Turn your bleak winter garden into a winter wonderland that is bustling with life!
We often think of summer as the time when the garden is most alive, but as the temperatures drop, the colder months are when wildlife depends on us the most. In their fight for survival, there are simple steps that we can take as gardeners to ensure the wildlife on our doorstep not only survives but continues to thrive.
It’s surprisingly easy to turn your garden into a sanctuary for winter wildlife. Whether you have an urban oasis or a countryside retreat, doing just a few of these small steps will help make a difference:
Bonfire night may be behind us, but if you plan on lighting one, check for hibernating and sheltering animals like hedgehogs and frogs first. It’s best to construct bonfires on the day of lighting, to avoid creatures settling in and making a home for themselves.
Keep Pond Water Moving
Freezing temperatures are creeping upon us, putting ponds at risk of freezing over. You can help prevent this by placing a ball in your pond to keep the water moving. If your pond does freeze, gently melt a hole in the ice by holding a saucepan of boiling water over the pond. This will allow oxygen into the water and let wildlife drink, enter and exit the water.
Keep Bird Baths Topped Up
Keeping water topped up for birds is important not only for drinking, but also for bathing to keep their feathers in good condition over winter. Ensure bird baths are kept full and give wildlife another source of drinking water by placing a shallow dish of water on the ground to encourage biodiversity in your plot.
Have A Place to Nest
After a long flight to your garden, welcome birds with a place to rest during the winter months. Place bird boxes away from direct sunlight and in a hard-to-reach spot from cats and squirrels. As a bonus, many birds will revisit the nest again in spring, so give bird boxes a good clean in late winter.
Plant Evergreen Shelter
Plant dense evergreen climbers and shrubs for shelter and nesting sites. Evergreen hedges are a great alternative to fences for a wall of greenery that brings increased privacy, visuals and cosy spots for wildlife. Ivy makes a wonderful wildlife addition, providing shelter, pollen-rich flowers for late-flying pollinators and berries in late winter for hungry birds.
Top tip: If you have fences, make your boundaries hedgehog-friendly by placing a gap under fences or gates so wildlife can pass between gardens!
Plant for Bees
Bees will be especially grateful for plants that flower between September and March when pollen sources are low. Helleborus Niger and Viburnum tinus are great options for pollinators, flowering right through the winter. Other valuable additions include winter Heathers (Erica carnea), Mahonia, Snowdrops and Crocus.
As you spend more time indoors, it’s also a good time to plan ahead and think about the best planting options for wildlife at various times of the year. Take a look at our collection of Pollinator-Friendly Plants for our top garden additions that will keep bees happy year-round.
Don’t be Too Tidy
Leave those leaves! Many of us are proud of our tidy plots, but wildlife will thank us for leaving parts of our garden naturally unkempt. Rake fallen leaves from your lawn, as this will help with growth and reduce disease, but make use of your gatherings and pile leaves, twigs and logs under bushes or in corners of your garden to create habitats that will become home to a whole host of wildlife.
The remnants of healthy herbaceous perennials also provide structure and silhouettes to the winter garden. Seedheads bring plenty of architectural interest whilst providing birds with much-needed food.
Leave Compost Heaps
As we wrap up warm this winter, wildlife looks to do the same. Leave compost bins to nature or handle/turn with care, as they become an inviting space for garden wildlife to keep warm when outside temperatures plummet.
Feed Hungry Birds
Offer bird feed to supplement the natural food sources like berries that are found around your garden. Hungry visitors will flock to your feeding station for a great bird watching experience on your doorstep! Clean your feeders regularly and move to different locations around the garden to avoid the build-up of diseases.
From a window box of late flowering perennials to a saucer of water on your balcony, we hope these inspiring ideas will help make your green space count this winter.
Happy gardening and wildlife watching!