How can you attract other small animals into your garden?


In nature, fauna and flora live in total harmony. You too can recreate this biodiversity by inviting animals into your garden. Some of them may even be very useful by playing an auxiliary gardening role. They will notably assist you in naturally regulating the population of certain pests which colonise your garden and threaten your plants.

To successfully transform your garden into a small nature reserve for auxiliary fauna, you should create ideal conditions to encourage its adaptation. This involves offering food, initially; but also water, and sometimes suitable shelter.

Birds

Birds are massive consumers of insects (1.3 of their body weight per day), and are real auxiliaries in the garden. They will help to regulate the population of insects which threaten your plant life. Did you know :

  • A family of chickadees consumes  20 million insects in a year.
  • The song thrush is a great lover of snails, slugs and insects.

Their regulatory role is so important that some tree and plant producers deliberately install nests in their exploitations.

How can you attract birds into your garden?

Birds primarily love seeds and insects. To feed them, leave a seed climber on certain plants which remain in place all winter without cutting: artichoke thistle, sunflowers, grasses and asters.
During the winter season, thick shrubs and varied bushes with persistent leaves offer perfect refuge and a source of food. Ivy and other climbers such as honeysuckle, clematis, and wisteria, are also very attractive for small birds in winter.
If nature does not offer sufficient shelter and food to attract birds, you can give them a helping hand by installing feeders and nesting boxes. 

Installing feeders

Here are some practical tips if you want to install feeders in your garden :

  • Only use feeders during the winter or cold snaps. When the nice weather returns, birds will naturally resume hunting insets.
  • Install several feeders by giving a particular type of seed to each. You will consequently avoid fighting and transmitting illnesses between birds.
  • In winter, do not interrupt the distribution of food as this may lead to birds dying.
  • Place your feeder at a height of around 1.7m in sun-lit areas and away from the wind.
  • Keep your feeders at a distance of at least 3m from a tree or shrub to avoid cats attacking the birds.
  • Fill up drinking baths or small bird baths and regularly change the water.

Solabiol Tip :
Sunflower seeds are the preferred seeds of small garden birds.

Installing nesting boxes

Nesting boxes facilitate reproduction. Here are some tips to be able to offer the very best shelter to small garden birds :

  • Choose the diameter of the hole in the nesting box in line with the type of birds you want to nest: 27mm for smaller species 35mm for great tits, sparrows and nuthatches. A large opening for robins, flycatchers, wagtails, and redstarts.
  • Install the nesting boxes in the winter, as the birds begin to start identifying nesting sites early.
  • Install at least 2 nesting boxes, but not on the same tree. So as not to attract attention from predators, birds will never hunt on the same tree as that where they nest.
  • Favour east/south-east facing so as to benefit from the sun's rays in the morning and to be sheltered from predominantly western winds.
  • Never disturb birds in their nest or chicks before they have left the nest.
  • Clean out the nesting boxes at the end of the season so as to welcome new arrivals the following year.

Solabiol Tip :
You should count for around 3 to 4 nesting boxes for every 1,000m² of land.

Nesting boxes

 

Reptiles, amphibians and small mammals

Birds are far from the only useful animals for your garden. Reptiles, amphibians and small mammals are less visible as they tend to be more nocturnal, but are nonetheless just as effective.

  • Slow worms love eating slugs.
  • Frogs attack mosquitoes.
  • Toads can eat up to 3,000 insects per month during the summer, but also slugs and worms.
  • A group of bats may consume up to several thousand insects during a single night. They notably love the codling moth, whose larvae develops inside apples and pears.
  • Hedgehogs are a fearsome garden ally who attack shelled insects, large insects and also earth worms.
  • Shrews feed on earth worms and many insect larvae, but also slugs.

How can you attract animals into your garden?

Reptiles, amphibians and small mammals are much less visible than their feathered cousins, and simply make do with a natural habitat to live. The types of small animal that you can welcome into your garde will, of course, depend on the location of your garden. 
An old stone wall, a pile of stones, an old tree or old stump, a pile of wood or bed of dead leaves, a small compost heap, a humid area or a small pond, embankments and ditches, a household roof or attic. These are but a few examples of places which can be used as a natural habitat.

Solabiol Tip :
You can construct a refuge for slow worms by rolling out an old carpet onto your vegetable patch. The other advantage is that the land will be soft and lumpy, ready to be sewed or planted just after light raking.

Slow worms

 

Insects and small amphibians

These are often considered as harmful. However, there are certain insects which are necessary for the garden who will act as predators or parasites for pests who kill your crops.

  • Ground beetles feed on caterpillars and slugs.
  • Lacewings, when larva, consume up to 500 aphids.
  • Ladybirds are major consumers of aphids.
  • Solitary predator wasps, which are harmless to people, eat earth worms, caterpillars and aphids.
  • Parasite wasps which, as their name indicates, eat aphids and caterpillars.
  • Hover flies, when larva, feed on aphids, ladybirds and psyllids.
  • Spiders are major consumers of aphids, amphibians, thrips and other sucking insects.

How can you attract helpful insects into your garden?

In principle, if you respect the various concepts that we have previously described, insects and small amphibians will appear automatically. 
However, if you are in an urban area, or in a setting where these insects have disappeared (balcony, terrace, greenhouse, veranda), you may wish to directly introduce them after buying them from a store,
You should however follow certain rules, by firstly identifying, parasites for regulation and introducing the species and quantity adapted to the correct moment. Of course, if you opt for this natural method, you should not use any non-selective insecticide products which harm these species. Otherwise you will risk harming them.

Solabiol Tip :
To attract bees and bumble bees, use green fertilizer such as phacelia and sarrasin.

Ladybirds