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How to plant a wildlife garden

Five ideas from Leilah Liedman and Martijn De Coster on how to create an ecological wildlife haven

Leilah Liedman and Martijn De Coster have created a wildlife-friendly garden to balance their sleek carbon-neutral home in Bruges. The L-shaped town garden encourages biodiversity and has wild herbaceous borders and a productive vegetable plot on the roof of the shed to save space in the garden. Here they share their tips for creating an ecological garden for wildlife.

Kristy Ramage's choice for a Spring wild-like pot
© Andrew Montgomery

5 ways to create an ecological wildlife haven

  1. Chose wildlife-friendly plants, such as salvias or Verbena bonariensis, that attract butterflies and bees, and trees and evergreen shrubs that will provide shelter for birds. Try to leave a patch of nettles in your wildlife garden, as they are beneficial as food to caterpillars.
  2. Use certified FSC wood and re-use old materials. Martijn has used remnants of the timber used for the house to make the trellis for the garden shed. He adds chipped pruned wood to the paths every year.
  3. Create a water feature or a pond in your wildlife garden and collect rainwater to refill the pond, which helps prevent flooding. Make sure small animals can get out of the pond easily by creating a boggy area around it.
  4. Enhance biodiversity. Don’t tidy your garden too much. In autumn, Martijn and Leilah leave all plants and leaves that have died off and don’t start cleaning them up until February. The dead plant material offers protection against frost and shelter for insects and other small animals. Most insects like cool, moist conditions, but bees prefer a sunny spot. Never use pesticides.
  5. Grow some fruit and vegetables. By producing your own food you eliminate any food miles and help cut down on CO2 emissions. You can maximise space by using walls and even roofs to grow edible plants. And if you’re feeling very generous, leave some cabbage in your vegetable plot as food for the cabbage white butterfly.