As the weather turns colder and the days grow shorter, many of us are tempted to retreat indoors, leaving our gardens to hibernate until spring. However, for our feathered and furry friends, winter can be a time of great hardship as food sources become scarce and shelter is hard to find.
However, with some small actions, you can ensure your outside space is welcoming to wildlife throughout the winter months.
Here are five easy ways you can make your garden a haven for wildlife this winter, ensuring that your wild neighbours have the best chance of surviving the harsh conditions:
1. Provide Food and Water
Birds, hedgehogs and other small animals rely on a variety of food sources to make it through the winter. As natural food sources become scarce, providing supplemental nutrition can be a lifesaver. Ensuring fresh water is available is also essential for wildlife, even in winter. Be sure to provide a source of fresh water such as a birdbath or pond.
For birds, fill feeders with a variety of high-energy foods such as sunflower hearts, peanuts and suet balls. You can also hang up fat cakes and provide a dish of water to help them stay hydrated. Making these is a great activity with children – check out these instructions from the RSPB. Once you have a feeding routine with your local birds, be sure to stick to it as they will quickly come to rely on you.
Hedgehogs are particularly vulnerable to starvation in winter, as their usual diet of insects and worms becomes scarce. Leave out a shallow dish of hedgehog food, which is available from most garden centres and pet shops. Meat-based cat or dog food and cat biscuits are other good food options. Head over to our guide Creating a Hedgehog-Friendly Garden: How to Help Our Prickly Friends for more tips.
2. Create Shelter
As well as providing food, it is important to provide shelter for wildlife, especially during cold and wet weather. Log piles, dense shrubbery and even old cardboard boxes can provide much-needed protection from the elements. Bird boxes, bat boxes and hedgehog houses are all readily available to purchase – or why not make your own?
If you have a pond in your garden, make sure to keep it ice-free by breaking up the ice with a stick or pouring hot water on it. This will ensure that aquatic life has access to oxygen and food.
3. Plant Winter-Friendly Flowers and Berries
While many plants die back in winter, there are still plenty of flowers and berries that can provide food for wildlife. Winter-flowering plants such as hellebores, winter-flowering clematis, mahonia and cyclamen provide nectar for pollinators, while berries from holly, ivy and pyracantha are a valuable food source for birds.
We’ve written more on this in the recent post Winter Garden Magic: Add Colour and Sparkle to Your Outdoor Space.
4. Leave Some Areas Untidy
While it may be tempting to tidy up your garden in the autumn, it is actually beneficial to leave some areas untidy over winter. Piles of leaves and dead plants provide valuable nesting and hibernation sites for insects and other invertebrates, which in turn provide food for birds and other animals.
We don’t mean the whole garden needs to be a mess, just that intentionally leaving some nesting sites is a great idea. Don’t forget to check them for hedgehogs and other mammals in the spring, though.
5. Avoid Using Pesticides and Herbicides
Pesticides and herbicides can have a devastating impact on wildlife, killing off insects and other invertebrates that form the base of the food chain. Instead, use natural methods of pest control, such as encouraging beneficial insects into your garden.
Read more on this in our post Natural Pest Control Methods for a Healthy, Eco-Friendly Garden which is packed with advice and tips from the Genesis Gardens team.
Be A Friend To Wildlife This Winter
By following these simple tips, you can make a big difference in helping wildlife survive the winter months. Your garden will not only be more beautiful and biodiverse, but you will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re playing an important role in conservation. Win win!
About Genesis Gardens
Genesis Gardens is a North Wales-based gardening company with a wildlife-friendly and sustainable ethos. We offer a wide range of gardening services, from garden design and landscaping to regular maintenance and garden cleanups. We are passionate about creating beautiful and sustainable gardens that are not only enjoyed by people but also by the wildlife that shares our space.