If you're lucky enough to have a garden, this is the perfect time to transform a patch of it into a wildlife haven. Not only will it add life and colour, but it's low maintenance and you'll be doing your bit to help the environment and our natural ecosystem as well. Children love learning about birds, bees, butterflies and bugs, so it will keep them entertained and busy too!
Here are three easy ways to get your wildlife garden growing:
1. Design a garden that works for you
If you love a neatly manicured lawn, don't despair. Going back to nature doesn't mean letting your garden become an overgrown mess. Careful planning allows you to create separate areas in your garden, so wildlife can thrive in some parts while you can keep others for lazing in yourself.
Why not create a wildlife meadow in one corner, sowing wildflowers and leaving the grass to grow longer there? Planting small trees, shrubs and climbing plants will also attract insects and birds, but first investigate what you already have. YPTE (Young People's Trust for the Environment) has helpful advice on what to plant in a wildlife garden plus other great gardening resources and ideas.
Even if you have a small garden or patio, you can use your imagination to create space saving solutions. Make your own insect-friendly garden artwork using wood and twigs, or treat friendly bugs to their very own Bug Palace (above), and fix it to a boundary fence or wall. Grow wildlife friendly plants in pots, containers and windowboxes. We love this RHS video on creating urban hotspots!
2. Include different habitats for different species
It's important to create a range of habitats to suit the types of wildlife you want to attract, and to include a combination of sunny and more sheltered spots if possible. Find out which plants and flowers they're most attracted to, for example buddleias are always favourites for butterflies. Leave small piles of logs or tree branches in a shady corner for insects to explore.
If you're fixing bird nesters, make sure they're not easily accessible to predators. And don't forget friendly hedgehogs like to travel, so dig a small hole under your boundary fence if possible. Bee species have their own preferences - our Interactive Bee Hotel (below) is perfect for solitary bees but bumble bees prefer to create their own. Here's a brilliant Wildlife Trusts handout on wild bee activity
If you already have trees in your garden, great! If not (and you have the space to do so), why not plant a wild cherry tree or similar to attract a range of wildlife? The Woodland Trust has lots of ideas for trees to plant in your garden. Hedges provide shelter for birds and all sorts of insects, and you can also grow honeysuckle and other climbing plants over your boundary walls and fences.
3. Add water and food to attract wildlife
The final all important touches to your wildlife garden! Including a pond in your garden is a great way to attract wildlife, and it doesn't have to be a big project. Try a large (lined) pot, an old sink or a washing up bowl - all you need to know is in this RSPB's easy guide to help you make a mini pond. It's best to include a sloping side for ease of access and also avoid fish if you want to attract wildlife.
Birds will easily be attracted by easy sources of water and love to make a splash in a bird bath. Keep it filled with clean water for drinking, too. As well as eating berries and a wide range of seeds and kitchen scraps, many small birds love peanuts, sunflower hearts and fat balls, especially during the cold winter months.
And of course there's no reason why you can't decorate your wildlife garden with works of outdoor art and fun personal touches! Quirky designs such as this Dr Who inspired Police Box Bird Feeder (above) add extra style as well as being practical sources of food for our feathered friends.
Finally, give your garden itself healthy food - compost your garden waste wherever possible to provide natural nutrients, and avoid chemical pesticides (especially on open flowers). Check out the Soil Association's useful tips for looking after soil in your garden.
We hope you've been inspired by these easy ways to grow a wildlife garden and we'd love to hear any tips you have to share. If you're looking for gift ideas for wildlife loving friends or yourself, you'll love our eco friendly Wildlife Gift Boxes, designed and crafted in the Cotswolds. And you'll find heaps more inspiration in store in our gorgeous Garden Gifts Collection.