As temperatures plummet and frosts become the norm, lending a helping hand to garden wildlife becomes increasingly important. We've shared our tips on how to attract wildlife to your garden, and now we take a look at how to keep visitors safe as colder weather prevails.
November - March is hibernation time for hedgehogs, so most of the work needed to keep them safe during winter (such as leaving food out, and preparing a 'hedgehog hotel') should be done beforehand. Once hedgehogs have begun hibernating, it's unusual to see them out and about - so if you see one moving around your garden, it could be a sign that something is wrong. If you find a young, injured or unwell hedgehog, use gardening gloves to pick it up, before placing it in a cardboard box along with a hot water bottle wrapped in blankets or towels. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has more information on caring for hedgehogs, and can provide further details on local contacts who can help.
Tip: We have a range of hedgehog food in store, to ensure they get the nutrients they need.
If you already have a pond in your garden, make sure it stays accessible to winter wildlife by melting the surface if it ices over. Rather than shattering it by force, melt it using a warm saucepan so as not to harm any creatures who may be in the area. Prevention is always better than a cure, and floating a ball in garden ponds (tennis balls work well for this) will help them to stay ice-free for longer.
Tip: If you don't already have a pond in your garden, an upside-down dustbin lid sunk into the ground makes for a brilliant DIY solution!
During the winter months, birds need our help more than ever. Staying warm in sub-zero temperatures can be a challenge, but there are plenty of ways in which we can help. Feeding our feathered friends is one of the best: ensure bird feeders are clean, and kept well stocked with high energy foods such as suet, fat balls and peanut butter. Be sure not to put too much food out, though, as this could attract other visitors – who may not be as welcome.
Tip: We have a wide variety of bird feed mixes, tables and baths in the Garden Centre. Pop in and ask one of our friendly Garden Experts for help picking out the right one for you.
In colder weather, animals often take shelter in hedges, compost heaps or any bonfires you may have prepared, ready for lighting later. Be sure to check before taking action (such as lighting the bonfire, or turning compost heaps) to make sure no garden visitors have made these areas their home!
Tip: If possible, avoid trimming back hedges and plants such as mature ivy, as these can provide shelter for wildlife during the winter months.
As an alternative to the wildlife havens mentioned above, why not encourage animals to shelter in safe places by creating a bug hotel? Choose a spot in your garden which offers both sun and shade; pallets make for great structures in which to create a 'bug hotel', and can be stacked on top one another to make more room for visitors. Fill in the gaps with materials such as straw, dry leaves and dead wood, and watch as wildlife such as hedgehogs and ladybirds come to stay!
Tip: We may be preaching to the converted here, but we think getting the kids involved in this one makes for a great, fun, and educational family activity!