As we head into Halloween we thought it was the perfect time to share ways to create a wildlife sanctuary in your garden. Once all your hard work is done, you can sit back in your garden den (or hide under the (climbing frame) and watch all the little creatures arrive for your very own ‘Ugly Bug Ball’. Any garden, no matter how small, can be made into a nature reserve and if we all do our bit, we can create a magical protected space for our wildlife.
Species are becoming rarer all the time, even the ones we think of as common today. Modern methods of farming, buildings, new roads have all affected our wildlife. Woodlands, marshes, meadows, ponds and trees and hedges are really important areas for wildlife. So how do we help create homes for these little creatures? All animals need shelter, rest, and an area to find food and water. An ‘untidy corner’ area is better than a formal garden for encouraging wildlife, so an untidy garden, with fallen leaves and a variety of shrubs, a log pile and a few nettles is perfect! The blackbird loves to scratch around dead leaves for food and newts spend the winter under rotting logs.
The reason dead leaves are good to leave lying around is because they are full of nutrients (minerals and other chemicals that plants and animals need to grow), and nature’s decomposers recycle these. Mini beasts and earth worms start the decomposition by feeding on the leaves. They keep some of the energy for themselves and the remaining bits make a humus. Fungi and bacteria then break down the humus. This gives them energy and releases nutrients into the soil which goes to feed the trees and other living plants.
How to create a Bug Hotel
To attract ladybirds, use pine cones and stacks of dead wood. Earwigs love upturned flowerpots filled with straw and wood fibre.Bumblebees love a closed box with a hole and landing pad. (Bees are really important because they are responsible for 85%-90% of strawberry production!). Wasps love hardwood logs drilled with holes and hollow bricks. Beetles aren’t fussy, they love wood of all kinds i.e. pieces of bark, twigs, branches, old tree stumps. Butterflies love closed boxes with vertical slits. Fill these with straw or wood fibre.
How to get a Hedgehog into your garden in Ireland
Hedgehogs are not only adorable; they are a gardeners best friend as they love slugs and other pests. One of the problems with new houses is that provide no access for hedgehogs into the garden with things like fences slotted into concrete columns. An ideal situation is a hedge, but if you don’t have one of those you can create a little hidey hole in an area under your fence, just big enough for a hedgehog to get through. A 5 inch hole is large enough. If you have neighbours, you can all do it and this will create a linked pathway for hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs love fallen leaves, twigs and dead vegetation to build their nests with. A untidy corner is great for them because it ensures that you provide a home for the insects that hedgehogs (and birds) love to feed on. A pile of old bits of wood will give your little guest somewhere to hide, sleep and hibernate. Make sure you provide water too.
How to Build a budget Hedgehog House (you might need an adult to help)
You will need;
A big, thick cardboard box.
Plastic sheet (an opened carrier bag will do).
Twigs, dry grass and some leaves.
What to do:
- First ensure the bottom of the box is stuck down.
- Cut and entry way into a narrow side – about 13cm square.
- Cut 2 side air vents 15cm x 5cm in one of the long sides.
- Turn the box over, lift it slightly and put some dry leaves or straw inside.
- Put some clean, dry grass or straw on top of the box.
- Cover with the piece of plastic sheeting.
- Tuck the shelter away near a hedge, with the entrance facing south.
- Pile twigs all around to make a dome and cover with dry grass and leaves.
Now, all you have to do is grab your steaming mug of hot chocolate and tuck yourself into your hidey corner in your climbing frame, or den and wait for all the mini beasts to arrive to your very own Ugly Bug Ball.