Top Tips to Make Your Garden A Wildlife Friendly Place
From birds to badgers, here are some great ways to make your garden the place to be this winter.
Cultivating a garden, allotment, or orchard where wildlife can thrive is key to a harmonious relationship where everyone and everything can reap the benefits. There are a multitude of ways to encourage biodiversity in your garden, to help you we have several suggestions which can enable you to live in harmony with nature.
Winter is one of the most important times of year for birds, especially when it comes to feeding. Food sources tend to be scarce in winter, so birds rely on external food sources such as bird feeders even more.
Smaller birds tend to eat up to a third of their own body weight in food each day, this helps them to build up their fat stores for those cold winter nights. Providing bird food via a bird feeder is a great way to sustain bird populations throughout the year. You can even make your own fat cakes for birds:
- Mix unsalted peanuts, currants, sultanas, oats, breadcrumbs, and grated cheese together with lard or suet. Mix well until everything binds together
- Place the mix in a yoghurt pot with a hole in the bottom. Thread a piece of twin all the way through and out the bottom. Place in your fridge overnight then hang it outside!
It’s important to make sure you provide the right foods for birds too, as many birds have varying dietary requirements. Seeds, berries, and fat balls are common options for birds, but it’s always best to check what is suitable for the species of birds visiting your garden. In the peak of winter it’s advisable to supply birds with food twice a day. A sturdy bird box or nest will help any chicks survive the coldest of conditions.
Bats are natural hunters, being particularly good at getting rid of unwanted pests which may disrupt your plants (moths, mosquitoes, and more). Plants such as Hickory will attract moths and other pests, so if you do want to attract bats this is one way to do it.
Nocturnal by nature, bats will opt for dark and isolated places to sleep during the day: inside of trees, in roofing, and under any dark structure. It is somewhat easy to construct your own bat box for them to sleep in but be sure to situate it high off the ground. Bat boxes also require a degree of maintenance, other insects such as wasps can take advantage of vacant boxes and create nests.
Younger hedgehogs will need particular care in winter, as they might not have the right body mass to survive the colder weather. Hedgehog houses are a great way to provide shelter, make sure to situate them near where hedgehogs have been previously nesting, as this will encourage them to take up residence in their new home. Provide water and snacks to make the hedgehog more likely to return in future, crushed cat biscuits are particularly appealing to hedgehogs. Very small hedgehogs may need help beyond a hedgehog house, if they are smaller than 300 grams, they should ideally be taken to a wildlife rescue service.
Hedgehogs tend to nest in compost heaps, so be careful anytime you are adding to the pile or turning it. Similarly, hedgehogs will see bonfires as an invitation to nest, so if you do plan to start a bonfire it’s always advised to check for any that may be lurking within.
If you happen to have a pond in your garden, the biggest threat to anything living in it will be ice. Keeping the surface moving is key to stopping a full freeze of the surface, by placing a floating ball in the water you can keep the area around the ball in liquid form. Frogs breathe through their skin, with oxygen being supplied by plants that are growing in the pond, if the plants aren’t getting enough light, they won’t be able to supply oxygen to any frogs living within, so make sure your pond is not too shady.
Winter flowering plants are key to an insect’s survival: asters, ivy, sedums and more will provide a steady food supply of nectar and pollen throughout the colder months. If you want to provide refuge for bees you can also use a bee barrel or hotel, solitary bees will soon take up residence. Unlike worker bees, solitary bees don’t swarm, so you don’t have to worry about them taking over your garden. Solitary bees can suffer heavily when it rains, so if you do choose to provide a home for them, it’s best to situate it somewhere where rainfall is minimal.
Badgers will make a beeline for any compost piles or containers you have laying around, as these will be a potential source of food for them. Ensure any compost is covered to stop badgers getting in. It’s important for badgers not to become too reliant on external food sources, but if it is particularly cold you can always provide wet cat or dog food, just be sure to clean up any food that is leftover or untouched the next day, as it will begin to rot and attract vermin.
If you have a persistent rat problem this can attract foxes to your garden, as they tend to eat small rodents, as well as fruit. There aren’t many things you can do to attract them to your garden, they usually just go wherever food is available, woodlands with winter berries are a great source of food for foxes. However, much like badgers, foxes will be attracted to compost piles, so if you have a persistent problem its always best to make sure your compost is fully covered. If you do want to help provide some food, you can leave out cheese, bread, and meat. The best time to leave out food is around dusk; this is when foxes are actively searching for food.
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