Critter Bingo! This way you attract more animals to your garden

Critter Bingo! This way you attract more animals to your garden
Critter Bingo! This way you attract more animals to your garden

Most importantly, do not use pesticides or herbicides. And plant native plants! Voilà, the commandments for an animal-friendly garden are that simple. “Pesticides and herbicides make the soil and everything that lives in it and on it sick. So delete it,” says June Heene of Bird Protection Flanders. And why choose native planting material? That clarifies Dirk Criel, ecological advisor at Driekwart Groen and Natuurpunt volunteer: “Native plants are so valuable because they are often so-called host plants: this means that an insect depends on them for food and reproduction. Non-native plants are beautiful for us, but often worthless for our wildlife. Take lavender, a top plant for the honey bee, but useless for our more than 400 species of wild bees. A little lavender is fine, but aim for 80 percent native planting material.”

Could it be something more? In addition to those two first commandments, we bundled 11 tips, divided according to 5 V’s that animals need: food, reproduction, safety, variety and connection. Before you get started, Criel and Heene recommend taking stock of what is already flying, crawling or fluttering around in your garden. If you don’t find the time for this, check, ask for advice from the local department of Natuurpunt or the ecological garden association Velt, or hire a Garden Ranger.

Artichoke — © Eva Donckers


1. Create a flower arch

“By flowering arch we mean: make sure that there is always something blooming in your garden,” Criel explains. Kick off the year with flower bulbs. Snowdrops bloom first, followed by crocus, daffodil, hyacinth and tulip. Early flowering shrubs include witch hazel and red or yellow dogwood. And willows are the earliest nectar sources: woodland, gray and bitter willow. This way you welcome the first bees and bumblebees that have fledged. In spring and summer, sun borders do the work. Late blooming ivy provides treats well into September. Many plants are generous in different seasons. Heene recommends sunflower (bees in the summer, great tits in the autumn) and teasel (butterflies and bees in the summer, goldfinches in the autumn and winter).

2. Cherish ‘weeds’

Delete that ugly word! Wild herbs are crucial. Dandelion is the most attractive plant for our wild bees. The KnackMow May Not campaign has taught us for four years that this flower produces the most nectar. Or nettle, on which butterflies such as peacock and small fox lay eggs. Nettle in a lost corner or dandelions in your lawn are a small effort, but make a world of difference.

3. Feed

This is possible all year round, as long as you vary. Fat balls when it freezes (without a net, you don’t want to snare tits), insects and seeds in the breeding season. has a wide range for birds, hedgehogs (don’t give them milk!) and squirrels. Always provide fresh water. “Never add salt or sugar to prevent freezing,” Heene warns. “Birds immediately overdose on it.”

4. Make a pond

Unbeatable as a biodiversity boost. You can make a mini pond from anything that is at least 30 cm deep and can hold 50 liters of water. Our Nature has a very simple 10-step plan. A real pond is more work and more expensive, but you get a lot in return. Heene: “Birds, amphibians, dragonflies… Anyone who lives near a forest can also attract deer. Very important: ensure a gently sloping bank, where the water is shallow and somewhat warmer. Nice for birds to bathe in. And this is how you avoid drowning people.”


5. Provide hedges

Hedges are essential, Heene and Criel believe, because birds, insects, amphibians and mammals nest, shelter and forage in them. Criel recommends mixed hedges. “Alternate one dominant species with a second, in a 70-30 ratio. You plant the second type in groups of three. That increases biodiversity, and it is also beautiful.”

6. Dim the lights

Heene: “60 percent of the wild animals that live in Flanders are crepuscular or nocturnal. Bats do not fly in lighted areas for fear of nocturnal predators such as owls. Turn off your garden lights as much as possible at night.”

7. Pile of pruning waste and leaves

That lost corner with the nettles at the back of the garden? Also stack pruning waste and leaves there: this will save trips to the recycling park and hedgehog, robin and wren will hibernate there, nest and score insects.


8. Hang nest boxes and insect hotels

Essential to know: in a bare garden, nest boxes and insect hotels will remain empty. Heene: “We don’t book a hotel without restaurants nearby, do we?”

Every bird has different requirements, Heene knows. “Sparrows, swallows and starlings breed in colonies, so hang several nest boxes together. For other species: at least three meters between hives for different species, at least ten meters for the same species.”

Rule of thumb: the opening should face north, east or northeast, so that rain does not blow in. Avoid full wind, rain and sun. And hang the nest boxes high enough, says Criel: “One and a half to two meters is good for robins and tits, swifts want at least nine meters.”

Also consider bat boxes. These creatures do not make any noise, their feces do not smell and they catch a lot of mosquitoes. A common pipistrelle bat eats about 300 in one night.

Ecovery has a handy nest box guide, Natuurpunt has a special brochure.


9. Connect the greenery together

Connecting gardens to each other, to a nature reserve, forest or park is a must. Criel: “A classic is the hedgehog hedgehog: neighbors who create a passage of 15 by 15 centimeters in their fence or walls.” The best corridors are hedges. But you can also grow bare walls and fences as extra ‘bridges’. Ivy, climbing hydrangea and Virginia creeper cling to the wall, while honeysuckle, climbing rose and forest vine provide support. Be sure to check the Groene Gevels plant guide. Extra benefit: climbing plants are air conditioners in the summer.


10. Provide layers

Variation lies in species diversity (Bloom arch! Mixed hedges!) and in structure. Criel: “Work in layers. From lawn, over a layer of herbs and plants to shrubs and trees. Don’t always mow your entire lawn at once. Leave 30 percent. Changing grass lengths cause temperature differences, which butterflies love.”

11. The trick with the wine box and other extras

Criel recommends coming up with extras in a playful way. A forge for a song thrush, for example. “Then they smash snails. A large, somewhat flat stone is enough. Don’t look too far. I covered a pile of quick-build blocks with some soil and let it grow: there are now hundreds of newts in it. A flower pot upside down in the ground? Great nest for bumblebees. And build a wine box at the bottom of your woodpile: a perfect and cheap hedgehog house.”


The Oasis, small birth of a biodiverse garden – Simon Hureau. Beautiful and stimulating comic strip.

The bird garden – Marc Verachtert and Willy Ceulemans. Practical guide.

The ecological garden – Geertje Coremans, Greet Tijskens and Jana Van Butsel. Comprehensive standard work.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Critter Bingo attract animals garden


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