How to Make the Best Critter Friendly Garden
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.
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.
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.
Do You Have a Critter Friendly Garden?
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.
Some Ideas for Using Wood in Your Garden - a Home for Many Insects and BirdsClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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.
Food Source for Woodpeckers
Trunks as Statues Until They Fall Apart - so Much Life Is Going on in There
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
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 GardenClick thumbnail to view full-size
Even a Natural Garden Needs Attention
Making Muckheaps Is 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
Mulching Is Important for All Kind of Worms and Insects
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
The Birds Love My Garden - and They Nest in the Most Strange Places
Don't Forget the Water!
I Use Sinc Tubs for Frogs, Toads and Salamanders
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
All Animals Have to Eat
We Planted Trees for the Birds like the Malus Red Sentinel
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
Sharing My Apples with Insects
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
© 2012 Titia Geertman