Creature comforts - encouraging biodiversity in your garden

Martyn Cox

Fed up with aphids, caterpillars and slugs t Don't despair – follow our guide to supporting a thriving community of wildlife.

Apart from making your garden more appealing insects, mammals and all sorts of other beneficial creatures are incredibly helpful in the battle against pests. Although some garden wildlife will find a nook or cranny to hibernate in overwinter, it is a good idea to create some habitats of your own. Next spring you’ll be rewarded with an army of emerging creatures, ravenous and ready to gobble up any pests they come across.

Here’s my easy guide to creating wildlife shelters...

Make a log pile

In the wild, frogs, toads, beetles and hedgehogs love to shelter underneath or among the gaps of rotting logs. Create a log pile in your own garden by loosely arranging together, a few old branches or pieces of log. Place the pile in a shady place, such as under a tree, at the foot of a hedge, at the back of the border or behind the shed. Alternatively, make a habitat for insects, beetles and other smaller creatures with piles of stones.

Bug boxes

Over the last few years, more and more bug boxes have become available. Take a look in a wildlife gardening product brochure and you will find bee houses, ladybird houses, lacewing chambers, mason bee nests, butterfly houses and many more. These come in all shapes and sizes, from tubes to an open fronted frame crammed with pieces of garden cane.

So what should you choose? Well, rather turning your garden into a housing estate of bug homes, pick one box that provides different sized holes for a variety of insects. Among my favourites are boxes filled tightly with bark, which are ideal for lacewings and ladybirds, and a box filled with different plant stems, such as buddleia, cow parsley, teasel and elder. Lots of creatures will nest in here, including solitary bees.

Alternatively, you can make your own box by screwing together four pieces of wood to make a simple frame. These are great for the environment as they can be filled with material from your own garden.

Most boxes can be mounted on a tree or the outside of a shed. If you’re trying to attract ladybirds or lacewings, put the box in a north facing position so the insects are not woken up too early in the spring when there are very few aphids about.

Leave an untidy corner

It may look messy, but overgrown patch is a magnet to wildlife. Tufts of long grass will be used by ladybirds to overwinter and many insects will hibernate in the hollow stems of some plants. Also leave some fallen fruit on the ground and resist the temptation to chop down perennials with attractive seed heads, as these will both provide food for birds.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.