How to make:
The key to wildlife gardening is to use as much outside space as you can to try to increase the number of visiting creatures.
Adding a green roof to a bird house provides a cosy nesting site for birds and will appeal to bees, butterflies and moths, too.
A store-bought bird house is simply adapted by adding wooden battens to the roof, and then planted with low-growing sedum and saxifrage to make an attractive and practical addition to the garden.
If you decide to paint your bird box, make sure that the paint is water-based as well as safe for birds.
Plants to include:
- Saxifraga ‘Cloth of Gold’
- Sedum acre ‘Golden Queen’
- S. oregonense
- S. pluricaule
- S. spathulifolium ‘Purpureum’
- S. spurium ‘Fuldaglut’
You will need:
- Four battens of W2xL3.5cm wood, cut to the same width as the roof of your bird box
- Two battens of W2xL3.5cm wood, cut to the same depth (i.e. measuring from back to front) as the roof of your bird box, less 4cm (the width of two battens)
- Screws and a drill
- A piece of plastic sheeting cut to the same area as the roof of the bird box with 5-7cm extra on all sides
- Potting compost
- Drill holes in the first four wooden battens, about 2.5cm from each end. Place them along the front and back edges of the bird box roof and screw them onto the roof.
- Drill holes in the second two pieces of timber, about 2.5cm from each end. Place them along the sides of the roof and screw them in place between the front and back edges. Paint the bird house and leave it to dry completely.
- Line the roof with the piece of plastic by stapling it inside the edges of the roof with a staple gun. Fold the plastic at the corners so that it fits neatly.
- Press some potting compost onto the lining. Take the plants out of their pots and break them up into smaller pieces. Spread out the roots to flatten them slightly, then push the plants into the potting compost, pressing down firmly. Continue planting until the roof is covered.
Make a pot that will provide beautiful herbs for the kitchen that are also bee-friendly. Here, an old metal wok has been repurposed to make an attractive planter that is perfect for a collection of fragrant thyme plants that will captivate any number of bees and butterflies. Thyme is quite low-growing and does not need deep soil, so this container works well.
You will need:
- Large metal wok (or a similar shallow pan)
- Potting compost
- A varied selection of thyme plants
- Drill holes in the base of the wok for drainage, and add enough gravel to cover the base of the wok as thyme likes very well-drained soil.
- Mix a few handfuls of sand with the potting compost to mimic the soil that thyme would naturally grow in. Pour the sand and potting compost mixture into the wok and spread it out.
- Soak the thyme plants in water so that the roots are thoroughly wet and take them out of their pots.
- Gently pull the roots out to encourage them to spread in their new surroundings, and plant them in the wok, scooping holes in the potting compost and pushing the plants into them.
- If necessary, add more potting compost to even the surface, before flattening it off.
- Place some gravel and a few larger stones over the surface of the potting compost. This gives a decorative touch, but it will also help to retain moisture and heat.
Bug hotels are a great way of housing a wide range of insects – from leaf-cutter and mason bees to centipedes, ladybirds, earwigs, beetle larvae, and many others. They are a useful wildlife feature if you are short of space, or like to keep a tidy garden, and if made from natural materials, they can look attractive enough to become a lovely garden feature.
You will need:
- Approximately 24 bricks (collect old ones from local skips, dumpsters, or wastegrounds, but always ask permission before taking anything)
- Three equal lengths of wooden planking
- Some curved or flat roof tiles
- A selection of small logs, pinecones, twigs, dead flower stalks, small pieces of bamboo, leaves etc
- Make two rows of bricks (each row two bricks high), with the space between them matching the length of the wooden planking.
- Place a roof tile on the ground between the bricks and lay a plank of wood over the top, resting the ends on the bricks.
- Continue to build up layers of bricks and wooden planks until the basic structure is complete. Don’t be tempted to build it too tall as it could become unstable and topple over.
- Add roof tiles to the top to form a roof to prevent the stack becoming too wet. If you are using flat roof tiles, prop up one end of them to help rainwater run off.
- Drill holes in the logs to attract bees, and put the logs in between the layers. Push all the bits and bobs that you have collected into the gaps of the stack, cramming them in as necessary. Cardboard, straw, and pieces of tree bark are useful, too, because they will rot down and create damp, dark corners.
Read the book
This is an edited extract from The Urban Wildlife Gardener by Emma Hardy (£14.99, Cico Books).
Photographer: Cico Books/Debbie Patterson/Polly Wreford