I'VE learned a lot about foxes from watching them in my garden. To begin with, I thought it was a lone vixen that visited most nights but, as the weeks passed, and I got to know their markings and distinctive gaits, I realised that as many as four or five foxes – possibly more – are passing through regularly.

They are a joy to watch. Playful, curious, and physically resembling small dogs (foxes are, of course, part of the Canidae family), these beautiful creatures have a cat-like ability when it comes to climbing, able to clear a 6ft fence in a seamless, nimble-footed manoeuvre.

I'm aware the fox is a polarising species. That for every person smiling and nodding as they read this, there will be another shaking their head and muttering, "bloody vermin".

As you may have guessed, I fall into the former camp. I adore foxes. That's not to say they haven't been a pest at times. I've openly cursed while watching a mischievous cub go tumbling through my potato plants, snapping stems right, left and centre.

A pair of gardening gloves that I had absent-mindedly left outside were chanced upon by another nocturnal visitor. After a good 10 minutes of fun playing on the lawn, the fox disappeared into the night, glove hanging from his mouth as if off to challenge an old adversary to a duel.

I've often marvelled at their remarkable hearing. I read somewhere that foxes can pinpoint a mouse squeak from 100ft away and as I've stood stealthily observing from the kitchen window, even the slight creak of a floorboard underfoot is enough to make their ears prick.

I can take no credit for the foxes that visit my garden. They came of their own accord, a quirk of geography that sees them pass through when travelling from one part of their territory to another.

Across the road from my house, behind high hedgerows and trees, is an overgrown, disused paddock with a meandering burn along its furthest fringes. To the rear, just beyond the boundary wall, lies a narrow strip of woodland teeming with wildlife.

The foxes traversing my garden move between these remaining slivers of Lanarkshire countryside and green belt land, a scattered jigsaw puzzle hemmed in by ever-sprawling new-build housing and burgeoning industrial estates.

Foxes aren't the only fauna who visit. There are squirrels, hedgehogs, rabbits, the occasional deer, as well as birds, bats, butterflies, bees and myriad insects.

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Unlike the foxes, though, some of these needed a little encouragement. There are a few ways you can do this and it's not merely the animals that reap the benefits. Studies have shown that connecting with nature improves our mental health and sense of well-being.

Nor do you need acres of space or a rambling, rural plot. City dwellers with shared back courts or small balconies can enhance whatever spare outdoor nooks they have. Here are some top tips for creating a wildlife-friendly garden.

Feed the birds

I have a friend who lamented rarely seeing birds in her garden. "Do you feed them?" I asked. She did not. Well, there's the answer. Feed them and they shall come.

Robins, long-tailed tits, great tits, blue tits, coal tits, house sparrows, blackbirds, collared doves, magpies, chaffinches, bullfinches, jackdaws and wood pigeons are all frequent diners at our daily buffet where everything from seeds to suet treats are served.

In recent days, the starlings have descended in large numbers with their chattering, downy-feathered fledglings in tow, little beaks open and hungry. During breeding season, mealworms can be soaked in warm water until they soften to minimise the risk of young birds choking on them.

If you are worried about attracting vermin, such as rats, there are trays that can be attached to hang below feeders that help prevent errant crumbs falling on the ground as the birds feed.

Beechgrove presenter George Anderson, who lives in Joppa, Edinburgh, enjoys welcoming flying visitors to his garden too.

"When I retired and moved house, the family clubbed together and bought a bird table for our new garden," he says. "I have always had an interest in birdwatching and so this was a very welcome and useful gift and it was situated in a position where it can be viewed from the French windows. We have also suspended some bird feeders from the adjacent pear tree.

"Our list of birds seen, in what is a typical suburban garden, ranges from the usual house sparrows, robins and blackbirds through to blackcaps, great-spotted woodpeckers and stock doves. There's bramblings in winter, as well as fieldfares and redwings in season.

"Given that we have provided a supermarket shelf full of tasty avian morsels, the occasional sparrowhawk swoops through and causes mayhem."

