Call for the wild: Alan Titchmarsh says a natural garden will have the birds come flocking

Call for the wild: Alan Titchmarsh says a natural garden will have the birds come flocking

For many people, garden wildlife is a good alternative to a family pet.



If you grow a good mixture of plants and don’t over manicure the garden, birds, butterflies, bees, foxes and hedgehogs are all likely to drop in.

They make fascinating companions, too, without the responsibilities, not to mention costly kennel or vet bills.

But it pays to do more for their wellbeing, especially now winter is on its way. Even if you provide food all year round it’s worth stepping up the amount of fat you give them in winter. Put out sunflower hearts, cheese, bacon rinds and fat or melt suet into breadcrumbs or leftovers.

Birds need the calories to remain active, warm and waterproof.

They also need to bathe and in winter a freshly filled birdbath may be the only available water around.

If hedgehogs visit your garden they’ll be looking for places to hibernate and in November the risk is bonfires – so be mindful of the wildlife that may have crawled into your Guy Fawkes Night stack of leaves and twigs.

It’s not just hedgehogs, either. You could find frogs, toads, centipedes or even the odd grass snake. So, spare them by shifting your bonfire to a new site just before setting light to it.

Or don’t burn it at all, but leave it piled up to act as a hibernating house and bury a big wooden box in the middle with lots of nesting material inside.

Better still, leave several piles like this around the garden, in the bottoms of hedges and in thickets.

Hedgehogs tend to wake during warm winter spells and move between hibernating spots. 

Solitary bees and beneficial insects such as ladybirds, lacewings and spiders are also hungry for shelter once the weather turns.

So leave dead leaves in the base of hedges, don’t cut back perennial stems and leave the grass long in wildlife gardens or a rough areas.

You also might start thinking about beefing up insect facilities with extra plants to provide all-year-round caterpillar crèches.

Hawthorn hedges, wild hops, a few brambles or banks of nettles and wild flowers are useful insect plants. You can also plant hedges or sow a patch of wild-flower meadow now.

If space is tight, hang insect houses in trees or push them into shrubs and hedges.

Make them by pushing short lengths of bamboo canes into large flowerpots, sections of drainpipe or wooden frames. 

Some insects find their way into outbuildings, so if you find rather dozy or battered-looking butterflies in your shed don’t heave them out thinking they are dead or dying.

They are merely hibernating. They’ll move on in spring and lay early eggs to produce the first generation next year. 

It takes very little effort to turn your garden into a winter wildlife retreat and next summer you will be reaping the benefit. 

Published at Sat, 07 Oct 2017 23:01:00 +0000

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