Prompted by the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch taking place again on the 28th – 30th January 2017, I am highlighting a few design secrets that will attract and support a varied range of birds to your garden
- Diversity. Create a rich and diverse habitat for birds and insects to breed, feed and shelter.Include layers of a wide a range of flowering and fruiting trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and wild flowers.
- Layering. If you are renovating an old garden keep some of the older shrubs and trees so you have layers of planting at different heights and stages of maturity to suit a variety of birds and insects who may use different parts of the canopy for feeding and breeding. With a brand new garden, try and create these layers by including plants of differing heights, shapes and habits.
- Native v non-native. A mix of native and non-native plants is fine. See RHS Plants For Bugs Project Birds seem to be as happy eating berries from exotic species such as Amelanchier and Pyracantha as they are from natives such as Holly.
- Tidiness. I am always banging on about this one! Don’t be too tidy! As summer progresses leave seedbeds on grasses and herbaceous perennials, and let them stand over winter if they will. Tidy up only in late winter when fresh growth starts. Leave piles of leaves, fallen fruit and pruned branches tucked away in the back of the border. They will rot down and attract beetles and other insects who will be food for birds.
- Lawns. If you have the space, cut some of your lawn less frequently than other parts to encourage a more varied habitat and encourage wild flowers
- Water. Include water somewhere in the design. Evan a small pond will encourage a more varied habitat for birds, insects and other creatures. In a really tiny space make a pond in a bath, sink or barrel.
- Hedges. If you have space, replace your fence by planting a hedge. They are great habitats for birds who will use them for shelter, nesting and feeding. They are also better at breaking down the wind in exposed sites than fences which cause damaging eddies on the leeward side. The best hedges are a mix of species though these can be more difficult to manage. Alternatively even in urban settings natives such as Hawthorn and Beech can make very neat hedges.
- Hedge-cutting. Try to avoid cutting hedges between March and August as this is the main breeding season for birds.
- Potted gardens. Even a patio garden can become a home for birds by grouping collections of pots of different sizes and heights together containing trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs mimicking a wild habitat. Many trees will live for years in a pot and others on dwarfing rootstock all their lives if properly cared for.
- Extra help. Nestboxes and feeding stations for birds are also useful to supplement the natural sources of food provided by your garden plants, and if sited close to windows can provide you with an amazing, close up view of our feathery friends.
To find out more and take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch click here. The pack the RSPB send you on request even includes free coffee and a biscuit recipe to keep you warm and well fed whilst you take part!