Gardening: Plant the seeds of wildlife garden

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Natural habitats are fast decreasing due to increased cultivation and urbanisation of our countryside and wild birds now look for a new home in gardens across the country.

Encouraging wildlife into the garden is a fun, rewarding activity for the whole family. A wildlife garden can provide the ideal setting for a tranquil sanctuary which will help bring you closer to nature.

Bird feeding plays an important part in maintaining a happy ecological equilibrium in a garden environment. Supporting birds throughout winter helps them to survive severe weather and be in good condition to breed successfully in spring.

Feeding wild birds will attract and maintain a healthy number in your garden. They help control the insect population, which is important to pollinate plants, as well as supplying nutrients in the diet of wild birds and other animals.

Without birds, the insect population would proliferate beyond the resources available, eating away all the plants. There would be no food source left for the insects, causing them to die out, and this in turn would deter birds and other wildlife from the garden.

Duncan Cuthill, horticultural expert at Dobbies Garden World Edinburgh, offers some top tips to help care for wild birds in your garden.

He says: “Sit a nest box in your garden to encourage bird families to set up home. This is great for organic pest control in the garden and interesting for your family to observe.

“It is also important that you supply a wide range of different foods in your garden – this will attract a wider variety of birds. Try different seeds and mixes as well as treats such as energy balls, suets and dried 
mealworms.

“Food can be placed in a bird feeder – place bird feeders in a sheltered area to protect birds when searching for food and if possible change the food you offer in your garden as birds require a varied diet. It is vital to supply food all year round, but each type of food and feeder can be tailored to suit the season.

“Water is essential for wildlife, particularly seed-eating birds who don’t get the moisture they require from their diet alone. Birds need to drink and bathe daily, so a pond with shallow edges, a bird bath or some other water supply in the garden is vital to keep them coming back.”

• Dobbies Garden Centre, Melville Nursery, Lasswade, 0131-663 1941.