The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in. It’s the time of year for staying in and getting cosy. But don’t forget the animals outside that may need a helping hand through the colder months.
As the temperature drops and food grows scarce, winter is a tough time for our wildlife. While some stock up over autumn and hibernate through the coldest months, others must fend for themselves, finding enough food and water to see them through until spring.
The good news is that there is plenty we can do in our own gardens to help our small friends. As more find themselves suffering as a result of habitat loss and intensive agriculture, we need to make our gardens as welcoming as possible. Here are some easy ways to help:
Put feed out for wildlife: For many animals, finding food during daylight hours is a top priority. By putting out a regular supply of energy-rich food for them, you can make a real difference to their lives this winter. Consider buying a bird feeder, which you can fill with seeds, berries and hang suet balls off. Hedgehogs prefer minced meat and tinned cat or dog food, while squirrels and other small mammals will enjoy mixed seeds and nuts.
Leave out fresh water: Animals will still need to drink regularly, and birds need water to bathe in to keep their feathers in top condition. Leave out a saucer of water that’s easy for them to access and keep it topped up regularly. Remember, you’ll need to put out fresh water if it has frozen overnight. If you own a pond, it’s also worth melting a hole when it ices over so that animals can still drink from it and enter/leave the water with ease.
Create shelters: Animals like birds and hedgehogs will be on the lookout for cosy shelters this winter. If you want to help, you can make or buy bird boxes and hedgehog homes or create inviting nests in undisturbed areas of your garden using leaves and logs. Compost heaps at this time of year are an ideal home for frogs, toads and other small creatures, so try to leave them undisturbed as they hibernate through the winter months. And make sure you check for hibernating animals before lighting bonfires.
Leave herbaceous plants unpruned: You may be tempted to cut back some of your garden plants to avoid frost damage this winter, but if you leave them unpruned until early spring, they make perfect homes for insects. For any perennials that need to be cut now, collect up the stems and pile them up in a secluded area of your garden to create a shelter for ladybirds, beetles and small mammals.
If you’re on the lookout for your next home with a garden that you can make your own, do check out our latest developments in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.