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TOP TIPS for helping Wildlife In Your Garden in Winter

Winter reservoir

Winter is a tough time for our wildlife; the low temperatures take a toll on small bodies both furry and feathered, water sources freeze over, and food is scarce. Whilst nature has evolved and adapted to survive as best it can in the colder months, there are things that we humans can do in our gardens to make life easier for birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians. We may only be working in our small patch of land, but it can make a big difference to the creatures that rely on it.

Here are the small things you can do that help wildlife in your garden this winter.

TOP TIPS for helping wildlife in the winter

Break the ice

On cold, frosty mornings, scraping the ice from our windscreens is a minor annoyance (or a major one, if you’re particularly late). However, for birds, that same frost can cause a more urgent problem, as their drinking water becomes trapped under a layer of ice. If you can, make time to break the ice on ponds and bird baths, or put out a fresh saucer of water so that feathered friends can still get the refreshment they need.

Water bath

One of the best ways to do this, particularly in the case of ponds where there’s lots of wildlife that live within it, is to fill a pan with hot water and hold it on the ice until a hole has melted. Cracking it with an implement can frighten and even harm pond wildlife.

Bring out the buffet

If there’s one thing on the minds of all garden wildlife during winter, it’s where the next meal is coming from, and there’s lots you can do to help, particularly for small birds.

The following can all be put out on bird tables and in feeders to fill the bellies of birds in your garden, from starlings to house sparrows:

Buy or create your own ‘fat cakes’ at home

These are generally made up of melted lard or suet that has been mixed up with seeds, food scraps, crumbs, cheese, or oats and cooled in the fridge. It’s best to put these out in purpose-built fat cake holders, not the nets that they’re sometimes supplied in, as birds can get their beaks and tongues caught.

Put out fat rich foods

Some foods that you may find in your kitchen can help birds build their fat stores and boost their energy levels enormously, and this includes bacon rind, cheese, and even pastry. Chop these foods into small pieces and pop them on your bird table before retreating to watch it become very popular indeed.

Mix it up with bird seed

To ensure your garden birds benefit from a healthy diet, it’s important to complement those fatty foods with the bird seed that garden birds are used to, such as sunflower seeds, Niger seed (loved by goldfinches) nuts, and grain mixes.

Don’t forget the ground feeders

Larger songbirds such as thrushes and blackbirds favour food that’s available at ground level, and they’re particularly fond of fruit, so it’s worth putting out things like overripe apples, pears, and raisins when you can.

Don’t be tempted to tidy too much

In the spirit of leaving things as they are, a little bit of (organised) garden chaos can lead to food and shelter for a wide range of creatures during the winter.

Let seed heads remain

seed heads

Whilst it can be tempting to neaten up our gardens once the summer flowers have gone, leaving the seed heads that remain can provide a handy extra source of food for birds. Alliums, poppies and ornamental grasses are amongst those that produce bird-friendly seed heads. They’re useful as shelters to larvae and insects too!

Leave piles of wood

woodpiles

Whether they’re left over from some DIY, or you engineer them for this purpose, stacks of wood and logs can provide vital shelter for hibernating creatures, such as insects, hedgehogs, and even slow worms.

Retire the rake

leaf litter

Fallen leaves can be nature's blanket for overwintering animals and insects, so if you can, leave the leaf matter until the spring.

Take care around bonfires and compost heaps

With animals such as hedgehogs, frogs and toads looking for somewhere sheltered to rest whilst it’s chilly, you should take extra care when dealing with places they might find appealing, like bonfires and compost heaps. If you can, avoid turning your compost heap, and double check your bonfire before you light it.

Get ready for spring

Clean out your nest boxes

Wildlife needs us all year round, so while you’re protecting it during the colder months, you can also be preparing for the influx of new life in spring. This includes cleaning out bird boxes so they’re fresh and ready for new feathered families. Once the old nest has been disposed of, douse the nest box with hot water to get rid of any parasites that remain.

This is a good time to put up new nest boxes too!

Plan your planting

Rudbekia Honeysuckle

If you’re using the winter to look at planting for the year ahead, try building some pollinator-friendly plants into your plan. The bees will thank you in the months to come when they find flowers such as lavender, abelia, and honeysuckle in your garden.

How Plants4Presents can help your garden this Spring

If making a difference to the bees in your garden is something you or someone you know is keen to do, keep an eye on the Plants4Presents website as we head into spring; we’ll have some gorgeous flowering plants available, ideal as a gift to yourself and your garden, or a loved one.

Scabious