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How to Make the Best Critter Friendly Garden

Updated on November 23, 2018
Titia profile image

Titia is interested in photography, poetry, family, art, dogs, cats, insects, wildlife, history, war, camping, writing, and the environment.

Hedgehog in a critter friendly garden
Hedgehog in a critter friendly garden | Source

What are the best critters for your garden?

I don't mean critters like rabbits, raccoons and the sort, but there are so many beautiful small animals and good bugs that are truly very useful for your garden. They kill or/and eat the nasty bad bugs and they clean up a tremendous amount of organic garbage, turning it into the best compost you can have.

I'm talking about those beautiful flying or crawling bugs, the hedgehogs, the mice, the spiders, the frogs, and the toads.

I've learned to live with these animals in my garden and I've learned to respect them and though I feel no urge to pick some of them up, it's very relaxing, interesting and also inspiring to watch them doing their own thing.

All life on earth is there for a purpose and I made it my goal to give those little useful creatures a home and as they're not demanding too much it's very easy to create a natural habitat for them.

Dead wood is interesting for a lot of bugs and insects.
Dead wood is interesting for a lot of bugs and insects. | Source

Many Insects Love to Nest in Dead Wood

Many insects and some birds often use dead wood to drill holes in, either to nest in them or like some wasps do, use it to build their own home somewhere else.

Leaving the dead wood in the garden is a must when you want your insects to feel at home.

What You Need to Build a Beautiful Insect House

I don't have a special insect house, because I have enough other stuff in the garden where the wasps and bees and other bugs can make their nest. However homemade Insect houses are much fun to create. Even in the smallest place you can build one. You only need a box and fill it with different sizes hollow straws, pipes, toilet rolls and more of that stuff. Each insect has its own need for housing. You can even use a wooden disc of a tree, drill different sizes of holes in it and hang it somewhere on the wall, or fence or a tree.

There are lots of different insect houses to find on the web.

A more complicated and a very simple bug house
A more complicated and a very simple bug house | Source

Our Bird B&B Is Fully Booked Each Summer

Some years ago I bought these bird houses from a little boy who had made them at summer camp. We put them up on a shelf and painted the roofs. It took a while before the first guests arrived. They checked the premises and then one day we actually had a guest in our Bird B&B. I'm sure they spread the word beak to beak because the next and following years we had all houses fully booked.

Bird Hotel
Bird Hotel | Source

Do You Have a Critter Friendly Garden?

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The Spotted Flycatcher Nested in the Wall

For a couple of years we have spotted flycatchers nesting in a hole in the wall of the old barn. I was lucky once to be able to take some photos of the young birds just before they were flying out.

We decided to not close that hole when renovating the barn.

Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher | Source
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher | Source

Some Ideas for Using Wood in Your Garden - a Home for Many Insects and Birds

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tree BranchesTree TrunksBranches of the Pollard WillowDouble Fence stacked with branches
Tree Branches
Tree Branches | Source
Tree Trunks
Tree Trunks | Source
Branches of the Pollard Willow
Branches of the Pollard Willow | Source
Double Fence stacked with branches
Double Fence stacked with branches | Source

Dead Willows Are Great Providers for Shelter and Food

Some of our pollard willows suffered from a bacterial disease of which I don't know the English name, but it's caused by a bacterium called Brenneria salicis .

It's a bacterium in the ground and when all elements are perfect it pops up and attacks even old willows. There's no cure for it alas and there's nothing we can do to prevent it or cure it. The willow dies within a short time.

So far three of our willows got infected and we left them standing there because even a dead willow is beautiful and it's a great provider for shelter and food for bugs and birds. I often see the woodpecker hanging in there, picking the bark away, and snatching caterpillars or other insects.

Dead Pollard Willow
Dead Pollard Willow | Source

A Wren's Nest in a Dead Willow

Last year a wren had chosen this dead willow to make its nest in one of the holes. It was so much fun to see them flying on and off when they had babies.

A Wren's nest in a dead willow tree
A Wren's nest in a dead willow tree | Source

Food Source for Woodpeckers

Food Source for Woodpeckers
Food Source for Woodpeckers | Source

Trunks as Statues Until They Fall Apart - so Much Life Is Going on in There

trunk | Source

Piles of Stones Are a Perfect Place for Toads, Salamanders, Mice and Frogs

Stones make good housing and hiding places


Lots of Toads and Salamanders in Our Garden

Restoring our old farmhouse for about 30 years now and doing it all by ourselves, left us with a lot of bricks and stones scattered around. Over the years we got stuck with lots of stones we thought we could use again some day (and we do often 'shop in our own garden). So I started to organize the piles of stones, stacking them in a way that they are useful for different critters like toad, salamanders, mice, snails and all others in need of a hiding place or home. I leave holes in the stacking on purpose, so the critters can get in easily.

