Wildlife gardening with our kids is one of our main aims for getting outdoors at the moment. As many of the animals that we are encouraging are natural predators of the pests that would destroy our vegetables and plants this will help reduce the amount of pesticides we use (even natural ones) as well as time in the gardens.
Together with the kids we're creating wildlife friendly areas that help this as well as letting the children interact with creatures at a hands on level. One of our first tasks is to create a home for some of the larger animals - a log home is perfect for small mammals (hedgehogs to hibernate in winter, small mice to use for shelter), amphibians (newts, frogs and toads), reptiles (grass snakes and slow worms) as well as different creepy crawleys.
A log home provides the perfect shelter for the animals as well as secure and warm shelter for over wintering and by placing in a shaded area of the garden it helps to keep it cool during the summer months. Using natural materials and placing plants that will help form and keep the structure you will have a home for creatures that children can explore and learn about the animals close to hand.
Materials to create a log home
Shade Loving Plants
Gardening equipment, saw
Wildlife Gardening - creating the log pile home
This was a real family project - last weekend we chopped down some trees from around the edge of our garden that we casting shade onto the lawn. With the tree chopped we have lots of branches that are perfect for the project with the children being 4 and 3 we helped them saw up some of the branches as well as continued on ourselves until we had a good pile of branches/logs chopped up to similar lengths. Using these a lot had lichen, moss and plants growing around them that will help to develop the log home further.
The area we chose for the log home is behind our wildlife pond - it's shaded and because the pond overfill drains into this area it's moist, we've also recently covered the area in mulch from our recent tree chopping to keep in moisture and reduce weeds in the area. Placing the logs near the fence gave a good natural barrier and back to the log pile.
Piling the logs haphazardly it leaves lots of room for animals to inhabit the area, we used some pine cones to fill in some of the spaces - these will provide a good home for bugs like ladybirds which the kids love watching and handling in the garden. Then it was piling on some bark chippings.
The kids and I filled in spaces with some potting compost - peat free compost is good or even your homemade compost as this helps to conserve peat supplies which as they are a fossil fuel are not renewable. Then we added some ferns into the spaces - these will help to bind the logs together as well as provide shelter for some of the animals.
Once everything was in place we added more bark chippings and then watered in the plants and the logs - making sure that they are kept damp especially when there is little rain is important.
Spring and Summer is the best time to make a log home as this gives it time to settle in and by autumn/winter will provide a perfect home for hibernating animals.
Check out which ferns will be best suited for your climate and remember that if you live where there is little rain you may need to water the log home regularly as part of your garden watering regime to make sure that the ferns continue to grow and provides a nice environment for the creatures to inhabit.