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How to attract birds into your garden

A bird-friendly garden doesn't have to be wild or overgrown, but can look attractive all year round. Growing a wide variety of plants to attract wildlife will provide you with something to look at and offer birds food and shelter to help them survive the winter and feed hungry fledgings in the spring.

Creating a rich habitat of trees, shrubs and flowers is the key to planting for birds, to produce insects, fruits and seeds that birds will eat.

You don't need to devote your entire garden to wildlife, but set up a feeding station in one area, which might consist of a couple of trees, a thick hedge, a group of berrying shrubs, or some colourful cottage garden plants.

Getting started

Planting for birds
One way of beginning is to set aside a quiet area for wildlife, for example behind a shed or in a quiet corner. Here you could plant a small tree such as a holly or a rowan, cover any bare fences or walls with ivy and climbers, and plant a couple of berrying shrubs such as pyracantha and cotoneaster.

You could also plant some bulbs and wildflowers and leave a few piles of twigs and stones. Once you have planted up this area, it helps to leave it alone as much as possible to allow a natural habitat to develop. Dense evergreen or deciduous bushes, tangles of clematis and honeysuckle and an old tree can shelter nesting blackbirds, chaffinches, robins and dunnocks.

Feeders and bird tables

You could also create a bird friendly area nearer the house by placing feeders and tables close to an area of more ornamental planting. This could be a mixed bed of shrubs, herbaceous plants and colourful annuals; a herb garden; or perhaps a pergola covered in climbers. Ideally, if you have space, you could include a pond nearby to provide water and somewhere for birds to bathe.

What kind of plants do I need?

What kind of plants
Try to include many different kinds of plants in your garden including evergreens, fruit trees, colourful cottage garden plants, annuals and wildflowers. If you can room for a native tree, that is great - a holly, rowan or birch will be OK in a small garden, or if you have a larger garden, you could consider a a larch, willow or ash.

It also helps to adopt a more relaxed approach to gardening, avoiding chemical sprays and slug pellets, to encourage smaller creatures and insects which are food for birds.

If you tidy up and trim immediately after plants have flowered, birds can't use the seeds, so think about letting plants die back naturally and then tidying them up later. Other ideas include allowing ivy to scramble up a fence at the end of the garden, leave piles of leaves and fallen fruit, and let a patch of flowers go to seed.

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