Gardening for Wildlife and Wellbeing

My previous post was about optimising health and wellbeing by bringing the outdoors in with biophilic interior design, but now feels a good time to start looking outward once more. As I write, in February, it is definitely feeling more spring-like, with longer, brighter days and real warmth in the sunshine. I can see why 1st February is the Celtic start of spring, Imbolc, and I am sure I am not the only one whose thoughts are turning to the garden again. I wanted to share something that has helped me to get so much more out of gardening and being in the garden: gardening for wildlife. It is something that you and your local wildlife can benefit from whether your green space is a window box, a balcony, a courtyard or a garden of any size. Pick what ideas will work for you and the space that you have available. “Wildlife needs four things – food, water, shelter and a place to breed. By providing these things you will bring your garden to life,” Wildlife Trust.


Butterflies, Bees and Other Insects

To attract butterflies to your space from spring to autumn, choose nectar-rich plants like primrose, aubretia and sweet rocket for early in the season; lavender, catmint, thyme, heliotrope, red valerian, hebe, buddleia and knapweed for the summer; and Michaelmas daisy, sweet scabious and hyssop for the autumn. You can buy seed bombs suitable for butterflies or bees, which can be sown into pots or flower beds. Creating a meadow by mowing an area of lawn less frequently (try a 'No Mow May') or creating one from scratch by sowing a suitable seed mix will benefit all sorts of insects. Boston Seeds is a good supplier of wildflower seeds and plants


You can plant for birds too. Goldfinches love the seedheads of the dandelion family and teasle seeds. Black caps will drink nectar from mahonia over the winter when insects are in short supply, and of course the thrush family (including blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares) especially love berries like holly, hawthorn, pyracantha and ivy if you have room for shrubs, hedges or trees.


Water is as important as food to wildlife, so providing it in your space will make it more attractive to them, whether that is as simple as a saucer of water or more involved like a bird bath or pond. I love watching insects drinking from the bird bath in our garden in the summer as much as I do seeing the birds using it year round.


Nest Boxes

As the ever-increasing volume of the dawn chorus suggests, the birds are starting to think about nest building, and some early nesters will already have started. Although autumn and winter are the ideal time to put up nest boxes so that the local birds can suss them out before the breeding season, you may well be pleasantly surprised if you provide one early in the season. Check out the RSPB's Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes for all the inspiration you will need! Be sure to check nest boxes in the autumn or winter and to clean them out with hot soapy water if they have been used so that they are ready for new tenants to move in.

Insect Hotels

Insects are becoming more active by February and it won’t be long before they are looking for nesting places too, so an insect hotel might be worth considering for the right spot. I had the thrill of seeing different species of solitary bees move in when I put one up in a little meadow area last summer. As well as attracting insects, an insect hotel can be an aesthetically pleasing feature for us to look at too! CJ Wildlife supply all sorts of products for wildlife gardening, including insect hotels. A simple, undisturbed pile of logs or some upturned plant pots can also provide valuable shelter for insects year round.

Hedgehog Homes

For later in the year, how about providing a shelter for a hedgehog to hibernate in if you are lucky enough to have them visiting your space. That could be as simple as a compost heap or a pile of leaves or logs, or as elaborate as a purpose-built hibernaculum. The Hedgehog Street website has plenty of advice on all things hedgehog.

Bat Boxes

If you noticed bats flying over your property in the summer, they might appreciate a bat box or two or three situated high up on a tree or wall as a roosting site. The Bat Conservation Trust has comprehensive advice on their website on choosing and positioning bat boxes.


If you have the space, a pond can be a valuable garden feature for wildlife. It doesn’t need to be huge, even a mini pond will provide a home, food and water for wildlife. The Wildlife Trust website has plenty of advice about creating a wildlife pond. Inspired by that, I had fun last year converting some old metal tubs that had been discarded in a garden shed into mini ponds!


Last, but not least, consider how wildlife can access your garden. “One of the main reasons hedgehogs are struggling in Britain is because our fences and walls are becoming more and more secure, reducing the amount of land available to them,” Hedgehog Street have plenty of advice on making your garden accessible for hedgehogs on their website here. We have agreed with a neighbour to leave a gap in our boundary fence to allow hedgehogs, foxes and deer to move freely between our gardens.

I hope that you have found something here to inspire you to attract wildlife to your green space for the sake of your own health and wellbeing as well as theirs. Happy gardening!