The way to get animals to visit and live in your back garden is to think like they do. If you were a bird, a mouse or a shrew where would you like to live that kept you warm, dry and out of danger. Too many gardens in the UK have picture perfect lawns and manicured flower beds which provide very little shelter and food for animals to live amongst. If you really want that manicured lawn always leave an area off to one side that you allow to grow wild, this will provide a great increase in the amounts of insects that live in your garden which starts off the food chain so that other creatures can start up homes.
Water is also a very important feature which should not be overlooked. Ponds with muddy banks are ideal but even a simple bird bath can bring life into an arid garden. Ponds are a magnet for insects as many need to lay their eggs amongst the weeds. Again, a muddy, weedy pond is good news, if it’s spotlessly clean it’s only going to keep you happy, not the residents. As any good fisherman will tell you, the best fishing is always to be found in murky water next to the reeds.
A variety of habitats are a major factor in bringing a variety of wildlife to the garden. Trees, shrubs, short grass, long grass, flowers, weeds etc. all provide a different food, different homes and different insects so that a wide variety of animals can come and enjoy the pickings. If you have trees then place some nest boxes with different size entry holes so that they aren’t all hogged by the same species of bird. Chuck in a bird table with a number of different types of food available, always remembering to throw some on the ground so that other creatures and birds can take advantage.
Leave a few piles of old wood and chippings around at the base of bushes and trees, not only will these provide excellent homes for smaller creatures but as the wood breaks down, lots of different insects will be attracted in, providing a vital link on the food chain for the garden.
Be creative and not destructive. Think of new and interesting ways to create shelters and habitats and don’t go around clearing the garden too much each spring. Much of the best bits of the gardens are the wild jungle types that best resemble the animals natural habitat.