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* How to Attract Beneficial Critters in Your Garden

Updated on February 9, 2017
Titia profile image

I love critter friendly gardens, old roses and trees. Sometimes even dangerous plants like the Giant Hogweed. My garden is a biotope.

The Hedgehog is a beneficial critter
The Hedgehog is a beneficial critter | Source

How to Create a Beneficial Critter Garden

Maybe unlike most people, I really do like the critters that roam my garden and I love to make it as comfortable as possible for them to make them feel at home. All critters and insects have a purpose in the food chain, otherwise they wouldn't be here, is my opinion.

I've learned to live with the critters in my garden and I've learned to respect them and though I feel no urge to pick some of them up, I very often really enjoy watching them minding their own business. Sometimes their world looks very much like our world

I'll show you how I created a critter friendly environment in my garden. I hope you'll enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoy creating and observing it.

Dead Wood Is Perfect

Dead Wood Is Interesting for All Flying Bugs

Bug holes in a dead tree
Bug holes in a dead tree | Source

Many Insects and Birds Love to Nest in 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 create a sort of cement 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.

Insect Houses Are Great

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

Building an Insect House Isn't That Difficult

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.

Building Your Own Insect House

We Created a Bed & Breakfast for Birds

Our Bird B&B
Our Bird B&B | Source

Our Bird B&B Is Full Booked Every Summer

Some years ago I bought these bird houses from a little boy and I put them down somewhere and forgot all about them. Until I came across them this spring and then we put them up a shelf and painted the roofs blue. 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 hope they will spread the word beak to beak and then maybe we will have a full booking next year. It was rather late in breeding season when we put them up.

Update Spring 2013: The bird house with the flat roof has been booked by a family with a whole bunch of very noisy kids.

You see that little hole in the wall on the right side? Last year a spotted flycatcher nested there.

Critters Are Great

You Might Think I Am Crazy - A Critter Poem

A Critter Poem
A Critter Poem | Source

Bats Are Beautiful Creatures

How to Help Bats in Your Garden

Do You Have a Critter and Insect Friendly Garden?

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The Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher | Source

Some Ideas for Using Wood in Your Critter Garden - Great Environmental Gardening

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

We Just Leave the Dead Willows at Peace

Dead Pollard Willow
Dead Pollard Willow | Source

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 bacteria 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 there, picking the bark away, and snatching caterpillars or other bugs.

You might like to read my article about Environmental Gardens, which I wrote in honor of Earth Day 2012.

Old Trunks Are Very Decorative Ornaments

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

trunk
trunk | Source

Food Source for Woodpeckers

Food Source for Woodpeckers
Food Source for Woodpeckers | Source

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

Stones make good housing and hiding places

pile-of-stones
pile-of-stones

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

One Bug's Death Is the Other Bug's Life

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 Critter and Bug Garden - It's Cool and Dry Housing

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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!

Mulching Is Important for All Kind of Worms and Insects

mulching
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.

Ideal Housing for Mice

Ideal housing for mice
Ideal housing for mice | Source

Insects Are Beneficial for Spreading Pollen

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Insects are beneficialInsects are beneficialInsects are beneficial
Insects are beneficial
Insects are beneficial | Source
Insects are beneficial
Insects are beneficial | Source
Insects are beneficial
Insects are beneficial | Source

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

Click thumbnail to view full-size
BlackbirdBlackbirdSpotted FlycatcherYoung Dove
Blackbird
Blackbird | Source
Blackbird
Blackbird | Source
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher | Source
Young Dove
Young Dove | Source

Don't Forget the Water!

I Use Sinc Tubs for Frogs and Other Critters

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

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

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    • Titia profile image
      Author

      Titia Geertman 4 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 4 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 4 years ago

      Wonderful critter garden. Thanks for the ideas.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 4 years ago

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

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 4 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.

    • BorderCollie LM profile image

      BorderCollie LM 4 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 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a lovely way to keep a garden. Blessed.

    • Titia profile image
      Author

      Titia Geertman 4 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 image
      Author

      Titia Geertman 4 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

      anonymous 4 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 done....it was like a retreat for me, thank you!

    • wedpittsburgh lm profile image

      wedpittsburgh lm 4 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 4 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 4 years ago from Eastern Ontario

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

    • SydneyH LM profile image

      SydneyH LM 4 years ago

      Lots of good information for me to try here.

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 4 years ago from Naperville, IL

      Beautiful and informative lens! Love all your fabulous photos.

    • MohkaUK LM profile image

      MohkaUK LM 4 years ago

      Got to love a critter!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 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

      writerkath 4 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

      Rosaquid 4 years ago

      Lovely lens!

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 4 years ago

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

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