Welcome to a special wildlife gardening edition in the 10 minute gardener series. This time I’m looking at quick gardening jobs you can fit into a busy schedule that will help your local wildlife during winter.
Winter is a tough season for garden wildlife; the cold weather demands high-energy food, but natural food sources are hard to find. Because we don’t spend as much time outdoors in winter, it’s easy to forget that our local wildlife is still out there, but hunger actually drives more wildlife into our gardens in search of food. Here are some ideas for quick wildlife gardening tasks that will really give local species a helping hand.
Feed wild birds
It’s hard to spot garden birds at leafier times of the year, but in winter we get a really good view of them as they pay our gardens a visit. Encourage them with hanging feeders or a bird table; position these where you can see them from the house and out of the reach of cats. This is a lovely job to get children involved with; you could encourage them to make a diary of the varieties that visit, or get crafty making your own fat cakes.
Provide a water source
You may not think water is scarce for local wildlife at this time of year, but natural sources of water can easily freeze in winter. If you have a bird bath, keep it topped up and check regularly that it isn’t frozen. If you don’t have a bird bath it’s really easy to make your own with a simple shallow dish of water.
Install a bug hotel
A bug hotel is a great way to provide shelter for overwintering insects such as ladybirds and lacewings. You can buy a bug hotel or have a go at making your own, it can be as simple as filling a small piece of drainpipe with lengths of garden cane – or you can really go to town!
Make a leaf pile
You’d be surprised how much protection a pile of leaves can give to small mammals and ground-feeding birds, it’s also a great place for hibernating. It doesn’t need to be big; a small pile in a quiet corner of the garden is great. And if you already have a leaf pile or a compost heap, try not to disturb it too much, as there may well be some wildlife already in residence.
Don’t tidy up borders
A garden job that involves no time at all but still benefits wildlife – sounds good, doesn’t it? Leaving a border intact rather than cutting down dead plants provides seedheads for birds to feed on, and fallen stems for small mammals, frogs, toads and insects to shelter in. Seedheads also look magical on a frosty winter morning, so there’s an added bonus for us too.
Taking a few minutes to garden for wildlife in winter is beneficial on so many levels. You’ll be helping native species to thrive and, in some cases, survive; your garden will be healthier as a result; and it’s a fantastic way to get the kids involved and interested in the great outdoors on their doorstep when the weather isn’t very inviting. Will you be tackling any of my 10 minute wildlife gardening jobs this winter?