How to Look After Garden Wildlife Over Winter
Winter is a crucial time for wildlife and as the weather turns, our garden visitors will need a little helping hand. Encouraging insects and birds in your garden and ensuring their welfare during colder climates is important to keep the ecosystem going.
Gardens provide wildlife with plenty of food and potential nesting sites. We have put together a guide for gardeners that will help wildlife thrive or survive through the Autumn and Winter months.
The most important thing we can do to help care for and feed our garden birds is to supplement their diet over winter. The colder and shorter days mean there is less food and time for our avian friends to forage, so providing them with high-energy suet cakes and fat balls, and bird seed that contains sunflower hearts, peanuts, and niger seed will ensure that essential fats, nutrients, and protein will sustain them until the spring. Place your bird feeder near tall shrubs, fences, or mature trees to protect it from predators.
Fresh water is also essential to bathe and drink, so choose a bird bath that is sloped at the sides for easy access and water can be prevented from freezing in cold snaps by adding a table tennis ball on the surface.
A survey by the RSPB has revealed that our small garden birds are witnessing a decline in numbers as their homes continue to be lost. With the loss of the birds’ natural nesting habitats slowly disappearing, winter is a crucial time to conserve and look after our native wild birds.
Visit your local garden centre to see our range of bird boxes which provide the perfect solution and give birds a safe place to rest and raise their young, which are vital to their survival, as well as being a decorative addition to your garden.
Bees and insects
Bees are still active in winter and will emerge on milder days to search for food. You can help these important pollinators by mixing a syrup that is a 50:50 sugar and water solution and leaving it on a saucer for them to drink.
Insect hotels will provide solitary bees with a home and protection from predators. We recommend placing your hotel on a south-facing wall as warmth is important for overwintering bugs, providing them with a haven to lay their eggs, which will increase the population of beneficial insects come spring.
Watch as insects “check in” to the bamboo tubes and wooden block tunnels. They often include fir wood, pinecones, and wood shavings too, providing the perfect accommodation to various insects from lacewings to ladybirds and bees, and butterflies.
Hedgehogs will still be active in winter as they enter our gardens searching for food. To help them through the tougher months, leave out a meat-based dog or cat food for them to eat, as well as a dish of water to prevent dehydration.
They also will hibernate during the winter months so as most trees drop their leaves in the autumn, it is important to make sure these are used so hedgehogs are left with some shelter and warmth. Use the cuttings from winter pruning like rotten wood, bark, twigs, and branches, and gather them together in a sheltered spot for animals to use as shelter.
Autumn and winter plants will not only provide a pop of colour during the darker days but will also provide essential food for birds and small mammals too. Sedums, rudbeckia, ivy, and asters will provide a much-needed nectar source.
Other great food sources in the garden include native trees and shrubs that bear berries, nuts, or seeds such as magnolia, holly, beech, hawthorn, and conifers. Wildlife will love to forage for insects amongst the dense foliage, whilst leaving seedheads on plants such as alliums, sunflowers, Lunaria, and teasel will provide natural food for birds.