Winter has undoubtedly arrived.
Temperatures have dropped, gardens have turned icy and what used to be a haven for many creatures is now covered in snow.
As the nights draw in and the weather gets harsher, native animals like hedgehogs need to find a safe, cosy spot to hibernate until spring. Unfortunately, habitats, food and water are often scarce during these colder months.
Although many people will be spending less time in their gardens, there are a number of things you can do to help support wildlife throughout winter.
You don’t need a big garden to make an impact. Whether you have an allotment, window box, back yard, or acres of space, with even the smallest changes you can make a big difference for local wildlife.
Every creature and plant requires a different environment and certain types of wildlife are more prevalent in specific areas.
Before you do anything to your garden, find out the most likely visitors in your area so then you can research the best way to support them and ensure they continue to thrive.
Despite many people spending less time in their gardens during the colder months, winter is the perfect time to plant bulbs, shrubs, trees and hedges that will attract and help wildlife in the months ahead.
Not only are you preparing your garden for the summer, but there’s also certain creatures, including some bee species who forage for food during winter. Planting nectar-rich flowers (like heather or snowdrops) will provide a food source for them.
Although many creatures hibernate over the winter months, there’s still many that need food to get them through. Depending on what animals are likely to visit your garden, you can leave out food for them to help themselves.
Make sure to replenish any bird feeders or leave out mixtures of high fat content food, seeds, nuts, grains and over-ripe fruits to keep birds warm and provide them with a varied diet.
If you’re likely to have hedgehogs visit, try meat-based cat food or specialist hog food to keep them fed and thriving.
You can also allow leaves to gather in your garden. This provides warmth, shelter and even acts as a food source for certain animals .Many butterflies and insects find shelter in leaves, as well as toads and frogs, providing a space for birds and hedgehogs to forage.
With temperatures dropping below freezing, a lot of water sources have iced over and become unusable for wildlife.
Like us, all creatures need food and water to survive. If you have a pond, make sure there is an ice-free section so that animals can still drink. Covering a section or melting it through with hot water can help keep it accessible even as temperatures drop. You can also try leaving a ball floating in the water, as it leaves a section clear and the breeze will move it and keep the water source from freezing over completely.
Even if you don’t have a pond or bird bath, leaving out containers of fresh water will help sustain creatures through this harsher weather - but make sure to leave them at low levels so all animals can have a drink.
Depending on the visitors your garden is most likely to get, there’s a number of habitats you can introduce into your garden to provide shelter and warmth.
In our Marsden Farm Court Development in Lancashire we added insect houses, wildflowers, and bird and bat boxes to support the local wildlife and give them a home all year round.
Once you have identified which creatures venture through your garden, you can create habitats that are appropriate from them.
However something as simple as leaving leaves, logs and other natural debris to gather provides the space for animals to make their own homes.