Tips for an insect-friendly garden

Insects play a crucial role in nature. As pollinators for many plants or as food for various animals such as hedgehogs or birds. If you want to encourage insects and offer them a refuge in your garden, you can do this with the right choice of plants, a few useful elements and a lot of patience. Here we provide specific tips on how to create more buzzing and humming in the garden.

Use organic fertiliser

The most important step towards an insect-friendly garden is to refrain from using chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Insects already have a hard enough time due to conventional agriculture. Turn your garden into a recreational area for bees, bumblebees, butterflies and beetles. Pesticides kill insects and upset the natural balance. Chemical sprays are therefore taboo in the garden. 

Organic fertilisers such as compost, plant manure and green manure are more environmentally friendly, more compatible with plants and promote soil life. They increase the storage capacity of the garden soil and pose no health risk to humans or animals.

Insect buffet all year round

A lush, colourful garden is a feast for the eyes and provides an abundance of food for pollinating insect species. Not only bees and bumblebees depend on flowering plants, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and wasps also visit flowers and thus contribute to pollination. Give these hard-working helpers variety and diversity. Make sure there is always something in bloom. Winter bloomers and early bloomers make it easier for the animals to start the year. Even plants with inconspicuous flowers have a lot to offer insects. Ivy and nettles, for example, provide hungry six-legged creatures with nectar and pollen well into autumn.

Blühender Thymian
Flowering herbs such as thyme here provide food for insects

Flowering herbs exert a magical attraction on insects. While bees, wild bees and various butterflies have a preference for lavender, sage, oregano, thyme and borage, umbellifers such as dill and fennel attract striped bugs. Native wild shrub hedges are particularly valuable for countless species. They are a good alternative to garden fences and provide shelter and food for insects, birds and small mammals.

Unfilled flowers

If you make sure that a few plants are always in bloom from early spring until the frost, countless insects will be delighted. But choosing the right flowering plants also plays an important role. Of course, the flowers should decorate the garden and please us humans, but at the same time they must also satisfy the hunger of the garden's animal inhabitants. Although double flowers look splendid, these opulent beauties prove to be a deceptive package for insects, offering no pollen and usually hardly any nectar. On the one hand, the countless petals prevent insects from penetrating inside the flower. Secondly, the stamens have mostly lost their original function and the nectaries are also often non-functional.

Of course, you don't have to miss out on the sight of double roses, peonies, dahlias, etc. Use these showy flowering plants as eye-catchers and place as many unfilled perennials and flowers as possible alongside them.

Deadwood brings life to the garden

A simple method of inviting endangered insects into the garden is to pile up dead wood. Dead parts of trees and shrubs attract countless species: They serve as a food source for wood-eating beetles such as the rare rhinoceros beetle. Wild bees and solitary wasps nest here. Various fly and mosquito larvae in turn feed on fungi and bacteria in the boreholes. Tree sponges, which form on dead wood, are also home to specialised insect species. Deadwood is therefore anything but dead - it is full of life and attracts many other animals. Hedgehogs, slow worms, snakes, lizards, common toads, songbirds and shrews find shelter and food here.

Benjeshecke aus Totholz auf einer Streuobstwiese
Deadwood, like here in the form of a Benjes hedge, provides a diverse habitat in the garden
Photo: Naturefund

You can leave individual trunks or larger branches lying around or create piles of wood. In larger gardens, there may be space for deadwood hedges made from shrub and tree cuttings, known as Benjes hedges. They serve as a privacy screen and, over time, create a natural hedge of native wild shrubs.

Piles of leaves

Resist the urge to collect and dispose of leaves in autumn. Instead, leave them in a corner of the garden as a pile of leaves. This saves you work and also provides a cosy winter habitat for insects and many other animals.  Once the cold season is over, the leaves end up in the compost, where they are broken down by industrious microorganisms and turned into valuable humus.

Dry stone walls

Dry stone walls are also a great refuge for insects. As the stones store heat from the sun, they attract heat-loving species. Dry stone walls also look very attractive and are a good way of shaping slopes or levelling out differences in height in the garden. Stones or bricks can also be used to create attractive herb spirals. Add sand and compost between the stones. Drought-loving plants such as stonecrop, cypress spurge, blue viper's bugloss, rock cress or felt hornwort are perfect for planting in dry stone walls.

Trockenmauer aus Schiefer in der Dörscheider Heide
Dry stone walls, such as here in our insect protection project in Dörscheider Heide, provide valuable retreats for insects
Photo: Naturefund

Nesting aid for insects

Pithy stalks of blackberry, raspberry, dog rose, mullein, thistle, mugwort and summer lilac are better nesting aids than bought insect hotels. Stick the stems in a sunny and dry place in sand or gravel or attach them vertically to the fence with binding wire. Always attach the stalks vertically, otherwise they will not be accepted. 

Wild corners

You don't have to let your garden go completely wild for the sake of insects. A natural corner already makes a big difference. Avoid frequent lawn mowing in this area. Let nettles and other wild herbs sprout. Leave the autumn leaves in the wild area of your garden. Pile up brushwood, dead wood and stones here. Leave the fruit on the trees and bushes here. You will see - this area will soon be filled with life. Within a few weeks, all kinds of insects will settle here. Your wild corner will be crawling and buzzing, fluttering, chirping and humming!

Nature needs darkness

Solar lamps are generally regarded as environmentally friendly and light up the garden on long summer evenings. However, the artificial garden lights cause deadly confusion for insects. The continuous lighting disrupts the animals' natural day-night rhythm and causes them to buzz around the light sources for nights on end until they finally die of exhaustion. Of course, you don't have to sit on the patio in the dark. A good compromise is to use lanterns while you are in the garden in the evening. Switch off the light when you go to bed. Then the wildlife can also enjoy a well-earned night's rest.

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