For keen gardeners, there’s no better sight than the local wildlife enjoying your handiwork. Especially when you know they can also help support a healthy environment for your plants to grow.
With spring fast approaching, mammals will be waking from their winter sleep, migrant birds will be returning, and insects will be on the hunt for the first blooms. Which means now’s the perfect time to start thinking about how you can attract and protect your garden visitors.
From digging wildlife ponds to building bee’s nests and planting shrubs, there are lots of ways to bring in a wide variety of birds, insects, pollinators, bats and much more.
Keep scrolling for our top tips on how to bring your garden to life.
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1. Pick the perfect bird box
Bird boxes will attract nesting birds by providing a safe and cosy environment for them to lay their eggs away from predators.
Most boxes can be hung from trees or on the side of your house, but the RSPB recommends placing your bird house at least two metres above the ground.
Siting it somewhere with a clear flight path for incoming birds will encourage visitors and if your bird box is unsheltered, consider tilting it forwards slightly to protect birds from spring showers.
For more information on bird boxes, or to see how different brands and designs compare, head to our guide on the best bird nest boxes.
2. Invest in a bat box
It’s not just birds that can benefit from a nesting box – bats emerging from hibernation will also appreciate a roosting spot in your garden.
Often overlooked, bats can be valuable gardeners, as they prey on small pests like mosquitos, and some are also night-time pollinators.
If you want to see these nocturnal animals for yourself, set up watch at dusk and preferably when the weather is warm. Some breeds, such as the Pipistrelle, rise early and can even be spotted while the sun is still up.
See our guide for the best bat boxes, advice on where to site a box and the common bats to spot in the UK.
3. Provide food and water
Most wildlife will happily scavenge and hunt for their own food but offering up some extra treats and a water source can encourage different species to your garden and help keep them from going hungry.
Try to keep your bird feeders cleaned and stocked up but make sure you place them away from any bird boxes to avoid disturbing breeding or attracting predators.
Consider leaving a shallow dish of water out for animals to drink from too. Just remember to change the water regularly and give the dish a clean at least once a week.
See our round-up of the best no-grow bird seed so you won’t need to worry about loose seeds causing weeds in your garden.
4. Pick the right shrubs and plants
Planting the right shrubs and flora will draw in plenty of critters, including pollinators and butterflies, as well as birds and small mammals.
Ivy vines and holly bushes are particularly great for attracting the holly blue butterfly in the spring, while filling your garden with dark pink petals of the flowering currant shrub, or even a heuchera is sure to bring in early pollinating bees.
In fact, our trials of the heuchera suggested that bees preferred the smaller white or pink flowers to the bigger, more colourful ones.
Birds and small mammals will also enjoy the nourishment from fruits, leaves and berries, as well as being able to forage in the undergrowth for insects.
See our advice on the best shrubs for attracting wildlife throughout the year for more information.
5. Make a bee’s nest
Bees are a crucial part of our ecosystem, so the more you attract the better. But they do tend to build their nests in inconvenient places, such as lofts and garages.
You can divert the swarm away from your storage spots and into a home-made solitary bee nest with as little as a log and a drill.
Placing your nest somewhere sunny, shielded from the wind and at least one meter from the ground will help to maximise bee activity. You should also keep it close to shrubs or vegetable patches for easy pollinating, but make sure your plants don’t obscure the entrance.
For the full how-to on making a DIY bee house, and to find out the best plants for attracting bees, see our guide on gardening for bees.
6. Build a wildlife pond
Anyone who is keen to attract as much wildlife as possible to their garden, and has the room, should consider digging a pond.
Frogs and dragonflies will use it to lay their eggs, larger mammals like foxes and badgers can enjoy a drink and the aquatic larvae (midges and mosquitoes) will be a tempting food source for spiders, birds, and bats.
Size shouldn’t matter either. While it’s true larger ponds are more likely to attract bigger mammals, our ‘tiny ponds’ tests prove small bucket sized water sources will still entice tons of creatures.
Just remember to include a ledge in your pond to allow animals to easily get in and out of the water.
Invest in one of our best wildlife cameras so you don’t miss a thing this spring.
7. Make your own compost
The humble worm is one wriggly creature you should never discount. While they may not be the prettiest thing to look at, they make fantastic little gardeners.
By burrowing and eating through the soil, they improve aeration, water movement and nutrient uptake by plants (to name a few).
But to keep earthworms happy, it’s important to provide plenty of organic matter for them to eat. This will happen naturally if you let leaves fall and decay on the ground, but you can also take it a step further and make your own compost.
Composting is a great way to naturally recycle food waste and garden trimmings. Correctly cultivated compost can work wonders for your plants and soil health, resulting in a healthier garden at no extra cost to you.
See our guide on how to make compost for the full details on how you can get started on your own compost heap.
8. Provide a safe environment
Setting up feeders and planting the right shrubs might all be for nothing if wildlife is constantly being scared off by your neighbour’s cat.
A Which? survey revealed that more than 4 in 10 members had issues with cats scaring, attacking or killing garden wildlife. Our members also reported that cats dug up or squashed their plants and were noisy, yowling or fighting with other cats.
But warding off curious cats is no easy feat. Members gave their opinions on how effective common cat deterrents are including ultrasonic cat deterrents, citrus peel, water pistols and chilli powder.
9. Don’t be too tidy
It may be tempting to prune and preen your garden, but the local wildlife prefers a space that’s a little rough around the edges.
Birds, hedgehogs, and small mammals rely on branches on the ground to build their nests, and worms and other bugs thrive off eating dead leaves and fallen fruit.
Try to resist gathering larger lumps of wood and cutting up tree stumps too – bugs like bees and beetles will use them as nests.
Finally, if you’re not too precious about your fencing, make a small hole in the bottom (or dig a shallow ditch underneath) to provide an easy-access route for hedgehogs and other small mammals to enter your garden.
To get the best views of all the new creatures in your garden, invest in a pair of popular binoculars.