Gardening is an endless struggle to control and craft nature into pleasing forms for the human eye. Yet this relationship need not always be combative. Of course it does feel like war sometimes; against the endless growth of grass and the constant need for pruning. And then there are slugs.
While we may have spent some time in our history creating scarecrows and tying ribbons and bells to plants to keep away birds and other animals there are some animals which can be helpful. Some animals and insects will be able to help you in your fight against the real garden pests.
Helpful Garden Birds
Most birds can generally be helpful in that they eat slugs and other pests. Hummingbirds eat aphids, gnats and flies. Blackbirds are particularly good at hunting down possibly harmful insects – but they do have a certain liking for berries. If you do have berries in your garden then having a mesh net over them is a must.
Wrens are also great insect hunters as are swallows. Another option is to keep chickens. Chickens love finding slugs and insects to eat – having free range chickens in your garden means you have a supply of eggs as well as slug-free tomatoes!
The way to attract these birds is to provide food throughout the winter. Nut feeders, fat-balls and berried shrubs are great ways to attract and keep bird in the garden. Giving bird accommodation can be helpful to prolong their stay.
One of the most helpful birds is the robin. Not because it helps your garden particularly but it is known that children tend to behave themselves better when they’ve been told that robins are Father Christmas’ spies!
Helpful Insects for the Garden
Centipedes eat small worms, slugs, and woodlice. Centipedes are also rarely a problem in the cabbage patch. Equally earthworms are helpful because of their ability to aerate the soil and mix animal waste with dead leaves and vegetation.
Ladybirds are well known for eating aphids, black fly and greenfly. There is little in the way of tips for attracting ladybirds to your garden – but if you have a greenfly buffet they will almost certainly turn up.
Other Helpful Garden Critters
Frogs and toads can be very helpful in the garden – they eat snails, slugs and other insects. There is only one way to attract frogs, and that is to have water in your garden. A pond is ideal but many get away with an old sink submerged into the flowerbed. If you can plant a few flowers in it as well you should begin to notice frogs appearing from nowhere.
A garden favourite is, of course, the hedgehog. Apart from eating insects like the other animals on this list they are also a treat to see running across the lawn at night. There are a few things to remember about hedgehogs – do no feed them bread and milk! It is bad for their digestive system. Simply providing them a nice place to sleep and hibernate is a great way to ensure Hedgehogs arriving in the garden. If you think there is particularly low amount of insects and slugs in your garden then feeding hedgehog’s dog-food is acceptable.
With a little luck and some careful planning you should soon have a woodlands worth of helpful animals in your garden (as soon as you’re not looking of course).