Create a wildlife haven on a shoestring with these five frugal tips.
Springwatch 2009 recently sprung, and millions of us watched Chris Packham and the crew champion Britain's wildlife and report on its well-being.
If you're keen to support your local wildlife, the good news is you can do it on a really tight budget. And I don't just mean sticking up the odd bird box or feeder.
Here are five simple ways you can encourage wildlife to thrive in your garden, each costing well under £10. They should be good strategies for keeping the kids occupied during the summer holidays, too!
Drinking and bathing
Many people provide food for their feathered friends but forget about the drink. A source of clean water is as important in very cold weather as it is during hot months, because alternative water sources may become frozen.
Other creatures will appreciate a water feature, too: It will encourage frogs to visit (and eat your slugs and snails), will allow dragonflies and other insects to breed, and let hedgehogs and other mammals have a drink.
You can make one for next to nothing using a leak-free plastic dustbin lid. Just turn it upside down, support it with four bricks and add a layer of gravel to the bottom (birds prefer rough surfaces to smooth as they can be gripped more easily). Add a small plank of wood as a 'ramp' too, to make sure other wildlife can get out if it falls in.
If birds are your main focus, try to raise the bath well off the ground (onto a bird table, for example), to give them a better chance against marauding cats.
If you don't have the cash or the time to plant a wide range of wildlife-friendly plants, decide who your top priority is; would you rather support bumblebees, butterflies or birds?
For example, bumblebees love clover flowers, catmint and lavender - and crocuses and snowdrops will provide them with a good early source of nectar when there's not much else about.
The seeds from sunflowers will attract small birds. Butterflies and moths are particularly keen on the nectar of honeysuckle, while Buddleja (also known as the butterfly bush) actually attracts just about anything!
Once you've made up your mind, ask around friends to see if they have any suitable cuttings or spare seeds you can have.
It's also worth putting a 'wanted' notice on your local Freecycle network. Keen gardeners often end up with far too many seedlings and are only too happy to give them away to good homes.
And if you don't have a garden, don't worry. You can still attract bees and butterflies with a well-planted window box or a couple of hanging baskets. 99p Stores is currently selling a range of hanging baskets and large plant pots for the bargain price of... you've guessed it - 99p each.
Cut out the chemicals
You can attract wildlife and save money if you stop using artificial pesticides and weed-suppressants.
Chemicals used to target one species (like slug pellets) tend to work their way through the food chain and damage several other types of wildlife (like birds and frogs). The same applies to strong artificial weed killers, so try to find alternative methods of control.
For example, beer traps can be used to fight slug infestations. Frogs and hedgehogs are pretty good at this too, so the wildlife you encourage could prove to be useful as well as appealing!
You can also minimise the need for weed killer by taking combative organic action, like applying mulch and using weed-suppressant fabric.
A home for creatures great and small
For next to nothing, you can build a home that suits several types of wildlife.
Just build a stable pile of logs in a quiet corner of the garden. Hedgehogs, toads and a huge range of insects may all use it for shelter, and it will encourage them to become more regular garden visitors.
Just make sure it's not too clean and tidy. Rotting wood attracts the most wildlife, so don't worry about keeping your set-up completely dry.
A well-established compost heap is another valuable source of food and shelter for many creatures, including hedgehogs, amphibians and even slow worms.
Try to resist the urge to tidy your organic matter away into a composter; a traditional heap will provide wildlife with more entry points and escape routes.
What could be easier than doing nothing? You can encourage wildlife just by leaving an area of your lawn or flowerbed alone and letting it go a bit wild.
Even a small patch of wilderness is capable of sustaining hundreds of plants and insects. If you're not keen on the 'natural' look, place a garden bench or some trellising in front of it to shield it from view (this will provide it with shelter, too).
Alternatively, make the most of its appearance; a couple of packets of mixed wild flower seeds could be the start of something beautiful, as well as wildlife-friendly.
There are plenty more affordable ways to support local wildlife. If you have any you'd like to tell us about, please leave your comments here.
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