Once when I needed some bricks I found a family of nearly 25 orange belly salamanders, living in that pile of stones. As I had disturbed their home, I helped them move to another pile. Don't know if they were thankful, I never spotted them again.

We do have lots and lots of toads though, but I never got around taking pictures of them. Normally when I stumble upon one, I pick it up and move it out of the way. I found two this morning when I was pulling out some weed and stinging nettles.

Beneficial Critters in Your Garden

Spider Eating a Wasp
Spider Eating a Wasp | Source

What to Do with Leftover Stones and Bricks?

Build Insect and Bug Friendly Walls in Your Garden

We ended up with a lot of stones and bricks that were not fit to use for the renovation of our house and in stead of putting a lot of work into getting rid of them, I started to build little walls around bushes and trees. It takes a bit of work, but it's so much fun to do, knowing you're helping lots of mice and insects to a hiding place. This part of my garden is still a wilderness, but actually I like it this way. I keep an eye on it that it doesn't get too much overgrown with stinging nettles and other aggressive weed, but for the rest I let nature take its course.

We don't have central heating, we use wood stoves and a coal stove in stead, so we need a lot of wood, which all the pollard willows we planted are giving us. We use every bit of the branches we have to chop off every three to four years. The parts that we can't use for the stoves are pushed down a double fence, creating a perfect home for Blackbirds to nest in and other creatures.

Some Ideas How to Use Stones in Your Wildlife and Insect Garden

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Stone WallStone WallStone WallStone WallStone Wall
Stone Wall
Stone Wall | Source
Stone Wall
Stone Wall | Source
Stone Wall
Stone Wall | Source
Stone Wall
Stone Wall | Source
Stone Wall
Stone Wall | Source

Even a Natural Garden Needs Attention

Making Muckheaps Is Important

Muckheaps are important
Muckheaps are important

Hedgehogs Are Very Beneficial Creatures

At the end of each Summer we'll have hedgehogs in our garden. They not only come to eat the fallen fruits, like the medlar, pears and apples, but they also eat worms and snails. End of Fall they dig themselves in and sleep the whole winter until the Spring sun awakens them.

Hedgehog Eating a Medlar

Hedgehog eating a fallen Medlar
Hedgehog eating a fallen Medlar | Source

Mulching Is Important for All Kind of Worms and Insects

mulching | Source

Mulching Makes the Soil Open and Nutritious

I'm a breeder of Drenthe Heath Sheep and some ewes give birth in the barn. So each year I have a lot of manure and spilled hay or straw which I use for mulching. I spread it between the plants in Autumn and within a year the worms and insects and bacteria have convert it into healthy soil. It keeps the ground from drying out too much. Sometimes I have a whole bale of hay or straw gone bad and I put it somewhere in the garden in a lost corner. Mice are nesting in it and very often mushrooms are growing on top or on the side. Nothing organic has to be thrown out.

Old Hay Stacks are Ideal for Mice

Ideal housing for mice
Ideal housing for mice | Source
Insects are useful in your garden
Insects are useful in your garden | Source
Insects are useful in your garden
Insects are useful in your garden | Source
Insects are useful in your garden
Insects are useful in your garden | Source

The Birds Love My Garden - and They Nest in the Most Strange Places

Blackbird | Source
Blackbird | Source
Young Dove
Young Dove | Source

Don't Forget the Water!

I Use Sinc Tubs for Frogs, Toads and Salamanders

Sink tub for frogs
Sink tub for frogs | Source

Frogs Hibernate During the Winter in My Tubs

I love to use old sink tubs in my garden to either plant flowers in them or just fill them up with water.

Over time soil will slip in and grass or weed is growing and so they make a perfect shelter for frogs and other water loving creatures.

Frogs in My Tub - They Come and Go and Sometimes They Hibernate

Frog in my sink tub
Frog in my sink tub | Source

All Animals Have to Eat

We Planted Trees for the Birds like the Malus Red Sentinel

Malus Red Sentinel
Malus Red Sentinel | Source

Fruits Are Shared with Birds, Hedgehogs and Insects

We planted some trees specially to feed the birds so they can eat nutritious food in winter. It's so much fun to watch the birds eat and fight over it. Then they just look like us, people, being territorial. The trees provide us with beautiful flowers in spring and colorful fruits in winter. I share a lot of apples and prunes with the insects. I love to see the hedgehogs appear on the grass to search for fallen medlars.

