All Creatures Great and Small
Now summer is over and we’re looking ahead to the colder autumn and winter months, you might notice some different visitors to your garden.
Autumn is the ideal time to start preparing for winter wildlife. You can help a host of animals to find food and shelter for the coming colder months. Species including hedgehogs and house sparrows are struggling for survival due to a loss of habitat. This means making your garden wildlife-friendly is particularly important.
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The hedgehog population has declined by 30% in the UK in the past decade and their numbers have now fallen below one million. Gardens cover an estimated 270,000 hectares of Britain and can make a vital difference to hedgehogs. Provide nesting sites, such as log and leaf piles – there are plenty of fallen leaves in autumn, so don’t clear them away, leave them in piles, where hedgehogs can nest and hibernate through the winter.
Don’t forget to be especially careful around 5th November, if you’ve built a bonfire. Check there are no hedgehogs nesting underneath before you ignite it. Hedgehogs are natural pest controllers, so you don’t need to put down any insecticides. They will need lots of prey to stay healthy until the spring comes around.
Make sure hedgehogs don’t drown in your garden pond. Although they can swim, they may struggle to get out in winter if the sides are steep and covered in frost, or if there aren’t any plants for them to clamber up. Provide a ramp made from a plank covered in chicken wire to help their grip.
Butterflies and moths
Ever wondered what happens to butterflies and moths in the winter? You may find common garden species, such as peacock butterflies and tortoiseshells, hiding in the corner of your shed in the winter. Don’t disturb them, as they will emerge again when the weather gets warmer.
Moths also survive the winter by hibernating. They will burrow into the soil as larvae or pupae until they emerge in the spring – a common species found in the winter garden is the angle shades moth. Leave them in peace, and you’ll have a spring garden full of beautiful butterflies and moths.
Spiders’ eggs often lay dormant in your garden until the spring, so try to avoid digging your beds unless absolutely necessary, as this could kill them. In your pond, dragonfly larvae will remain active, even in the middle of winter. Clean your pond with care and don’t use chemical products.
Violet ground beetles are on the go throughout autumn and winter and will be out looking for worms and other prey in the flowerbeds and leaf piles. Avoid clearing your garden completely, to give them a better chance of foraging for their prey.
Ladybirds will also gather in numbers on dead plant stems over winter, in sheltered parts of your garden. If you find any, try not to disturb them.
Bees and some other insects will use holes in deadwood as a nesting chamber. Give them a hand by drilling holes in a log, or a block of wood in a quiet corner of the garden.
You are sure to see many birds in your garden during winter. The red-breasted robin, Britain’s national bird, is the symbol of winter and a common garden visitor. The sparrow, wren, bullfinch, blue tit, redwing and waxwing will also be found wintering in Britain.
On cold nights, birds will conserve body heat by roosting communally, so provide nest boxes to help them keep warm and dry. Put out plenty of food for the wild birds, ideally on a raised bird table, to stop them from falling prey to cats.
The best winter foods for birds are mealworms, cracked corn, a good mix of seeds, shelled unsalted peanuts, suet and black-oil sunflower seed. These foods are filled with protein to help maintain the birds’ body weight in the cold weather, when natural food may be scarce. Provide fresh water for the birds too, remembering to check it hasn’t frozen overnight.
Toads, frogs and newts
Most pond creatures such as toads, frogs and newts won’t be spending their winter in the pond, as it will be too cold. Toads and newts can be found sheltering from the winter weather in the greenhouse, under plant pots, hidden in piles of bricks, or under other garden debris. Frogs can be found under piles of fallen leaves, although some hardier individuals may sit at the bottom of the pond.
Although it’s common practice to clear the garden at the end of the summer season, ready for next year, it’s far better to leave some plants and leaves in place for our wildlife. Help all creatures, great and small, to make it through the colder weather.
Enjoy watching the winter wildlife in your garden from the warmth of your home – through our bi-fold doors, of course. For a seamless transition from your home to your garden, you can sit nice and cosy in front of the fire, admiring your garden from your armchair!
Please contact us today for details of our professional bi-fold door installations.