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How To Attract Wildlife To Your Garden #2: Bug And Bird Food

26/06/2009 09:30 | Updated 22 May 2015

Attracting wildlife to your garden is all very well but we want them to stick around (although slugs and snails are not included in the invitation).

To ensure your garden or allotment is a haven to bugs, birds and butterflies you need one vital ingredient - food.

This is easier said than done, as I'm discovering on our allotment. I can grow vegetables from seed but am not so good, it would appear, at doing the same with flowers.

But undeterred, I am going to lay on a veritable smorgasbord of goodies for the wildlife. It may not happen this month, or even this year, but I'm working on it and learning a little more at each attempt.

Here are my ideas for more steps to creating a wildlife haven in your back yard.

Birds: This is a good place to start because feeding birds is a no-brainer. You put out the food and -- hey presto -- they flock to your garden. Only, I've discovered, it's not quite so simple. I've tried for months to attract goldfinch to my garden with special seed in a special feeder and while the seed is disappearing, I've not seen them. Maybe they're quick eaters.

Different birds require different feeding stations. Some, like doves and thrushes, prefer to eat on the floor. Fat balls can be suspended, as can wire mesh seed holders.

It is also helpful to leave some flowers and veg to set seed and to plant some specifically for birds like Echinops ritro or a hawthorn hedge.

It's a myth that birds only need feeding in the winter: food shortages can happen at any time of the year. You also don't need to buy fancy seeds or meal worms as soaked currants and sultanas, grated cheese, soft apples and bananas are all enjoyed by birds who are feeding nestlings. Avoid peanuts, bread and fat balls in the summer though. The RSPB has some important information about what to feed when.

Bugs: If you followed this advice you may be considering placing ladybird homes around your garden. They are especially helpful on the veggie patch if sited near beds as they will be ready to eat the aphids in the spring.

Companion planting can also help with this. I've planted French marigolds and poached egg plants on the allotment as hover flies are attracted to them and their larvae feed on the poor aphid.

Planting a bee bar, full of nectar rich flowers, is also important as bee numbers are in decline. Plants they love include honeysuckle, rosemary, borage, lavender and thyme. The trick is have something flowering from spring through to autumn and plant in clumps rather than singly to make them easier for the bees to find.

Butterflies: One of the plants I'm most proud of introducing to my allotment this year is the buddleja, a favourite of butterflies. If you have only room for one plant for butterflies, I reckon this should be it.

The trick to a lot of wildlife gardening is to have patches of wilderness. Butterflies such as the peacock and red admiral love nettles so try and leave a patch for them somewhere out of the way.

Nasturtiums, French marigold, Helen's flower and Michaelmas daisies will all attract more butterflies into your garden.

With a little thought, a bit of a relaxed attitude to wild areas and some patience your garden could soon be humming with activity of a special kind.

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