Garden jobs to welcome our wild friends
Winter is hard on the garden, and it’s hard on our furry and feathered friends too. Food and fresh water are scarce, and staying warm is a constant challenge for birds and animals in the winter. The good news is, you can help! With just a couple of forward-thinking garden adjustments, you can welcome wildlife into your winter garden and help to support their struggle through the colder months.
Here are my top tips for looking after wildlife in your garden this winter.
Garden pond? Don’t let it freeze: melt any ice that might form on top of your garden pond. If the surface freezes solid, toxic gases can build up that can harm or even kill fish or hibernating frogs. Another benefit for keeping your pond ice-free is easy access to drinking water for any visiting critters. Melt the ice by carefully placing a pan full of boiling water against it – don’t smash the ice by force.
Welcome the wilderness: take the opportunity to let some areas of your garden grow wild and free! Put off the serious
gardening until spring – unswept leaves, fallen branches and brushwood can all make the ideal hibernating spot for smaller animals. Your compost heap can also provide a haven for toads, slow worms and even grass snakes! Just try to keep rats and mice at bay by avoiding composting any cooked meats or dairy, and by making sure there are no unseen access points for them.
Tuppence a bag: feed the birds! Our feathered pals are your best friend in the fight against garden pests, so it pays to keep them sweet. Their usual fayre of berries, insects and worms are hard to come by at this time of year, so give them a hand by laying out protein-rich snacks like seeds, dried mealworms, unsalted peanuts and table scraps (just not too many!).
Attract hedgehogs: these prickly cuties particularly struggle around this time of year because the frozen ground makes it really difficult for them to dig up nutritious worms. Provide hedgehogs with fresh water
(not milk, which can cause severe diarhhoea in youngsters), and a small amount of chopped meat, tinned meat-based dog food, or even cold scrambled eggs.
Lay on a spread: equally, other types of wildlife appreciate the extra food around this time of year, so if you like you can leave out some treats for other furry visitors. Foxes and badgers love cheese, boiled potatoes, chicken leftovers and bread, whereas squirrels prefer chopped fruit and different types of nuts. When
leaving any food in your garden, take care not to leave too much or else you could attract unwanted pests, or cause your guests to become dependent on hand-outs.