As Autumn turns to winter, many of us pack up our gardening tools and head to warmth indoors, paying little attention to our gardens again until spring. However, even in the depths of winter, our gardens should be bustling with life! Let’s take a look at what little adjustments we can make, to help the garden wildlife during the harshest of the winter months.
Feeding our feathered friends
Most garden wildlife hibernates over winter, as food is in short supply and freezing temperatures are far from comfortable. From December to March, gardens across the country provide a lifeline for many of our native species.
Birds are more likely to visit our gardens in autumn and winter, as natural sources like insects and grubs run out. Did you know that small birds need to eat up to a third of their body weight each day!?
You can grow plants that provide natural food for birds. Not only does this give them the tastiest options… it also adds winter interest to your garden. Let’s face it, our gardens can become a little dull after the last of the autumn blooms die off!
Berries are rich in antioxidants, so growing plants like Holly, Hawthorn, Dogwood and Barberry provide rich, nutritious treats for birds to help them get through winter.
If growing these plants isn’t an option, then you can top up supplementary foods every day to keep the birds coming back. They need calorie-rich foods like suet, sunflower hearts and peanuts to maintain fat reserves on the frostiest of nights.
Helping frogs, toads and newts
Frogs, toads and newts enter a state of torpor in winter, rather than hibernation. This is where their body temperature decreases, metabolic rate declines and physical activity ceases. They only rise from their slumber in search of food on warmer days.
Frogs overwinter in log and leaf piles, or beneath stones and plant pots. Some rest in the mud at the bottom of ponds, and others prefer compost heaps. It’s a good idea if you do have a pond, to float a tennis ball on the water if you predict frozen temperatures. This will prevent the water from freezing over completely.
It’s also a good idea to create a small rock pile, where they can take shelter if needed. Ideally, it should face north, to avoid temperature highs and lows between day and night.
Helping hedgehogs in the winter
Hedgehog numbers have been steadily declining in the UK since the 1950’s and it is now estimated that there are just under one million left in the wild.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, which means they are only active at night, searching for food and water during these hours and sleeping during the day. Naturally, they eat bugs and insects such as beetles, caterpillars and earthworms. However, during the winter months, these can be harder to find, which is one reason why they go into hibernation.
Before they do though, they need to build up their fat reserves. You can provide easily available food such as wet cat and dog food (meat based – no fish) or crushed cat biscuits. Other options include chopped boiled eggs or minced meat. It is a good idea to place these foods outside in a place where cats and foxes cannot easily access them, such as in a pipe, that only hedgehogs can access with ease.
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 ahead of time to arrange some garden maintenance, please give us a call on 07393 821797. You can also fill out the form here or follow us on Instagram and Facebook.