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10 Tips on Helping Wildlife Over the Winter
Is your garden looking a bit sluggish during the Winter? Then why not liven it up by turning it into a beautiful wildlife haven. During the coldest part of the year, when birds, frogs, squirrels and other garden wildlife struggle to find enough fat-rich foods to see them through to the warmer months. Not only that, but freezing temperatures make life difficult for them!
However, it’s very easy to make a difference by carrying out a few of these simple steps:
1. Provide shelter
Bird boxes, hedgehog homes and other undisturbed areas in your garden make cosy shelters and habitats where wildlife can hibernate. If you’ve prepared a compost heap this year, this will make a perfect home for frogs, toads and other animals. Remember not to disturb them until hibernation time is over in April. Hibernation may change depending on how mild Winter is.
2. Feed the wildlife
It’s important to not constantly put out food for wildlife as you don’t want to make them reliant on this source, but helping them a small amount can see them through the wintry weather.
- Birds – seeds, suet balls, mealworms, berries or chopped up fruits (apples, pears, plums)
- Hedgehogs – minced meat, tinned dog/cat food (not fish-based), chopped boiled egg
- Squirrels – hazelnuts, walnuts, chestnuts, sunflower seeds, chopped carrot
- Badgers – Fruit (apples, grapes, pears), peanuts, dried dog food, mealworms
- Small mammals – mixed seeds
3. Leave out fresh water
Place a shallow dish of fresh water on the ground to benefit all garden wildlife including birds. You could also invest in a bird bath to keep birds hydrated and clean.
4. Empty and clean bird boxes, feeders and baths
Pop on some old washing up gloves and get scrubbing! Clean out your bird boxes, feeders and baths with hot water, a mild detergent, and a brush. This will encourage good hygiene and help birds stay healthy during the Winter.
5. Gather fallen leaves
Collect fallen leaves from your lawn or patio to create leaf-mould piles and place these underneath hedges and shrubs. This can provide a safe home for hedgehogs and even insects!
6. Melt a hole in your pond if it’s frozen
Put the kettle on, fill a saucepan with hot water and carefully place it on your pond until a hole has been melted. This will allow wildlife to drink, and enter and exit the pond. You DO NOT want to hit the ice, as this sends shockwaves through the water and harms the wildlife that live in it!
7. Always check areas before carrying out jobs
Make sure you check areas such as compost heaps, leaf piles, logs piles, etc. for hidden wildlife before handling them.
8. Keep any netting above ground level
If you have plant, football, tennis or any other kind of netting in your garden, you will want to keep these above ground level to prevent wildlife from getting tangled.
9. Leave healthy herbaceous plants unpruned
It’s best to leave these unpruned until early Spring, as they make perfect homes for overwintering insects.
10. Create bundles of stems
However, if you have cut your herbaceous perennials you can bundle the stems together and leave them in a secluded place. Ladybirds, beetles and other small mammals will take shelter here, and will also be on hand to prevent any early pest infestations.