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Nor is it only shop-bought food that catches the eye of birds. "I am not always the tidiest of gardeners and so there are the odd corners where weeds or – if you would rather give them their Sunday name – wildflowers, flourish because of my neglect," says George.

"It pays not to be too tidy in the garden as many of those weeds and native plants provide food for a wide range of insects upon which the birds feed."

He adds a small word of caution, though. "Encouraging birds into the garden can be a bit of a double-edged sword. They may indeed eat various slugs, snails, caterpillars and grubs and insects of all sorts, but occasionally they also take a liking to the cabbage, peas and lettuce – not to mention the blueberries, redcurrants and brambles in season.

"I often move the bird feeders around the garden so that, should a plant become infested with aphids or caterpillars, I can hang the feeder close by, thus encouraging the birds to forage in that area and feed on the pests."

Roll out the welcome mat

George makes an excellent point when he says it pays not to be too tidy in the garden. Areas of unmown grass, compost heaps, woodpiles, hedge trimmings and decomposing off-cuts, can be ideal spots for creatures to live, feed and hibernate.

"Near the compost heap in the small yard area at the side of the house, I have a small turf heap made from turves lifted from the lawn when I was changing its shape some years ago," he says.

"It is covered with some old pantiles and in the late autumn and winter becomes an overwintering site for frogs, a few of which have made our small half-barrel pond their summer residence.

"In a neglected corner under an old conifer, I have piled various bits of debris from my pruning exploits. These bits of branches and sections of old tree trunk cut into short lengths provide an ideal habitat for bugs and minibeasts, overwintering frogs and the odd hedgehog we hope.

"We see the occasional hedgehog in the garden. I'm hoping that they might overwinter in amongst this tangle of twigs and branches."

During lockdown, it has been tempting to tackle garden jobs such as cutting the grass, yet, like George, I've deliberately held off. We're not just being lazy, I promise – there is a good reason.

"This year I have taken part in No Mow May and the lawn/grass area which, in other years would be closely mown, is currently sporting a goodly number of daisies and dandelions in full flower," he explains.

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"As the grass has grown longer, we have noticed more birds have been making use of it in their daily search for food to feed their young – such as blackbirds picking off worms and hawthorn flies, and starlings seeking out the occasional leatherjackets for their hungry brood of youngsters."

Conservation charity Plantlife has been championing No Mow May and asking wildlife lovers to take part in its Every Flower Counts survey, which runs until tomorrow. The idea is to count the flowers on your lawn and tally your personal nectar score to discover how many bees it can feed.

Last year's survey found that mowing your lawn just once a month could attract 10 times as many bees – up to 4,000 a day – by boosting flowers such as daisies, white clover and selfheal.

Create a hedgehog haven

Hedgehogs travel around a mile each night through our parks and gardens in their quest to find enough food and a mate.

The campaign, Hedgehog Street, was set up almost 10 years ago by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People's Trust for Endangered Species in response to dwindling population numbers.

Top tips include leaving out a dish of fresh water in hot weather, piling up logs in the corner of the garden and growing diverse plants that are rich in nectar to encourage insects. Avoid treating your lawn with herbicide and rather than binning deciduous leaves, remember that hedgehogs can use these to make nests.

At the heart of the project is the creation of a "Hedgehog Highway" urging people to cut a 13cm (5in) hole in walls and fences to allow these spiny mammals to easily pass from one garden to the next.

Colin and Laraine Lambie, a landscape gardener and childminder respectively, from Livingston, West Lothian, have a self-designed, wildlife-friendly garden. Hedgehogs are among the regular visitors thanks to the couple's innovative ideas.

"We cut holes 13cm x 13cm (5in x 5in) in our fence to allow the hedgehogs to visit and also raised the gate so they can get underneath it," says Laraine.

"We have two hedgehog feeding stations, one made from a plastic storage box and one from a large plastic flowerpot. Both have tunnel entrances to prevent cats from eating the food which is a mixture of dried cat food and canned dog food.

