How to transform your small garden into a wonderful wildlife haven

There are a number of quick and cheap ways to invite birds, butterflies and small animals into your garden, whatever its size. Try a few of these ideas for creating a wildlife haven in a little garden and then just wait for your guests to arrive!

Build an insect hotel. Possibly the simplest way to encourage mini beasts into your garden and increase its biodiversity is to build (or buy) an insect hotel. At its very basic, this can be a cluster of small bamboo canes or hollow branches grouped together inside a frame, and at its most elaborate, it can be a multiroom structure with space for a wide variety of creepy crawlies.

Besides making your garden more insect-friendly, insect hotels can be interesting features in their own right, plus they make a great DIY project for children.

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Make use of vertical space. If ground space is limited, don’t forget about your vertical space. There are plenty of ways to encourage winged and crawling visitors into an urban garden via a wall. This patchwork insect hotel is a great example of how to utilize a fence with a wall-hung design.

You could also transform a fence into a “living wall,” or fashion a simple vertical garden by fixing wall-mounted planters to a wall and filling them with pollen-rich flowers to entice bees and butterflies.

Provide a pollen source. Once your insect palace is in place, you’ll want to encourage insects into your garden. To do this, you’ll need to provide a steady source of pollen for as long as possible. You don’t need acres of space — you can grow many bee- and insect-friendly plants in patio pots and even in window boxes.

The key to success is to choose a good rotation of plants that will flower throughout the year, thereby providing an ongoing supply of pollen and nectar.

Supplement their dinner. To encourage and support birds in your garden, it’s important to offer supplementary food during autumn and winter. This is easy to do in a garden of any size.

Place your bird feeders or bird table where you can watch and enjoy your feathered visitors from indoors, and make sure you are putting out the correct food.

Don’t be too tidy. Most people won’t need to be told this twice, but one of the best things you can do to encourage wildlife into your garden is to leave a small area of grass or planting overgrown and undisturbed.

Even if you have only a compact corner to allocate for this, just letting the grass grow long rather than regularly cutting it back will create shelter for insects and small animals. Mix in some wildlife-friendly plants too, and you’ve created a mini paradise for critters, with hardly any effort.

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Create a mini meadow. Don’t have any ground space? Why not create a mini meadow in a window box? Sow a wildflower seed mix in a large container positioned in a sunny spot.

Place an insect box on a wall nearby, and you’ve created a mini insect habitat that you can comfortably view from indoors all spring and summer. It will also make the exterior of your home look beautifully bright and cheery.

Provide fresh drinking water. Besides food, it’s important to provide water for birds and bees. If a traditional birdbath doesn’t strike your fancy, you could just put out a shallow dish, or fashion a more naturalistic one.

Sloped sides are important to allow easy access to the water. Keep it regularly topped up in hot weather. But don’t forget that birds will also need a water source in the winter, so keep an eye on it to ensure that it doesn’t freeze over in cold weather.

Suspend a birdbath. If ground space is really at a premium, a hanging birdbath can be a good alternative to a freestanding one.

Suspend it from a tree or wall and then keep it topped up with a fresh supply of drinking water to tempt birds into your garden in the warm weather.

Replace fences with hedges. Did you know that hedges can act as wildlife corridors, enabling animals and insects to safely move around under cover?

Planting a hedge as a border around a small garden instead of a fence will help support and extend this “superhighway,” providing shelter and cover for a range of wildlife. Flowering hedges will also provide berries in autumn and winter — a valuable food source for birds.

Create a pond. Want to encourage frogs and toads into your garden? If you have space to dig a small pond, you’ll be amazed at how quickly aquatic life will appear.

Green up the roof. If outdoor space is really restricted, how about creating a green roof? Green roofs are a great way not only to add color, but also to encourage wildlife, protect your property and bring a little joy to all who can see them. They can be added to many sizes and styles of roof, sloping or flat.

There are several practical considerations to weigh before you go ahead with a green roof, such as access, weight and upkeep, but if you are game, they are a wonderful way to bring life and color to an urban skyline.