How to create a wildlife-friendly garden this winter

How to create a wildlife-friendly garden this winter

Follow our top tips to help protect the wild animals that visit your garden from the cold.

Weakened shelters, dwindling food supplies and frozen ponds are the harsh realities many critters and creatures have to face when temperatures begin to plummet.

A lack of food and shelter can leave animals and insects cold and hungry throughout winter, unless action is taken to prepare for the cold weather.

Follow these tips to help protect your local wildlife during the coldest time of year by making some small changes to your garden:

1. Let your garden go wild

Letting your garden go wild involves not cutting bushes, trees and plants, and leaving fallen leaves and twigs on your garden floor.

An overgrown patch in your garden can provide much-needed shelter and food for animals and insects. Also, leaves and twigs can be used by dormice, hedgehogs and other wildlife to create nests.

You could take this a step further by collecting fallen leaves and branches or even building/buying a shelter for small animals and insects.

2. Feed your visitors

Cold weather can cause food supplies to become scarce, making animals and birds more likely to visit your garden for something to eat.

Set up a bird feeder in a tree so that your feathered friends can collect food from your garden whenever they’re hungry. You could fill them with bird feed, as well as seeds, nuts and berries.

Leaving pots of food out will help to prevent local hedgehogs from going hungry. Fill the pots with specially-made hedgehog food, leftover meat or tinned dog or cat food.

It’s also important to leave out fresh water for both birds and hedgehogs to help keep them hydrated!

3. Maintain your pond

If you have a garden pond that freezes over during winter, make sure you make a hole in the ice to prevent toxic gasses building up. These gasses can harm, and sometimes kill, fish and frogs.

How you make this hole is very important. Don’t smash the ice or pour boiling water directly onto it as this could harm or kill the wildlife in your pond.

Instead, boil some water in a saucepan and then place the pan on top of a section of the pond to create the hole, allowing the gas to escape without causing any disruption.

To avoid a frozen pond in the first place, try putting a tennis ball or two in it. The movement of the balls can help to prevent your pond from completely freezing over.

4. Grow winter-flowering plants

Pollen and nectar are essential foods for a range of insects, including bees and butterflies. However, these plants are often in short supply during the colder months.

You can give a number of insects the chance of living through winter by planting one or two winter-flowering nectar and pollen-rich plants.

Here are some plants that would make a nice addition to your garden this winter:

  • Primrose
  • Aconite
  • Oregon grape
  • Willow
  • Evergreen clematis

More information about how to create a special space for nature in your garden can be found in this guest blog post by Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Written by

Tom Thomson

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