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Go wild in your garden

As our countryside comes under increasing threat from land use changes it’s our gardens that can play an important role in conserving and encouraging wildlife. Here are some ideas about helping out in the Winter and planning for the Spring and Summer.


The days are short and the nights can be very cold at this time of year so this is a make or break time for all the wildlife in our gardens. For most wildlife this means keeping on the move, finding food and keeping sheltered. Nocturnal animals may even be forced to scavenge during the daytime if it gets really tough and of course birds need every help they can get. So now’s the time to help out and even plan a little to encourage wildlife throughout the year.


I’m lucky enough to have a hedgehog in my garden. He’s fast asleep now hibernating through the cold nights but a spot of unseasonably warm weather can often rouse them and they’ll be out looking for snacks. Hedgehogs live on their fat reserves in the winter and if they don’t find food when they come out of hibernation, however briefly, they can use up too much energy and make them even more vulnerable for the rest of their hibernation.


At this time of year all amphibians – frogs, newts and toads – are hidden away in cold, dark, damp places under stones and logs and in cellars. If you disturb one, try to gentle re-cover them to give them the best chance of survival.


The only animals that seem to carry on thriving are the squirrels and foxes, natural scavengers that are currently engaging in mating in time for the Spring. They have little regard for people at this time of year and there’s no worry that they will survive!


There’s not a week when I don’t hear about some sort of threat to important insects and animals. As an example, bees have declined more during the last century than any other insect but they are the most important insect pollinator in our gardens. Without them, many garden plants would fail to produce the fruits, flowers and vegetables we enjoy.


Once we’re through the worst of the winter wildlife will start emerging into our gardens again and there are plenty of things you can be doing now to encourage even more into your garden. Here are just a few ideas to make a contribution.


  • Introduce some water. Installing a pond is the biggest single contribution that can be made to increase wildlife. It provides a breeding place for amphibians and other aquatic fauna, and drinking and bathing for birds and other animals. Fish can be voracious predators of tadpoles and insects so they are best omitted but sticklebacks and newts can be encouraged. And if a ponds too much work then build a boggy area for much the same effect.
  • Sunny borders are particularly attractive to butterflies. Try cowslips, bugle, cornflowers, cranesbill and Buddleija.
  • Rockeries, sinks and troughs are good habitats for low growing wild flowers and can provide Winter shelter.
  • Hedgerows planted with native woodland plants are ideal in north facing borders or under trees and can give carpets of colour. Red campion, sweet woodruff, foxgloves and bedstraw will thrive.
  • Remember to keep lawns chemical free to encourage insects.
  • Fruit trees will keep bees happy with their blossom and other insects can feed on windfalls.
  • Compost heaps are wildlife heaven for feeding and sheltering.


Just one or two of these in your garden can make a huge contribution so next weekend when the weather’s good get out and go wild in your garden.