Tips on how to make your garden more nature friendly

We are blessed here at Honeybuns Bakery to be surrounded by glorious Dorset countryside. We moved to Naish Farm twenty years ago, previously a dairy farm, and have turned 5 acres of grazed land into our very own nature reserve. It’s been such a privilege to observe how Mother Nature has reclaimed this little corner of the Blackmore Vale as her own. We have had to do very little work – rather we have needed to down tools and let nature do her thing.

Can I create my own nature reserve?

Absolutely! However small your garden or balcony might be there are lots of easy ways to encourage birds, insects and biodiversity to feed and shelter. We had no formal training and learnt what we know by talking to various locals who volunteer and work for bodies including the Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission. Youtube videos have also been invaluable as well as volunteering on coppicing days and hedge laying days at other nature reserves and woodlands. Facebook coppicing groups local to your area are a great way to get learn more about native trees and plants as well as to meet like minded people.

Easy step by step guide to get started on creating a wildlife friendly garden

Variety is the spice of life so I personally think attracting as large a range of plants, insects, birds and small mammals is key. Mindset is also crucial. A wildlife area is naturally beautiful and will need to be kept un-manicured to offer the best habitat for the widest range of species. For instance, around our bakery site we have a dozen shipping containers which are used for storage. Rather than keep the grass around them strimmed and tidy we scatter wild flower seeds such as phacelia around them each April to encourage “woolly corners”. Pollinators including bees and butterflies will thank you for planting them as they take the nectar and help transport pollen from plant to plant.


Step 1

Introduce water to your garden, starting in a small way

Water really is the font of all life. Once you introduce water, even in a tiny way, you will soon see how quickly it attracts life from insect larvae to birds and those oh-so-precious bees. A super easy way is to take a shallow dish of water and position it in a quiet spot. Ideally surround the outer sides with stones for a mini rockery effect, which will offer home to insects. Place small pebbles in the bottom of the dish – like mini stepping stones. These will allow bees and butterflies to land without getting wet and drink from the dish. Birds will soon find your new watering hole too, especially if you position bird feeders close by.

Here at Honeybuns we have repurposed three old water troughs by filling them with water and adding an inexpensive solar powered pump which helps to oxygenate the water. Pumps are not essential but an added bonus. We then placed plastic plant baskets weighted with stones at one end of the trough and placed reed plants and irises in there, securing them with wire. To enable frogs and other creatures to safely exit the trough we have placed old bits of wood from the planting baskets to the side of the trough- a rustic gang plank. The aquatic plants were donated by a friend with a pond and these were a game changer. Toads, frogs, newts, larvae and water fleas have all sought refuge in amongst them.

Step 2

Bird B&B

Here at Honeybuns we are on a mission to improve our nature reserve each month. It keeps us all interested to monitor what new species we have attracted year on year.  This March we focused on birds by investing in half a dozen new bird boxes. These were a bargain from CJ Wildlife and cost less than £10 each. I’m not sure we could make our own for that! Their website was super helpful in terms of where to site them too. We provide breakfast too by way of worms and grubs. We do not feed the birds directly, instead we focus on creating lots of bug hotels to attract the insects and our feathered friends then feast on this living buffet. As a food production site we have to be ever mindful of not attracting vermin which have a tendency to seek out bird feeders.


Like any Air B&B guest, birds will also appreciate the provision of good quality bedding. One free and easy tip is to gather hair (human and pet) from brushes and pop these in a hanging bird feeder. From Late February to summer these nesting materials will be greatly appreciated. Grit is also needed by some birds to help with creating strong egg shells. Pigeons can often be seen pecking at stones. Try leaving a little bit of fine gravel out for them too.

Step 3

DIY bug hotels

Any decent  garden centre will sell the ready made bug hotels but we prefer to keep things simple and create our own. Logs, twigs and stones left in piles will do just as well. Earwigs, millipedes and worms will all make their home there – preferring a shaded, damp spot if possible. I was pottering about by one of our old apple trees the other day and discovered a couple of shop bought bug hotels propped up at the base of the tree trunk. We had forgotten to put them up. I moved them only to discover loads of insects and worms underneath them thus proving you really do not need anything fancy – nature loves anything discarded – it could have been any old piece of wood. Try leaving an old watering can on its side or some off cuts from a carpentry job perhaps? Materials that naturally decay have the added benefit of enriching the soil too.

Step 4

Do not go to mow a meadow!

Just let the weeds intermingle with any wild flowers you have planted. You’ll notice how wildlife enriched railway verges and old quarries and dumping grounds can be. Buddleia also know as butterfly bush is one species that has colonised such locations. The soil does not need to be rich, in fact many wild flower species prefer “poor” stony ground. Bees and other pollinators prefer simple flowers with open petals which allow them easier access to the nectar. Hence phacelia is such a good choice. Echinacea is also tough, pretty and open petal variety. If you can avoid mowing or strimming  until the Autumn then your flowers and grasses will have had the chance to go to seed and wildlife will have been able to feast on them all through the summer. Cutting once a year is a good idea – otherwise you can end up with grassy tussocky mounds and not much else.

Step 5

Enjoy your new guests

Wildlife cameras have really come down in price and we plan to have one fitted inside a nest box this year. It’s a great way to monitor a brood of chicks growing up without disturbing them. Friends have set one up beside their DIY hedgehog feeding station and the nocturnal footage has been hilarious. Quite a bit of argy bargy at the dinner table!

We have just discovered a fantastic free app called Merlin which has been developed at Cornell University. It identifies all the birds singing at any one time. It’s a great way to while away a tea break. Just activate the app and you will soon get your ear attuned. I always struggled to pick out individual birdsong but this really is amazing.

Similarly, there are lots of different plant identifier apps now which can help you figure out which varieties are best for wildlife.

Is the Honeybuns nature reserve open to the public?

Yes – we are open the first Saturday of each month March –December inclusive.

We coincide this with our pop up shop days where we sell bakery seconds.

Sam and I run the shop and also can direct you to the rescue donkeys, wild life walk and point out the wild and woolly wonders of our on site nature haven.

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If you enjoyed this blog, you might like to read How to create a bee friendly garden.