Helping Wildlife in Winter

August, and even September, may seem a little premature for talking about helping wildlife in winter. However, a little bit of planning can make a big difference – and all the following suggestions require nothing more than that…
• Check your bird boxes and tables are ready, clean and in good condition. Check again once winter kicks in
• Place a small pile(s) of logs and branches with bark in a secluded spot to provide a home for insects
• Install an insect hotel(s) (they can be bought cheaply from garden centres and there’s no need to spend extra on something highly ornamental as the insects really won’t be bothered by its aesthetics) in a sheltered position 1m-2m above ground. Look after the ladybirds over winter and they’ll take care of your aphids in spring
• Leave herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants as they are until early spring for overwintering insects
• Place a pile(s) of leaves and twigs for hibernating hedgehogs, other mammals, frogs and toads. Don’t forget that they’ll also make a beeline for your compost heap or bonfire, so check before you turn the former or light the latter
• If you have hedgehogs, feed them from the middle of August to the end of September with cat or dog food. This will help them build up their fat reserves.
NB: This advice is from BBC Gardener’s World: “If you find a baby hedgehog in autumn, take it in and keep it warm in a tall-sided box with hot water bottle on the bottom, covered with a thick towel. Feed it with cat or dog food and water and call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) on 01584 890801 for further advice, or visit britishhedgehogs.org.uk”
• Apply an organic mulch around plants
• Before trimming hedges and hedging plants, check to see if there are berries forming. If you can live with an untidy hedge until spring, put the shears away
• Make a small pile(s) of fallen fruit for birds
• As the weather turns cold, wildlife still needs to drink so fill shallow dishes or containers with water at ground level. They need to be accessible, but can be hidden behind containers or plants
• Talking of water, if you have a pond remember to put in a tennis or rubber ball to prevent it freezing over. You can also help amphibians by building a simple and open pile of rocks adjacent to it. Ideally facing North, this will give them a temperature controlled shelter