Throughout Autumn and over the next few months is the best time to help your garden wildlife before the winter and freezing temperatures kick in. There are a number of ways you can help the wildlife in your garden, such as by providing a large variety of nutritional food, fresh un-frozen water and lots of warm, safe habitats. There will be all sorts of species that will visit your garden for either a place to hibernate for the winter, a place to roost for the night or food and water. It is also important that you provide all these things through the winter and most of them, all year round.
Things to help in the Autumn time.
In Autumn time when the leaves have fallen onto the ground and gardens are starting to look untidy most people tend to tidy their garden but often take this to the extreme. By doing this, they are removing most of the shelter for wildlife and leaving lots of overwintering species homeless. To help the wildlife, a good idea is to leave all the tidying up until the end of the winter which can make your garden more attractive.
Autumn is also a good and easy season to make changes to your garden for the year to come. Take the opportunity to add new wildlife features to your garden like a pond, log piles and native plants and hedges.
As well as providing habitats for a host of overwintering residents, a good wildlife garden will attract flocks of birds. When the weather is very harsh and there is less food available in the countryside, our gardens become even more important for our feathered friends. Also, feeding birds through out the winter is important because it increases their breeding success the following year.
One way you can start preparing now is by removing any old, broken nest boxes, cleaning and fixing them then returning them as some birds will conserve heat by roosting in them communally over night. This is especially common with smaller bird species like wrens.
Another way of helping bird species such as black birds and thrushes like song thrushes and mistle thrushes is by spreading fallen leaves over flowerbeds. This provides a brilliant foraging habitat. Also, avoid cutting hedges until the end of winter as these provide valuable shelter for birds and give them more time to eat the berries left over from the summer.
When winter progresses, birds will become more dependent on the food you put out. Make sure the feeders and tables are clean and hygienic, you can do this by soaking them in sterilizing fluid and get into the routine of washing them regularly as they will be using feeders more frequently and if the feeders and tables are left and become very unhygienic they can cause the birds to get different diseases and make them become ill. Water is also very important for the birds as there isn’t as much available especially when it freezes. A way you can make the water you put out in your garden frost free is by pouring some warm water into a dish, standing the dish on at least three bricks and creating room underneath to put lit candles so the heat from the candles stops it freezing over.
There is a wide range of different food you can offer to your birds but some good ones which offer a meal to all different species are black sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, peanuts, fat balls, live foods, cheese and coconut. Some which you should NOT offer are porridge oats, salted or dry roasted peanuts, cooking fats, polyunsaturated fats, milk, dessicated coconut and moldy and stale food. There are lots of online recipes were you can make you own food for the garden birds too.
The two main things that should be provided to the hedgehogs that visit your garden are food and water, and shelter for when they hibernate or for when they rest through out the day as they are nocturnal species.
You can provide shelter for hedgehogs by having an untouched area in your garden which is cosy and sheltered. If you haven’t got an area like this, you can leave a small corner in your garden to overgrow or if you wanted to really help our hedgehogs out you could look at building or buying a hedgehog house.
There are lots of different foods which you can supply to our spikey friends which visit our gardens but there are lots of foods you shouldn’t give to them. For example, you should never give them any dairy products as they are lactose intolerant. Foods which are safe for them to have though are dog or cat food, sultanas, small pieces of fruit, cooked potato, cooked chicken, raw mince and what I find with the hedgehogs which visit my garden is that their favorite is dried meal worms. Or if you prefer food which is specially designed for hedgehogs you could try SpikesWorld food. Food and liquids which you should NOT give to the hedgehogs are milk, bread, tinned cat or dog food with jelly or gravy, fish flavored cat food, avocados, grapes, raisins, nuts, seeds and chocolate. Also, remember to provide water for hedgehogs and on cold nights you can use the same method as when giving the birds water.
Insects, newts and frogs.
The main thing you can do to help the mini-beasts, frogs and newts in your garden is by providing shelter.
Some butterfly species like small tortoiseshells and peacock butterflies hide in shed corners during the winter to stay warm and hibernate. Try to avoid disturbing them.
Dragonfly larvae stays active even in midwinter so always remember to clean your pond with care as they are ferocious predators!
Another thing you can do is leave dry plant stems standing in your garden as all kinds of insects will crawl inside to spend the winter. Lady birds will also cluster on the dead plant stems.
Toads and newts like to spend the cold winter months in greenhouses or under pots or piles of bricks. Frogs are more likely to be seen in piles of leaf litter, while some males will hide at the bottom of ponds.
This shows how important it is to leave your garden alone during in the winter months as you don’t know what will be hibernation or sheltering from the cold weather.