Having birds in your garden is a wonderful thing. Listening to the sounds of song thrushes, great tits and robins can be fantastic for your health and well-being. Putting out food is an important part of attracting birds, they will come to your garden to find extra deliciousness to supplement their natural diet. It isn’t the only thing you should do though.
Lots of people ask us why they are not getting any birds into their garden, they send us photos and 9 times out of 10 the first thing I identify is the lack of ‘natural flora’. Putting out a feeder in a garden that has no wild spaces may attract a few brave small birds and maybe a pigeon or too but it probably won’t lead to a hive of bird activity — which is what we all want!
A Wild Garden for your birds
A big part of attracting wildlife to your garden is having the right space for them to flourish. They prefer having wild areas, piles of leaves and large shrubs to live among. By choosing the right plants you can provide both food and cover for garden birds. It will also give them cover when it is needed and make them feel more secure within your garden when feeding and bathing.
It is important to keep in mind that wild gardens are different from overly maintained gardens and feature far more native plants than most gardens. Some gardeners deride them because of this, they may not have the same ‘neat and tidy’ aesthetic that we cultivated over the last few years. It is about going back to more traditional, native plants and maintaining them in a much ‘lazier’ way!
Lawns make up a big part of our gardens. There are 15 million lawns in the UK. Keeping them far from manicured can be a huge help to the small birds you want to attract and it needn’t take too much time!
Lawns for birds
In many gardens lawns are overly manicured and leave very little support for birds and other wildlife. With a few changes to the way you maintain your lawns you can really make a difference to helping nature thrive in your garden.
A well-cropped, short lawn may look attractive to us humans but it offers very little to our small birds. Changing your lawn from a green dessert to a more lively, happy place for birds can be as simple as mowing less and removing the use of weedkillers, pesticides and fertilizers that you use. This will be a huge benefit to your birds and other wildlife, you will see immediate differences and over the years your garden will thrive and thrive.
The important of long grass
Undisturbed, long grass areas can be some of the most useful areas of the garden for your birds and wildlife and are really easy to create. If you have a small space, choose to create strips of long grass around the base of trees and hedges or don’t take the lawn mower right up to the edge of a garden path. There is beauty in leaving areas to grow naturally we just need to take time to notice it.
If you have a bigger area go for a more extensive area, leave big chunks unmowed and create pools of wild, long grasses. Whatever size you create they are super important to our small bird communities. The provide sheltered habitats, cover for the birds and help other creatures to survive.
Insects like bumblebees and other wild bees may choose to nest in long grasses whilst moths, caterpillars and grasshoppers feed on it. Spiders and beetles will take cover in long grasses. Insect-eating birds will enjoy tasty, natural snacks from these areas in your garden.
Creating wildflower meadows
Areas of long grass are fantastic for birds. Adding wild meadows to them is another wonderful thing and will lead to more birds choosing your garden as a place they want to eat and live. Wildflower meadows are easier than you think yo create. You can add the flowers by re-seeding areas or even add pot plants into the existing grass.
Before you begin you need to consider what you would like your lawn for and how much you want to change it. If it needs to stay the same size, the best approach might be to maintain it a little differently. Alternatively you can reduce the amount of short cut grass but adding wildflowers.
Most grassland wildflowers grow best in full sun and in places with minimal root competition from trees and shrubs. To add wildflowers to an existing lawn, simply mix wildflower seeds in with lawn seeds and over-seed the grassy areas.
You can cut out areas of your lawn and create areas of wildflowers if you’d prefer, adding in some grass seeds to this will eventually grow grass back in to the area.
Plants that are perfect for Wildflower Meadows
When thinking about the flowers you want to add to your garden consider what works well in the type of garden you have, the amount of sun you get and where you live. Plants that work well in helping insects thrive and support insect eating birds are a great addition.
- Cowslip — this is great for the bottom of hedges and places that are not mowed frequently. It has a great abundance of nectar that really attracts insects and insect-eating birds.
- Field Poppies — these are fantastic for birds, they attract a range of bees, butterflies and insects and dunnocks and sparrows will feast on their seeds.
3. Sunflowers —are a great addition to the edges of lawns. They attract a range of insects and their seeds are loved by finches towards the end of summer.
4. Red Clover — they have red heads that produce wonderful amounts of nectar for bees. They are often found in seed mixes and they support the health of grass too.
5. Wild Carrot — this flower has a wonderful white head and dainty summer flowers. It will help to entice insects in to your garden including hoverflies and butterflies that will really help the small birds.
The key to attracting more birds is considering your lawn as a place where they should be able to thrive along with the insects that they need to eat and allowing the flowers to seed will also help your seed-eating birds. A managed wild lawn can be a much more beautiful thing than a block of green and hearing the birds in your garden will bring lots of joy!