Encouraging wildlife into your garden is easy and rewarding, and in this era of declining natural habitat and climate change, it's well worth doing something to create wildlife habitats in your garden. There are two main factors to consider - Features for wildlife and Pests.
Features for a wildlife garden
The more diverse your garden, the wider the range of wildlife you will attract. For example:
A pond is probably the most wildlife valuable feature you can incorporate into a garden. It provides important drinking water for birds and mammals, and is home to many amphibians and invertebrates that rely on water for parts of their lifecycle. If you are concerned about the safety of young children, opt for a marshy area instead.
A deadwood pile left in a corner of your garden will provide a useful micro-habitat for a myriad of invertebrates and fungi as the timber goes through its natural and often beautiful process of decay.
Artificial shelters can help replace some of the natural nesting sites, hibernating areas and other forms of natural shelter that we are now lacking. Bird boxes, bat boxes, hedgehog houses, bumble bee and ladybird shelters are just some of the manufactured items you can incorporate into your garden to make it more appealing to your wild visitors.
Borders and beds can add a huge amount of value to a garden when planted with species that produce berries, seeds and nectar-rich flowers. Include winter/early spring-flowering plants to help early-waking bumblebees, and winter berry-producing plants for the birds. Include plenty of native species.
Wild About Gardens: This is a joint project between the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society which aims to bring the world of gardening and nature conservation closer together.
The a RSPB has an online wildlife garden guide with lots of information about attracting birds and other wildlife to the garden.
Pesticide is the general term used for any pest-controlling chemical and includes herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Even the 'safest' and most targeted pesticides will adversely affect non-target species in some way. For example, certain 'safe' brands of weed killer contain detergent-type chemicals that will directly affect some non-target species such as frogs and newts. These amphibians rely on a thin layer of water on their skin to exchange gases, and may suffocate as detergents disperse this water. The removal of a food source or poisoning of the potential food source of another species can also indirectly affect the entire food chain through starvation or build up of toxins. So, pesticides really should be avoided.