a five star holiday resort to wildlife.  Safe, plenty of food and lots of other creatures to socialise with.

The easy way to make a mini wildflower meadow

Creating a mini wildflower meadow is quick and easy if you lay Meadowmat wild flower matting.  Meadowmat for Birds and Bees is the best all-rounder for wildlife.   For the best summer colour, I’d recommend Cottage Garden Meadowmat.

Here’s a short video to show you how easy it is.

 

 

Further reading

 

Buy Meadowmat wild flower turf

 

Low maintenance gardening using wildflowers

 

Wildflowers in the cottage garden