Encouraging Wildlife in Your Hedges
You do not have to necessarily have a garden to attract wildlife. Even hedges that border your property can be a great attraction to a variety of insects, birds and mammals in that they will often provide food and shelter.
ShelterSome birds will use a hedge all year long for its shelter. In summertime, they can offer safety from the wind and rain storms as well as protection from predators and in winter, a hedge can keep birds warm. Birds and other small mammals will often use a hedge as a nesting site as the thick foliage and branches give them good cover whilst also offering easy access. Weasels, voles, hedgehogs and other small mammals will often prefer areas at the bottom of the hedgerow whilst wood mice will usually opt for higher branches as they are extremely capable climbers. A hedge is also a good place to attract insects and a way of proving that is to tap the hedge gently with a stick and hold out an umbrella underneath and see what falls into it. You might be quite surprised to find the number of living creatures that fall into it and that’s without you even having done anything to attract them. You should always return them from where they came from, however, as certain creatures can be very particular about what they eat and, if you leave them on the ground, they could get very disoriented and find it difficult to survive.
FoodBirds will often find seeds in hedges upon which to feed and, if there are berries on the hedge too, even small mammals can find a hearty meal. Nectar loving insects will also thrive if there are violets or other nectar bearing flowers growing at the bottom.
How to Design a Hedge Which Will Attract More WildlifeTall hedges don’t necessarily equate to more wildlife living within them. It’s the ‘type’ of hedge that is most important and your hedge will do better if it consists of hawthorn, holly, yew, beech, maple, dog rose or wild privet. However, it should also be native to your particular area. If you’re just starting off planting a hedge, you can buy hedge mixes from garden centres and tree nurseries from different kinds of trees which can, therefore, attract different kinds of wildlife and your garden centre should be able to point you in the direction of mixes which are appropriate to your locality.
Planting and Caring For a HedgeAutumn is the best time for planting a hedge as the soil will still be warm after the summer and will have been moistened by the autumn rain. Double rows of trees will create space and density if you have enough room which, when fully matured, will provide better cover for wildlife in which to build nests and to stay safe from predators.
You should always prune hedges in the autumn when you can be sure that you’re not going to be disturbing any nesting birds. Late autumn is best for deciduous varieties when they’re no longer growing and, if the hedge is only a couple of years old, you should cut it back quite severely as this encourages it to thicken at the base. And, it’s believed that any grasses or flowers you have growing at the base of your hedge attract even more wildlife because it provides greater cover for nesting and to keep hidden from predators.
Therefore, even if you only have a small garden area or, perhaps, you have no garden at all, a carefully considered and well kept hedge can still give you plenty of opportunity to observe wildlife at close quarters and helps to provide many insects, birds and small mammals with a place to live and feed from.