Our wildlife gardening tasks guide you through the year with specific advice for each month. We also highlight different creatures that you can spot throughout the seasons.
What to do this month
June brings the longest hours of daylight, peaking at the summer solstice on the 21st. Make a special effort to get out in your garden for some June sunrises and you'll be rewarded with a rich visual and aural display, as wildlife heralds the dawn. The diversity of flowers can be truly spectacular at this time of year and a wildflower bed will be visited by a huge diversity of insects, and the species that feed on them. The vast majority of our summer fauna is active now and the pickings are rich for the wildlife watcher.
Jobs for the month
- Top up bird feeders and put out food on the ground and bird tables
- Avoid chunky foods that could choke young fledglings
- Keep the bird bath topped up
- Regularly clean bird baths and tables
- Make the pond more wildlife friendly
- Put out log, twig and/or rock piles to create shelter for wildlife
- Trim hedges less frequently to allow wildlife to shelter and feed
- Leave nesting birds undisturbed in garden shrubs and hedges
- Put up a bat nesting box
- Put out hedgehog and badger food
- Use wildlife-friendly slug pellets if chemical slug control is needed
- Leave roses that produce hips without dead-heading them
- Mow spring flowering meadows once bulb foliage has died down
- Mow recently established perennial meadows to control weeds
- Leave annual meadows un-mown
Mammals, reptiles and amphibians
Many garden mammals have given birth to young, and you may spot baby wood mice, shrews or voles, and even fox or badger cubs (most likely in the evenings).
Bats are breeding this month, often in eaves, or behind the weatherboarding of south-facing buildings. Why not put up a bat box on a sunny wall? Many bat species are garden-friendly, eating the midges and tiny insects that cause annoyance on summer evenings.
Young litters of hedgehogs and badgers are being born, and you may see or hear their parents foraging for food at night. Hedgehog and badger food is available for sale. It is not a good idea to feed hedgehogs with bread and milk, as this is not their natural diet. Good quality cat or dog food, or raw minced meat mixed with raw egg make good alternatives.
Use a wildlife-friendly brand of slug pellets to avoid harming predators that eat the affected slugs.
Tadpoles are developing their adult ‘frog-legs’ and can be vulnerable to predators as they emerge from the water’s edge to seek shelter among the marginal pond plantings.
Migrant summer-visiting birds from other continents are among those now common in British gardens. You may see willow or garden warblers, housemartins, swifts and swallows.
Avoid peanuts and large chunks when putting out food for the birds, as there is a risk that large pieces could be fed by adults to their fledglings, and this could result in choking. Safe foods include wildbird seed mixes (but not those containing peanuts or dog biscuit); black sunflower seeds (the birds will remove the outside casing, and the inner seed is soft); mild grated cheese; sultanas, raisins and currants (best soaked overnight); pinhead oatmeal; apples, pears and other soft fresh fruit; mealworms and waxworms. Alternatively, you can buy fat balls from many garden centres and bird food suppliers. This is an easy alternative, and you can be confident that you will be doing no harm.
To maximise the numbers of different bird species that you attract to your garden, it is a good idea to cater to their different feeding habits. Hanging bird feeders attract species such as tits, finches and sparrows. There are many models available, designed to help keep out rats, cats, pigeons and squirrels, or to fit onto walls, windows, windowsills and balconies. Bird tables attract robins, house and tree sparrows, doves, pigeons, bullfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches and bramblings. Food scattered on the ground attracts blackbirds, thrushes, dunnocks and wrens.
Hanging bird feeders are best sited over a paved or decked area, which can be regularly swept clear of debris. This may help to reduce problems with squirrels and vermin, if they prove a nuisance.
Bird tables are best sited a few feet clear of cover or high vegetation, so that cats and other predators cannot launch themselves onto unsuspecting feeding birds. They can be quite close to the window or patio, as many birds seem to get used to human activity, and are unlikely to be put off by coincidental human activity.
A birdbath can be a vital source of drinking water for birds. Ensure that yours is kept topped up. Models are available to attach to windows, walls and sills, if you are limited for space. Do be aware of hygiene: change the water regularly and scrub the bath out with a mild detergent (available from bird food suppliers) to help prevent the spread of disease.
Bug life is thriving this month, and should be encouraged. Without insects and other invertebrates, there would be no birds and mammals, and many flowers would fail to pollinate, set seed or produce fruit. Bugs help to keep each others’ populations in check, avoiding large build-ups of unchecked pests.
Damselflies and dragonflies are out in abundance. They are usually spotted near ponds and lakes. Damselflies have a lazier, zig-zagging pattern of flight, whereas dragonflies take a faster and more direct flight path.
Pond skaters and also water boatmen can be seen skating on the pond surface in search of food.
Gardens with some nooks and crannies, and a few areas where debris is allowed to accumulate (perhaps a woodland area or a meadow within a more formal design), are often more insect-friendly than those composed entirely of paving, pots, lawn and bedding displays.
