How to Create a Wildlife-friendly Garden in Summer
Browse these wildlife garden design ideas to help you create a home for bugs, birds and bees
Expert advice from: Jamie Wyver, spokesperson for the RSPB; Will Williams, designer of the RHS ‘At One’ wildlife garden | Darryl Cox, Senior Science & Policy Officer at Bumblebee Conservation Trust
More in this series: How to Create a Wildlife-friendly Garden in Autumn | How to Create a Wildlife-friendly Garden in Winter | How to Create a Wildlife-friendly Garden in Spring
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With rising temperatures in the summer months, it’s essential to provide a water source to help birds cool down. “Keep your bird bath or pond topped up so wildlife can drink and bathe in hot weather,” Jamie Wyver says.
If a pond is out of the question, a small birdbath can usually be squeezed into most gardens, or even just a saucer of water for smaller birds. Make sure you keep it topped up and clean it out frequently.
A bright garden isn’t just lovely for you to look at, it’s also a boon for wildlife. “Wild creatures are attracted to different colours depending on the species,” Will Williams explains, “so try to include plenty of colours in the garden.”
If you need help planning a planting scheme, look on Houzz to find a garden designer in your area and tell them you want to create a colourful wildlife haven.
“Summer is peak pollinator season and the time when there are the most hungry mouths to feed,” Darryl Cox says.
“Bumblebees and other pollinators need lots of pollen and nectar to sustain themselves over the summer, so it’s important to look after your plants, keeping them well-watered so the nectar keeps flowing,” he says.
If you’re going away on holiday, ask a friend or neighbour to pop in and keep your pots and borders well watered to ensure the precious pollen supply doesn’t dwindle in your absence.
A bee house or insect hotel is a must for a wildlife-friendly garden and these can be as much a part of your design as any other element – the only limit is your imagination.
“They don’t have to be ugly,” says Will. “You can buy or make a very aesthetically pleasing insect hotel.”
Another way to create a bird-friendly garden in summer is to make sure the ground doesn’t entirely dry out.
“House martins will have returned from Africa and will be looking for soft mud with which to craft their amazing, cup-shaped nests,” says Jamie. “If your garden is dry and dusty, try to keep a patch watered and muddy for them to scoop up beakfuls for building.”
Fed up with keeping your grass trimmed short in the hot weather? Give your mower a rest and let your lawn bloom!
“Grasses and wildflowers are wonderful for wildlife, and if you need neatness, mow a path through or around the wilder parts of your mini meadow,” says Jamie.
Darryl agrees and adds that “cutting your grass less often allows white clover to flower. This is a bumblebee super-food. Once every two or three weeks is best.”
If you don’t have much ground space to play with, you could even create a mini wildlife meadow in a trough or window box. Look for a wildflower seed mix and plant it up according to the instructions to create a tiny wildflower patch. This could be a great project for kids to take charge of.
“Hedging and trees are a great place for birds to make their home,” Will says. “A good hedging example would be beech or hornbeam.”
But be careful not to cut hedging in the summer, as you run the risk of disturbing nesting birds.
Get more advice on creating a bird-friendly garden from the RSPB.
“If you choose night pollinating plants, these will encourage wildlife into the garden through the evening,” Will says. “This is also ideal for people who are out at work through the day and want to use the garden in the evenings.”
Will suggests Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’, Nicotiana sylvestris and Oenothera stricta ‘Sulphurea’ as good evening scent plants.
What have you done to encourage wildlife in your garden? Share your experiences in the Comments section.