As autumn turns to winter, many of us pack up our gardening tools and head indoors, paying little attention to our gardens again until spring. However, even in the depths of winter, our gardens should be bustling with life! Here’s our top tips on how to help your garden wildlife thrive during the colder months.
Wildlife in winter
Winter can be a tough time for Britain’s wildlife. As the nights draw in and temperatures drop, native animals like hedgehogs need to find a safe, cosy spot to hibernate until spring. Food sources can also be scarce for our butterflies, birds and bees.
Did you know, Wrens can lose up to 10% of their body weight on cold nights?! They conserve heat by roosting communally, often in empty nest boxes.
Help garden birds in winter
Birds are more likely to visit your garden in autumn and winter, as natural resources of insects and grubs run out. They need calorie-rich suet, sunflower hearts and peanuts to help them maintain fat reserves on frosty nights. It’s best if you can leave these helpful snacks out every day, including the odd treat like fallen fruits! Remember to also keep your birdbath topped up with fresh water and don’t allow it to freeze over.
You can also spread fallen leaves over your flower beds. As well as providing a rich mulch, they create a superb foraging habitat for thrushes and blackbirds in winter.
Help frogs, toads and newts in winter
Frogs, toads and newts enter a state of ‘torpor’ in the winter, rather than hibernation. Torpor is a state of mental and motor inactivity, where the frog basically goes into mega lazy mode! They overwinter in log and leaf piles, or beneath stones and plant pots. Some rest in the mud at the bottom of ponds. They’re also fond of compost heaps, so be careful if forking over the heap.
If you have a pond, it’s helpful to float a tennis ball on the surface of the water to prevent it from freezing over. You can also create small rock piles in sheltered areas, encouraging frogs to use the space to rest.
Help insects in winter
The key to helping insects through the winter is to help them keep warm and dry. Insects readily hibernate in gardens. Bumblebees dig holes in the ground or take a rest in leaf litter, butterflies sleep in garages, sheds and between the folds of curtains. Wasps and ladybirds shelter under loose bark on logs or in cracks in door or window frames.
The best thing you can do to help insects is to try and recreate the nooks and crannies they find to hibernate. Leave dry plant stems standing in the garden – all kinds of insects will crawl inside to spend the winter. When you do cut them in spring, leave them in a stack until May to allow all of the overwintering insects to emerge.
Helping hedgehogs in winter
Unfortunately, nearly half of all hedgehogs die during their first winter. Many struggle to find enough food and those born in late summer are often too small to hibernate. In mild winters, hedgehogs are prone to waking up and are tricked into thinking it’s spring. As a result, they waste valuable fat reserves looking for food.
Hedgehogs are in decline in Britain and are now listed as “Vulnerable” on Britain’s red list of mammals. According to the latest State of Britain’s hedgehogs’ report, numbers of hedgehogs have fallen by up to 30% in urban areas and 50% in rural areas since the Millennium. There’s no single cause, so it’s so important that we do what we can to help them thrive again!
You can provide shelter by making a lead pile, or making a hedgehog house. Leave a dish of water and dog or cat food to help boost their fat reserves (not milk as they are naturally lactose intolerant). Check bonfires before lighting them, or build your bonfire on the day you intend to light it.
If you find a baby hedgehog, keep it warm in a tall sided box with a hot water bottle covered by a thick towel. Feed it regularly with the food mentioned above and visit www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk for further advice.
Looking after your garden in winter
As the weather takes a turn for the worst, it’s time to head indoors and prepare for a new season. Garden tasks settle down for the next couple of months in preparation for spring, so If you would like to get in touch with us to arrange some garden maintenance, please give us a call on 07393 821797, fill out the form here or follow us on Instagram and Facebook.