Bee homes are now widely available. Initial reports suggest that nesting boxes for colony-forming bees (such as bumble and honey bees) are not always effective, but homes for solitary bees (such as mason bees), made from tubes and tunnels in boxes, are more successful. They are also attractive. Models with a backing are more successful than those open at both ends. This kind of bee house is easy to make at home. Even a tin can filled with straws will do the job. South-facing positions, hanging at chest height or above, are best. Bees usually colonise these homes in spring, hibernating over winter to emerge the following spring. The boxes can be left out over winter, or taken down and stored in a safe place to avoid bees being eaten by predators.
Put out log and twig piles made from old prunings and felled trees. These provide valuable shelter for wildlife, and can be made into attractive features by planting up with ferns, primroses, or other suitable plants. A site well away from the house should ensure that unwanted creepy crawlies do not stray into domestic rooms.
Piles of slabs or rockery stones will act as a suitable wildlife habitat, as will old bales of straw, hay or prunings.
Corrugated iron or plastic laid on the soil can provide ‘tunnel’ hiding places for small reptiles and mammals looking for shelter and warmth.
As a very general rule, single flowers attract more insects than double blooms. Bear in mind that insects can be attracted to a particular plant for its nectar (Sedum spectabile), its pollen (Lavatera), the shelter it provides (many ornamental grasses and other species) or its suitability for breeding (many native trees, shrubs, climbers, or weeds, such as the common nettle). A variety of insect-friendly planting fulfilling all these needs is likely to attract many more insects than is a mass planting of a single species fulfilling only one.
Hedges, even non-natives and conifer hedges, are a very good resource for wildlife, providing shelter, nesting sites and food for wildlife. Deciduous trees, particularly natives like oak, or coppiced hazel, are excellent for wildlife. Some insects that happily feed from a variety of plants are more selective about their breeding territory, and show a preference for native plants. Deciduous trees also support so much more plant life underneath their canopy, with bulbs, annuals and perennials thriving in their dappled shade. This is not the case underneath dense coniferous planting.
Be less frequent with your hedge trimming to provide greater shelter and food for insects and birds. Don’t trim any hedge that has birds nesting in it. You can get the growth under control once the fledglings have flown the nest and it is left abandoned.
Don’t deadhead roses that produce hips. The colourful hips are both decorative and a useful source of food for wildlife.
If you have left a suitable part of the garden untouched as a wildlife area, then cut back the nettles quite hard to encourage fresh young growth. This will provide suitable egg-laying places for a new generation of butterflies as they hatch out of their pupae. Tortoiseshell, peacock, comma and red admiral butterflies will all lay eggs on young nettle leaves.
Spring-flowering meadows can be cut and mowed this month, after the bulb foliage has died down naturally. Scything and removal of clippings is all that is necessary, but closer mowing will allow the area to be used as rough lawn for the rest of the summer. Meadow cuttings have traditionally been used for making hay, but they can just as well be used on the compost heap - just be sure to remove any pernicious weeds and those that are actively flowering first, so that they don’t germinate in your compost.
Recently sown perennial meadows should be mown about six to eight weeks after sowing, when they reach a height of 5-10cm (2-4in), and then again every couple of months in their first year, removing the cuttings each time. This helps to control weeds and to toughen up the meadow plants. A stronger healthier meadow will be the end result.
Recently sown annual wildflowers do not need mowing. Just leave them to develop and flower, but be aware that will only last one year, and will die back completely in the autumn.
What to look out for this month
These distinctive birds are year-round residents, but early summer is the best time to see them in the garden. Young birds are taught feeding techniques by their parents, and bird feeders provide valuable training grounds. Look for the red forehead that identifies a juvenile. Dead wood is another great draw for woodpeckers, providing a foraging ground for grubs and insects.
Badgers are a night-time visitor to many gardens, with increasing numbers being seen in urban environments. They can be seen all year round, but with the arrival of warmer nights this is a good time to look for them. Badgers often leave noticeable signs of their presence. Look for pad prints, scratch marks, and fur left behind on fences. And, being creatures of routine, if they've had a successful visit they may well be back.
Long grass, a garden pond and a few frogs are not uncommon features in British gardens. Their combination provides fantastic conditions for attracting grass snakes. These reptiles are excellent swimmers and you may see them snaking across the surface of ponds as they stalk frogs. At this time of year they will also be occupied seeking sites to lay their eggs. Piles of rotting vegetation, such as a compost heap, make favourable sites for this.
On a clear morning, cobwebs glistening in early morning dew are a very pretty sight. The flattened circle of the orb web is the design we typically associate with cobwebs, and this is largely due to its usage by the common garden spider, the most frequently observed of our spider species. Orb webs are very advanced structures, requiring great precision and several different types of silk in their construction. Garden spiders can be easily identified by the series of white spots on their abdomen in the shape of a cross.
Hummingbird hawk moth
Often reported as a hummingbird, the resemblance of this moth to the bird after which it's named is striking. During the summer these bulky moths migrate from southern Europe to our shores and frequent our gardens, particularly in the south. Usually they return in the autumn, although there is some evidence that these intriguing insects are beginning to take up permanent residence here. Much like a hummingbird they hover in front of flowers probing for nectar with their long proboscises, wings beating fast enough to produce an audible hum.