"Our garden is terraced with a large variety of trees, shrubs and flowers, including our wildflower bed. We have a stumpery/fernery beside a living willow den that encourages invertebrates to live in the nooks and crannies which the hedgehogs love to eat," she adds.

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"When it comes to food, don't put out milk for hedgehogs because they are lactose intolerant. Don't feed them dried mealworms either, as it is like giving them chocolate, or anything that has fish in it as it is not part of their natural diet.

"If you have a pond, install a ramp. Hedgehogs can swim but not for very long. If they fall in, it gives them something to hold onto to climb back out. How can you tell if hedgehogs have visited your garden? Look for a black poo that resembles a dried-out slug."

Build a bug hotel

While you can buy a bug hotel from shops and garden centres, building one yourself is more fun and cheaper. They are easy to make using items already lying about the garden such as twigs, bark, plant pots, logs, moss, bricks, cardboard, straw, leaves and pine cones.

Recently, I stacked some old pallets and stuffed the gaps with a mixture of the materials mentioned above and soon had beetles, woodlice, centipedes, earwigs and spiders checking in.

The straw and dried leaves attracted some ladybirds, while lacewings nestled among the corrugated cardboard. Both of these insects love to eat aphids, the sap-sucking pests that can destroy plants.

A homemade bug hotel is something you can do no matter what size your patch is – simply adapt its scale to fit accordingly.

There is plenty of scope for DIY options. "To encourage bugs and beasties I made a bug hotel out of an old polystyrene fish box and empty tin cans filled with an assortment of old cane sections, shrub pruning, fir cones, bits of this and that, then hung it from the fence," says George.

"Last year an early bumblebee queen took it over and raised her brood there. This year one bumblebee queen has taken over a bird box fixed on the garden shed, while yet another has made one of the sections of the bird box on the west wall of the house its home and has a family of house sparrows as its near neighbour."

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The Lambies, meanwhile, created an equally impressive five-star facility for insects. "Colin made two log walls with varying size holes drilled into them for solitary bees, lacewings, ladybirds and spiders to shelter and lay their eggs," says Laraine. "Our slate-filled gabions and bug hotel also provide shelter for insects and arachnids."

Choose plants with wildlife in mind

Wildflower road verges have become fashionable in recent years and with good reason. Not only do they bring a much-needed burst of colour, they attract bees, butterflies, birds, bats and bugs.

One hectare of flower-rich verge can produce 60kg of nectar sugar – enough to support more than six million honeybees, according to Plantlife. While you may not have hectares of land, your own patch can play its part.

Borders filled with flowering plants and shrubs offer nectar-rich food for the likes of hoverflies – widely considered the second-most important pollinators after wild bees – as well as providing seeds, berries and cover for birds and small mammals.

Growing climbers against walls can provide shelter, as well as roosting and breeding sites for birds, says the RSPB. Trees, bushes and hedgerows are havens that give much-needed protection from the elements, not to mention any would-be predators.

If you are short on space, try using tubs, planters and hanging baskets for climbers and small shrubs – or to even cultivate a mini lawn or wildflower meadow.

Arranging containers in groups of different shapes, heights and sizes retains humidity and mimics the natural variations of wild landscapes.

Don't forget a watering hole

Ponds and water features are a habitat for amphibians such as frogs, as well as somewhere for garden birds to bathe and drink. "We took the water pump and fish out of our pond," says Laraine. "We use plants to keep the water healthy – it is now home to frogs and tadpoles.

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"I love watching the frog spawn change into tadpoles and froglets. I bring a little drop into our fish tank in the conservatory and the children watch the eggs changing from a wee dot to having a tail, then growing back and front legs. Once they are froglets, we release them into the pond.

"We recently added a small waterfall with a shallow pond to our garden which has a pebble beach to allow birds to bathe and drink – the hedgehogs love it too."

Find out more

Beechgrove is on BBC Scotland, Thursdays, at 7.30pm