Rowan Berries Are the Thrushes' Favorite Winter Food

Rowan Berries
Rowan Berries | Source

Sharing My Apples with Insects

Sharing my apples with Insects
Sharing my apples with Insects | Source

I Hope I've Given You Some Ideas

Critters and Insects are so important to have in a garden, at least that's my opinion. Each time of the year it's different and each time of the year I enjoy watching them minding their own business. Wood pigeons are nesting in the trees. Lots of tits and sparrows, finches and even small owls once nested in the Pollard Willows.

I don't have a neat and clean garden and I wouldn't have it any other way. I have a beneficial critter garden and I'm happy to share whatever I have with them.

We Provide Shelter and They Keep the Balance

Critter hiding places
Critter hiding places | Source

© 2012 Titia Geertman

Let's talk Critters - I would love to hear your story

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    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      7 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @greenspirit: LOL Greenspirit, we should write a Critter Friendly Poetry Book together. Love your little rhyme and good for you to be a critter friendly person.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 

      7 years ago from London

      You might think me crazy, and probably you are right;

      I have to rescue slugs and snails and all small things in sight.

      My heart goes out to tiny things, their world's as valid as mine,

      And when I care for each of them, my garden does just fine.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 

      7 years ago

      Wonderful critter garden. Thanks for the ideas.

    • profile image

      Close2Art LM 

      8 years ago

      what a wonderful page, I can tell you love animals, Angel Blessings***

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 

      8 years ago

      Very much enjoyed my visit to your wonderful critter garden! I planted more flowers in my veggie garden this year to attract insect critters. I have a family of garter snakes living next to my garden and often find toads in the garden - both good signs I think.

    • profile image

      BorderCollie LM 

      8 years ago

      That's such a beautiful garden. If I had a garden like that I doubt I could ever leave it!

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a lovely way to keep a garden. Blessed.

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      8 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @PromptWriter: Most tubs are about 50/60cm (19/23") high. I don't know if the frogs hibernate every year in them, but sometimes they do. Winters are rather mild, but we do get temps of -5 to -18C (23 to 0.4F) on a regular base, but they mostly last weeks, not months.

    • Titia profile imageAUTHOR

      Titia Geertman 

      8 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @anonymous: Oh gosh, did I invent a new word again?? Of course I meant manure. Sometimes I don't know where my brain is wandering off to. Thanks for pointing it out.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I had the most delightful visit to your critter and insect garden and imagined going out to greet everyone and just watch them all. I had never heard of an insect house and the one from France is just beautiful and makes sense when you think about it. I love how you say "menuir" in your part of the world, even in writing it sounds better than our manure. I certainly would have muck piles for the hedgehogs to hibernate in if they lived in my neck of the woods. This could not be more delightfully was like a retreat for me, thank you!

    • profile image

      wedpittsburgh lm 

      8 years ago

      What a lovely lens. My mom has a few toads that come to stay in her garden and yard every year. It's quite amazing! Great job and very informative.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      8 years ago from Canada

      When I lived in the country my garden was very animal friendly. I had visits from deer, wild turkeys, chipmunks, raccoons, and gophers. They were on our property when we arrived so I figured they certainly did deserve a small share.

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      8 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Now for the sink tubs. How deep are those? And do you have mild winters?

    • profile image

      SydneyH LM 

      8 years ago

      Lots of good information for me to try here.

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 

      8 years ago from Naperville, IL

      Beautiful and informative lens! Love all your fabulous photos.

    • profile image

      MohkaUK LM 

      8 years ago

      Got to love a critter!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      8 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I'd want to pick and choose my critters. I love all of the cubbies in your garden for the critters! So sweet.

    • writerkath profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi Titia! What a wonderful lens! I love the "Bird B&B" - awesome! We also have a tree where we share the berries with the birds - an elderberry tree - they get some, we get some. :) I was also fortunate enough to be home when our resident phoebe birds left the nest, and hung out for hours filming them and put it on YouTube. It was the first time I've ever seen it with my own eyes - what a magical day! :) There is something magical about having "critters" around! Blessed!

    • Rosaquid profile image


      8 years ago

      Lovely lens!

    • intermarks profile image


      8 years ago

      I wish I could have a big garden like your, so that I can plant fruits and flowers. Nice lens!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      8 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Wonderful article! Very refreshing to read about someone working with nature and her creatures. Blessings! :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I so wish we had more space. Then we would have a much larger critter friendly garden than the one we have. However, the garden we do have is a joy to look at.

    • vanidiana24 profile image


      8 years ago

      I'd love to see the hedgehog in the garden!

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing your lovely garden : )

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      8 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      We just have a small lot on a lake, but it's opposite a large state forest. We see so many land and water birds -- it's great.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You've got quite an Eden going. Your hard work has paid off.


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