Winter is really difficult for animals as the temperature drops and food becomes scarce. Just small changes to the way we garden can make a big difference.
- Provide fresh water in garden containers or bird baths, and break the ice if it freezes over, so that the wildlife can still access it. Scrub bird baths to avoid spreading diseases.
- Keep bird feeders well stocked.
- Leave seed heads on plants as these provide food for birds, and avoid pruning bushes/trees with berries on, which are also an important food source.
- Leave out food for hedgehogs in case they wake from hibernation. Dog food or cat food is good, but avoid anything fishy. Carpenters Nursery sells dry hedgehog food. Please don’t give them milk – it is poisonous to hedgehogs.
- Grow winter flowering plants such as blackthorn, rosemary, winter jasmine, hellebore, snowdrops, primroses and winter aconite to provide food for bees if they wake from hibernation.
- If you see a hedgehog the size of a mango or smaller, keep it warm and give it food and water. Then take it to your nearest vet or rescue centre, as it will be too underweight to survive the Winter.
- Provide shelter with a hedgehog house, bird box, log or twig pile. Clean out bird boxes if needed. Rake leaves from the lawn or patio and pile them up under hedges or shrubs for insects or even hedgehogs to nest in.
- Avoid pruning bushes until Spring, to give animals a cosy home to stay out of the cold, and leave hollow stems to provide nesting places for hibernating insects such as ladybirds. Bunches of old sunflower stems work particularly well!
- Avoid turning your compost heap so as not to disturb hibernating hedgehogs or bumblebees. If it doesn’t have a cover, cover it loosely with an old bit of carpet to keep it warm and dry.
- Check your pond to make sure it hasn’t frozen over, allowing toxic gases to build up. If it has, defrost the ice slowly by placing a heated saucepan on the surface, rather than forcefully breaking the ice. (This could injure hibernating frogs or toads).
For even more advice, check out this Gardeners World page!
Top Tip: build bonfires at the last minute to ensure a hedgehog isn’t sheltering inside. Then thoroughly check it again before lighting.