Did you watch the beautiful summer green leaves slowly turn yellow, orange and red, only to now lie on the floor waiting to be collected? It’s that hibernation time of year where even nature is trying to protect itself from the harsh winter weather!
Garden wildlife are also making plans for winter by storing food and making a nice burrow to hibernate in until springtime. This method usually varies between each species, but there are plenty of things a gardener can do to help them out a little extra, check out our tips:
How many weekends have you spent tidying your garden in the past few weeks? The urge to sweep away leaves and other debris from those windy days is almost impossible to resist! What you might not realise is that the ugly mess in that nook or cranny is the perfect hibernation spot for a little garden critter!
If possible, leave the task of tidying your garden until early spring – this includes hedges, shrubs, borders and compost heaps. If the compulsion to tidy is too strong, sweep away the leaves from the main part of your garden but try to leave the nooks alone.
Not all species will hibernate over winter; this includes squirrels, birds and foxes. Unfortunately it is very difficult for these animals to find food and they often struggle to stay alive. By putting out some food and water throughout winter you can make a few new wildlife friends and also help them survive.
Squirrels: hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, chopped carrots, grapes, broccoli and cucumber are a few foods that you can leave out for your garden squirrels. You could also set up a squirrel feeder to ensure that other animals or birds can’t get to the food.
Birds: unsalted peanuts, seeds, some small blocks of cheese, apple and pear will go down a tweet!
Foxes: chicken carcasses, boiled potatoes, bread, crackers, and cheese – try to stick to a regular feeding pattern to ensure all of the food is eaten and doesn’t attract rats.
Any food you put out this year will help!
Many fishes and frogs will hibernate at the bottom of a pond, so if you find that your pond freezes over this winter; make sure you make a hole in the ice to release any toxic gases which have become trapped. It’s important that you do NOT smash the ice or pour boiling water into your pond as this can harm or kill the fish living in it. When making a hole in the ice, place a saucepan of hot water onto the ice until it has melted through.
You should also start to feed your fish less; as the water temperature cools, their metabolism slows down. Over feeding your fish during the winter months is very dangerous for them! To help out any newts or frogs, stack some logs near your pond to provide them some shelter which is warm, damp and most importantly, above 0°C.
Whilst creepy crawlies might give you the shudders, they are incredibly important for the eco-system and provide many important functions. Keeping bugs safe over winter is fairly easy, simply avoid cleaning up your flower beds or cutting down any ivy which is growing in your garden, this will provide any flying insects with some much needed pollen.
For those who are up for a DIY project before the frosty weather really sets in, we’re really wild about this bug mansion! Made from wooden pallets (which you can get for FREE from your local Challenge Fencing branch) recycled materials, straw, hay, dry leaves, bark and other bits you can find around your garden, you can create an incredible home for bugs AND wildlife all year long.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful! Let us know what steps you’ve taken to help your garden wildlife this year in the comments below.
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