Winter can be a harsh time for wildlife, so it is important that we try and do whatever we can in our own gardens to help look after them as much as possible by ensuring they have safe hiding places to shelter and have plenty to eat. Here we discuss the small changes you can make in your garden this Autumn to help animals prepare for the upcoming Winter.
• Don't tidy your garden too much - It can be tempting once the Summer blooms have gone but the temperatures are still warm enough to spend the day gardening that you should use Autumn as a time to tidy. Although there are many jobs in the garden that are great in Autumn, make sure you don't tidy up your garden too much as you could be destroying perfectly good and safe hiding places for animals to stay during Winter. Keep a layer of fallen leaves over your soil as some creatures will shelter here. It is also good for providing a rich mulch.
• Don't cut down your hedges too much - Again hedges are great habitats for wildlife to stay over Winter. Plus, some will provide valuable berries for them to eat. Look at cutting down your hedges in Spring instead.
• Leave dry plant stems in the ground as small creatures such as ladybirds and beetles will head to these for shelter.
• Some creatures such as butterflies may stay the Winter in the corners of your shed. Leave it until Spring to have a good clean of your shed as you may disturb them.
• Clean your pond before or during Winter - Wildlife activity is low during these months but you still have to be careful of snails etc.
• Feed the birds - Always provide as much food as possible for birds, especially during Autumn months before cold Winter weather hits and food is scarcer. Provide a range of food from nuts to seed to fat balls.
• Clean your bird feeders - It is also important that you clean out bird feeders regularly as well.
• Help the bees - You can still see some bees during Autumn so try and have some late/ early flowering plants to ensure a pollen supply.
• Create wildlife homes - There are many ways you can help create wildlife homes in your garden. Empty flower pots and stacks of bricks can be used for toads and frogs, logs are good for hedgehogs, insects and bees and a simple pile of leaves is good for hedgehogs, frogs and insects as well
• Don't disturb wildlife - It is vital that you do not disturb wildlife, especially in winter if they are hibernating.
• Check bonfires - One of the best parts of Autumn is Bonfire Night. But take a look in your bonfire before it's lit as wildlife will seek the piles of logs and leaves as great places to shelter, not knowing the danger.
• Keep your grass long - Leaving the grass long in some patches will provide a nice spot for butterflies to breed in.
• Create a slope into your pond - Create a sloping edge into your pond to make sure creatures can easily climb out if they have gone in the pond by choice or by accident.
• Keep your birdbaths and ponds ice-free - Having a frozen-over pond will cut off oxygen supply and can be dangerous to wildlife in the pond as well as stop it being a source of water. Place a ping pong ball into your birdbath as the wind will make the ball move and stop ice forming. Alternatively, you can add some hot water, or place a hot saucepan on the ice, but ensure there is no wildlife near when you do this.
• Be careful around compost heaps - Make sure you are careful when going in compost heaps. There could be wildlife hiding in there which you don't want to disturb or hurt.
• Keep an eye out for hedgehogs - If you notice a hedgehog usually it is best to keep it undisturbed, however, if you spot one hedgehog during the day, leave a bowl of dog or cat food out for them to fatten them up before winter. If you notice small hedgehogs or are concerned when you see one during the day, always contact your local wildlife charity for advice.
Whatever size garden you have, there are various things you can do to help protect as much wildlife as possible this Winter. All it takes is a bit of preparation during the Autumn months.
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