ASK THE EXPERT
Helping Our Wild Neighbours In Winter
Talk on the Wild Side
Ponds are incredibly important, even in winter. If yours freezes, melt a hole in the ice to allow visiting wildlife to drink, as well as enter and exit the water. Don’t smash the ice as the shockwaves could harm water-based wildlife. Instead, place a pan of hot water on the surface until a hole has been melted.
Herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants are perfect winter holiday homes for many insects and so are quite happy to be left untouched and unpruned until warmer spring days.
It’s always a good idea to leave a few wild areas of your garden to their own devices – an unruly corner of of leaves or branches is a dream home for nesting animals to hide in or even hibernate. By leaving garden borders and shrubs until the big spring clean, you’ll also be providing much needed shelter for overwintering insects.
Likewise, a compost heap is an oasis for toads and even grass snakes (don’t worry they’re entirely harmless and more scared of us!).
Everyone loves hedgehogs and a dish of minced meat (even tinned dog food, so long as it’s not fish-based) or scrambled eggs will be much appreciated by these prickly little critters on cold winter nights. Note that milk is a big no-no: it’s best to provide fresh water instead.
Strictly for the Birds
Many birds will travel far to visit your garden eatery so it’s important to ensure you keep all of your bird feeders topped up for when they arrive. Remember, too, to place food on the ground and on the bird table.
The ever-popular birdbath should be kept topped up throughout January: if the water freezes overnight, simply add heated fresh water.
Keep your window bird feeders topped up with seed as these will help to attract blue tits and sparrows.
For more on how to help our feathered friends visit our Ask The Expert About Bird Feeding.