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GARDENING: GO WILD; Seven ways to make your garden a haven for all things natural.

Byline: ADRIENNE WILD

GARDENS offer a source of food and shelter to wildlife and with a little care and imagination can become a natural oasis for birds, animals and insects that will assist you in creating a pest-free paradise.

1. PERFECT PONDS

CREATE gently sloping edges with pebbles on at least one side to allow easy access for birds and animals. Don't be tempted to cram in too many plants - a well-balanced pool needs areas of open water as well as margins of dense planting.

EXPERT TIP: Use a flexible liner, which can be fitted to any shape and allows you to add as many different levels or shelves as you like for marginal and aquatic plants.

HOW MUCH? Pond kits, which include waterfall, liner and filtration system, from pounds 169.99, Bradshaws Direct (0870 444 8271, www.bradshawsdirect.co.uk)

2. BATHS FOR BIRDS

WATER for bathing and drinking is vital for birds at all times of year. A decorative birdbath on a pedestal can also double as a feature in a flowerbed - site it close to trees or large shrubs where the birds have somewhere safe to preen and dry off.

EXPERT TIP: Keep the bath clean by emptying it regularly and filling it with fresh water. In winter keep the water ice free.

HOW MUCH? Birdbaths are available from garden centres from around pounds 30.

3. NESTING BOXES

INSTALL a box or two now, so that when birds are gearing-up for breeding in late winter they have somewhere safe to rear their young.

EXPERT TIP: Site your nesting box in view of a window, so you can watch the birds comings and goings without disturbing them.

HOW MUCH? Build your own nest box kit costs pounds 7.99 from C J Wildlife (0800 731 2820, www.birdfood.co.uk)

4. WILD FLOWERS

NOW is the best time to transform a sunny area of lawn into a wildflower meadow. You can create colour in spring with dwarf bulbs and meadow favourites such as cowslips and later sow cornfield annuals like poppies for a romantic effect in summer. The meadow will require one good in July.

EXPERT TIP: Plant each variety in bold drifts arranging the varieties in height order across the flowerbed with taller plants in the middle.

HOW MUCH? Buy wildflower seed for as little as pounds 1.60 per packet from Mr Fothergill's (0845 166 2511, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk)

5. BUTTERFLY BOWERS

PLANT a nectar-rich and fragrant flower border featuring plants like buddleja, verbena, lavender, Michaelmas daisies and sedum in a warm, sunny spot now, so they can establish before the cold weather. Irrigate in dry weather to keep up the flow of nectar.

EXPERT TIP: Plants like echinacea, pictured above, with flat, open flowers where the nectar is fully exposed will also attract flies and beetles.

HOW MUCH? Perennial plants cost around pounds 2.99 and shrubs from pounds 5.99 from garden centres.

6. LOG SHELTERS

LOGS can be piled up to provide shelter for wildlife such as spiders, beetles, wood wasps, solitary bees, slugs and snails, which will attract birds, who will pick over the pile in search of a meal. Choose a shady spot to prevent the wood drying out in the sun. Alternatively, cover it with turf, so that it can double up as a seat.

EXPERT TIP: Site the stack near a pond and the cool, damp habitat will give cover to toads, frogs and newts.

HOW MUCH? Gather logs for FREE when pruning trees.

7. INSECT NESTS

ENCOURAGE solitary bees, which are docile and friendly, so safe around children and pets, by providing them and other beneficial insects like lacewings and ladybirds with a nesting site and shelter.

EXPERT TIP: Avoid chemicals and don't over-fertilise the soil and you will maintain a healthy garden for wildlife.

HOW MUCH? Nesting boxes start at pounds 8.95 from C J Wildlife (0800 731 2820, www.birdfood.co.uk).

Put up some bird boxes now so that when birds start to gear up for breeding they already know what they can use

Now is the best time to start making a wildflower meadow so bulbs & flowers will give pleasure all next year

CAPTION(S):

A well-kept pond is a joy in any garden and helps bring wildlife in; 1. Perfect ponds; 2. Baths for birds; 3. Nesting boxes; 4. Wild flowers; 5. Butterfly bowers; 6. Log shelters; 7. Insect nests Pictures: MARIANNE MAJERUS/GAP/CLIVE NICHOLLS
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 23, 2007
Words:745
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