Preparing for Winter Wildlife

A neat and tidy garden doesn't provide homes for hibernating hedgehogs

A neat and tidy garden doesn’t provide homes for hibernating hedgehogs

Ivy Flowers by Lyndsey Maiden

Ivy Flowers by Lyndsey Maiden

It’s that time of year again, leaves are starting to turn and we are back to the clear crisp mornings of autumn. With the buzz of life in your garden slowing down, and sunny days disappearing, it might be tempting to forget about the wildlife that normally inhabits your space. These early autumn months are crucial for getting your garden, and its wildlife, ready for the winter to come. Read on to learn about three things you can do for wildlife this autumn to prepare for winter.

Ivy

By now the nectar-rich flowering plants of summer are virtually gone, though self-heal, heather and red clover may remain. It’s important for remaining pollinating insects that there are as many nectar sources available as possible. This is the final chance for pollinators that hibernate over winter (e.g. queen bumblebees and some butterfly species) to feed.

At this time of year with the scarcity of flowers, one plant that is a vital source of nectar is mature flowering ivy. Flowering ivy is an excellent late season source of nectar that will last from September to November. It may be tempting to tackle your overgrown mass of ivy now, but if you can, wait a little longer to cut back ivy until the flowers have gone. Even if you don’t see many insects buzzing around it during the day there may still be moths visiting the ivy flowers at night.

 

Help Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are declining across the UK because of treacherous roads, loss of habitat and obstruction of movement in urban areas. October is an important time of year to be considering hedgehogs in your day to day garden activities, be it raking leaves or celebrating bonfire night (always check for sleepy hedgehogs before lighting a bonfire). These spikey creatures are starting to think about their long sleep (hibernation) over those cold, unwelcoming winter months.

A neat and tidy garden does not provide many opportunities for hedgehogs to hibernate. So the next time you’re raking up leaves or have a few spare logs to hand, why not create a small log pile covered with leaves tucked away in the corner of your garden or behind the shed, your neighbourhood hedgehogs will appreciate it.

If you want to do more you could make a basic hedgehog box for hibernating hogs, or ask a neighbour if you can create a hedgehog corridor in the fence between your gardens – hedgehogs need to travel long distances to find enough food and mates. Create a hole in the base of the fence (about the size of a CD case) and hedgehogs will be free to come and go as they please.

 

Make a Wildlife Pond

Finally, November is an excellent time to dig a wildlife pond. Ponds are one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden, as they are a vital source of water for a variety of wildlife. Breeding amphibians and insects will particularly appreciate the new feature, which in turn will encourage bats and birds into your garden.

You can build it big or small it’s up to you and what fits your garden best. If you have already built a pond, autumn is the time to think about maintenance – when many creatures are less active. If you do decide to clear out an overgrown pond, leave the vegetation to the side of the pond for a few days to allow any pond creatures to find their way home again.

 

For more information on the above and for other wildlife feature ideas to add to your garden visit.