As you may know, I’m big on getting my kids involved in looking after the local wildlife in my area. We do a lot together as a family to ensure that we provide safe havens for any wildlife that may seek refuge in our garden, and do our best to ensure that we do what we can to encourage biodiversity within our garden. That’s why I’m talking to you today about how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter.
As winter approaches, our gardens will turn into a safe haven for all sorts of wildlife seeking food, water, and some refuge from the bitter winter winds. While it may seem like the natural world is hibernating, the reality is that our gardens become crucial lifelines for various creatures during the winter season. In this guide, we’ll explore how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter and discuss how to create a safe sanctuary of warmth and sustenance for our feathered, scaley and furry friends.
1 Provide Plenty Of Nourishment For Birds
Birds are arguably one of the most delightful and joyous visitors that many people enjoy watching in their gardens. Unfortunately for our feathery friends, the winter months can be an extremely challenging time for them. With the freezing temperatures we get in the UK, icy, frozen-over water sources and rock-hard grounds make it extremely difficult for birds to sustain themselves. Here are some tips on how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter, in particular, your garden birds:
The very first thing that I mention to anyone asking about how to care for the wildlife in your gardening during winter is to make sure that you invest in, or make your own, bird feeders. We have got a variety of DIY bird feeder posts on Lukeosaurus and Me, including the extremely popular (and very nutritional) DIY Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders, and the brilliantly simple DIY Kid’s Toilet Roll Bird Feeders.
It’s not just the bird feeders you need though. You need to ensure that you invest in quality bird food. Look out for different varieties of seeds, nuts, and suet. Some of our favourite garden visitors prefer a more specific mix, so it’s a good idea to do a little research on the best foods to help your feathery friends thrive during the winter. When considering the species of birds that are likely to visit your garden looking for energy, it’s a good idea to buy food for blackbirds, robins, blue tits, and thrushes.
When considering how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter, it’s vital that not only do you provide food for our feathery friends, but also ensure that they have an accessible water source. It’s a good idea to check your bird baths, or whatever water source your local birds often frequent, and break any ice that’s formed. Make sure that you regularly replace any ice with fresh water to avoid dehydration.
Finally, when it comes to the local birds in your area, it’s always a good idea to ensure that your garden provides some natural shelter and warmth. A great way to do this is to plant evergreen shrubs and trees; providing birds with these spots not only offers them the opportunity to shelter from harsh winds but also provides natural protection from predators.
2. Hibernating Shelters For Small Mammals
The next tip that I recommend to those wanting to learn how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter is to provide safe shelters for small mammals, such as hedgehogs, which will be seeking warm, safe spots for them to hibernate in.
Leaf Piles And Branch Stacks:
I know that it’s nice to have a clean, clear, and organised garden, but if you want to encourage more wildlife into your area and provide a safe haven for them during the winter, it’s handy to leave a little area untouched. My advice is to leave a corner of your garden untidy and fill it with piles of leaves and branches. These natural items create perfect hideouts for creatures like hedgehogs, by providing insulation against the cold.
If you want to go a step further, consider placing a hedgehog house in a quiet area of your garden. These small shelters mimic the natural burrows hedgehogs create and offer protection during their winter sleep.
Leave out a little food for hedgehogs, such as cat biscuits or specialised hedgehog food. It’s a good idea to avoid offering milk, however, as many adult mammals are lactose intolerant and you may find that you do more harm than good for your local wildlife.
3. Insect Hotels: Because We Love Bugs Too!
My kids LOVE bugs and you should too. When learning how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter, it’s important to remember that without insects, the world would be a very different place.
Creepy crawlies play a huge role in the ecosystem by pollinating flowers, keeping pests at bay, and feeding other garden wildlife. It may seem like insects disappear in the winter, but what actually happens to many of your regular garden insects is that they dig down and seek shelter in all the nooks and crannies around your garden. If you move a pile of leaves, lift up a flower pot, or brush away some dirt on your path, you’re bound to find a variety of insects. Here’s how to look after the insects in your garden during winter:
When I tell you my kids love bugs, I’m not lying. One of the most popular posts I have ever written is all about creating your very own bug hotel from recycled cans. I did this project with my eldest a few years ago, and the little hotel is still going strong. Since then we’ve made and installed more insect hotels as they provide the perfect cosy spaces for a number of garden insects. Bug hotels attract a huge number of bugs and help to encourage biodiversity in the local area.
Leave Some Plant Stems:
Again, it’s important that you resist completely tidying your garden when learning how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter. Leave a few plant stems knocking around as these provide an excellent habitat for insects.
It seems like an obvious thing to say, especially in an article about how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter, however, you’d be surprised by how many people will use pesticides even in the winter months. Many insects hibernate in various life stages, which means eliminating them with the use of harmful pesticides can very easily disrupt the delicate balance of your garden’s ecosystem. Not only that, but pesticides are also harmful to other creatures that will pop in and roam your garden, such as hedgehogs, squirrels, foxes, birds, and frogs.
4. Careful Garden Maintenance: Balancing Modern Living and Wildlife Needs
While maintaining a tidy garden is preferable, when learning how to care for the wildlife in your garden during winter, it’s important to remember that we share our planet. Some may prefer the look of a clean, well-pruned garden, but striking the balance between modern living and our wildlife’s needs is crucial. Consider the following tips when preparing your garden for winter:
Prune plants selectively, focusing on dead or diseased branches. This allows for airflow while still providing shelter for wildlife.
Mindful Leaf Removal:
Rake leaves into piles in less frequented areas rather than removing them entirely. These leaf piles offer hiding spots for insects, small mammals, and toads.
Choose plants that provide winter interest, such as berries, seed heads, or evergreen foliage. These not only enhance the aesthetics of your garden but also serve as valuable food sources for birds and small mammals.
Final Thoughts On How To Care For The Wildlife In Your Garden During Winter
In conclusion, caring for the wildlife in your garden during winter is a rewarding and necessary endeavour. By providing nourishment, shelter, and a mindful approach to garden maintenance, you can transform your outdoor space into a haven for creatures large and small. Embrace the winter season as an opportunity to connect with nature and contribute to the well-being of the delicate ecosystems that thrive right outside your doorstep.