Winter is upon us. And that means it’s colder, wetter, windier – and generally harder for most of our wildlife to scratch a living. As well as it being an important time of the year for gardeners to help out, now’s a great time to plan for the springtime ahead.
Winter’s great for planning your bee- (and butterfly, moth and hoverfly) friendly garden. Aim for nectar-rich plants: simple non-cultivated varieties are best. Try and get a good spread over the year, especially late summer flowering varieties.
Cold and fed up
It goes without saying that wild food dwindles as winter progresses, making our garden feeding stations increasingly important. Mine start to really buzz in late January or early February. Make sure you’ve got lots of energy- and fat-rich foods on offer, especially if there’s a cold snap or an extended period of rain.
A few frosts and a blast or two from winter gales can leave gardens looking ragged and dejected. But all those dry stems and seed heads provide home to a variety of small creatures, which in turn are valuable wild food and forage for others. So resist the impulse to sweep, clip and burn. If you have to, just pile the cuttings in a heap or stuff under a hedge out of sight.
Sooner than you think
The nesting season seems like a long way away but in reality it’s just around the corner. Now’s the time to get used nest boxes cleaned out. Those wintry evenings also give ample time to make plans for helping your wildlife – whether it’s digging a pond or planting a wild flower meadow.
A bird table will often attract mammals too. My own visitors over the course of the year have included badger, fox, hedgehog, dormouse, wood mouse, bank and field vole. Many are still coming now. Take advantage of their boldness and provide a special mammal table by a downstairs window or French door. Hunger often overcomes their natural wariness, bringing another dimension to your wildlife garden.