How To Attract Birds & Bees Into Your Garden
From blue flowers and red clover, Chewton Glen’s Estate Manager, Darren Venables has some brilliant advice about how to encourage bees, bugs and birds into your garden.
Birds need a secure place to nest, it is a good idea to have a look around at the surrounding area and see what birds are present. For instance, if you have robins they like a bird box with a slightly open front. Small songbirds such as blue tits and sparrows like a nesting boxes with a small opening between 25 mm and 32 mm. An important consideration for bird boxes is not to place them on a south-facing wall where they will get to hot and will be UN useable. Clean the bird boxes out each year to remove last year’s nests each winter so the nest box is always clean and disease free.
The secret to bird feeders it to give the birds what they want, birds are quite picky about the food they want and if you don’t give them the food they desire they simply sort through the food throw the unwanted bird seed on the floor attracting larger birds such as pigeons and magpies which will scare off the song birds. I always stick to either black or white sunflower seeds, a peanut feeder and if it’s very cold I put out a fat ball feeder. This works well at both Chewton Glen and at home where I have a mixture of songbirds I feed. Personally, I keep my bird feeders up all year round, this way the birds know there is a food source there all the time and as other birds see them using them they will follow them to the food source and very soon your bird feeders will be a hive of activity.
Landing Areas – the need to feel secure
Birds need to feel secure and safe to come into a garden, this means they need lots of trees and bushes to hide in, it is quite rare a bird will go straight to a bird feeder, they generally land on a nearby tree or dense shrub and then go to a bird feeder. Ceanothus, for example, is quite a good shrub to plant near bird feeders, it is dense enough for the birds to be slightly hidden but also allows them to see out and make their way to a bird feeder.
A reliable water source is important for both birds and bees. A bird bath will always attract birds, I have a bird bath outside my office where I watch the black birds coming down and washing in the mornings. It also provides a reliable water source for the birds, it’s important to keep the water clean and fresh and well topped up.
Bees also need a good water source, the best way to attract bees to a water source is a large shallow dish on a log or stump with some pebbles on. The bees will land on the pebbles and walk into the water to drink. In summer bees need allot of water to help produce honey so a good shallow water source is incredibly important to them.
Pollen and Nectar
It is really important to give bees a good food source they will be attracted to. Choose plants in your garden that are large open flowers, singles not double varieties that the bee can access easily. Double flowers look beautiful but bees cannot get to the pollen easily.
Plants that are particularly good for attracting bees are Nepita (cat mint), Annual Dahlias such as Moon Fire or Mystic Dreamer, Cornflowers, Hellebores, Lavender, Alliums and Verbena Bonariensis. One plant that is particularly good at attracting bees is Muscari Bulbs, which flower in February and March just as the bees are starting to appear and look for food which can be in short supply at that time of year so a large clump of Muscari will always attract bees.
Bees see in the blue colour spectrum so always plant blue flowers, this is one of the reasons why blue flowers are so in fashion at the moment because people want to attract bees to their garden and planting blue flowers is a good way to do this. Plants like Caryopteris, for example, will always attract bees in the summer.
As well as bees in your garden it is really important to think of insects such as hover flies which are so important. Hover Flies eat aphids so if you attract them into your garden by planting Limananthus (poaches egg plants) planted at the base of an apple tree, for example, it draws in hover flies and they will them eat the aphids from your fruit trees reducing the need to spray your crops with chemicals, it’s an easy tip to help you grow organically.
Go Chemical Free
If you want bees in your garden it is really important not to use any weed killers or pesticides. A completely weed free lawn maybe great for a golf course but for a bee there is no food source, leave weeds in your lawn, buttercups for example provide an amazing food source for bees.
It’s the same for weeds in your flower borders, remove them by all means but pull them up or dig them our never use weed killer, the bees will become poisoned by it and any bee colonies you do get locally will simply die off.
Red Clover / Lawn
If you want something slightly different in your garden plant a patch of Red Clover. This creates a lawn that bees will love it is an amazing food source for them. It never needs cutting and the roots produce nitrogen fixing nodules. If you want something different in your garden that will attract bees and wildlife, sow a Red Clover lawn.
Featured Image: Alexandr Tereshkov on Unsplash
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