Encouraging Wildlife to Thrive in Your Garden this Winter
It can be tempting to clear everything away in your garden for the winter months – but while you have tidied up your plants and shrubs, what about the wildlife that lives there? They will be having a tough time coping not just with the lower temperatures but also the lack of food.
Madingley Mulch, suppliers of mulches, compost and soil conditioners to customers in the Cambridge area, have identified these key ways in which gardeners can help birds, amphibians, insects and small mammals to survive through the winter.
Feed the Birds
Birds really are gardeners’ feathered friends. They allow your garden’s eco-system to thrive, eating pests which damage your flowers and shrubs, and helping with plant pollination.
Leaving out nuts, seeds and fat balls will help most species to survive and thrive over the winter. It’s best to buy purpose-built feeders, as squirrels, pigeons and other creatures can all get to the food first if it’s left on a traditional bird table. Don’t forget to leave out a bowl of water too, as birds and other animals still need to drink even when it’s cold.
Beware of Iced Ponds
Figures suggest there are roughly 2 million garden ponds in the UK, and as well as being home to fish and amphibians they also provide other creatures with a reliable source of drinking water. However, if your pond does freeze over, not only does this source disappear, but the ice can cause a build-up carbon monoxide, methane and other gases in the water which can be potentially toxic to some forms of wildlife.
Melting a hole in the ice by placing a saucepan full of hot water on the surface will be a genuine lifeline to all the wildlife which uses the pond. You can also float a ball on the pond’s surface which will keep the water around it moving and making a freeze over less likely. You should avoid breaking the ice with a hammer, or pouring boiling water directly onto the ice, as this could send shockwaves through the pond which could harm wildlife.
Remember: Amphibians like toads and frogs also like to seek shelter in warm compost heaps, so take care when you turn these over.
Looking After Insects
Insects which don’t go into hibernation need ‘mess’ and flowers to survive the winter. The insects that do fly still need a source of pollen, so if you have any ivy don’t cut it back too hard as this is one of the few plants which flowers in winter. Other insects overwinter in the hollow stems of perennials, so don’t prune these too vigorously either.
Leave out piles of rotting logs in damp or shady areas of your garden, putting fallen leaves in any cracks. This arrangement will provide shelter for centipedes, woodlice, beetles and other insects, as well as a valuable supply of food for birds.
Hedgehogs and Other Mammals
Hedgehogs will appreciate a supply of fresh water and food over winter. Dog or cat food is a good option, but you should avoid a fish-based recipe as well as milk or bread – all of these can upset hedgehogs’ stomachs or cause dehydration. Check bonfires before lighting them as these prickly creatures appreciate the warmth and shelter they offer.
Badgers enjoy lightly cooked meats, fruit, peanuts and cheese to supplement their diet. As well as nuts, squirrels also like sunflower seeds and chopped carrots, while mixed seeds can be left out for smaller mammals.
Don’t Forget to Mulch
Laying down some mulch on your flowerbeds – or replenishing an existing layer – will also help wildlife. It is a ready-made breeding ground for stag beetles and other small insects. As the materials break down and decompose, they will enrich the soil and nourish your plants at the same time.
At Madingley Mulch we supply a range of composts, mulches and soil conditioners from our base on the outskirts of Cambridge. These include Denise’s Delight and Tony’s Tonic, which – thanks to their mix of wood shavings, horse manure and other nutrients – have proved highly effective in helping plants flourish all the year round.
Soil Conditioners, Mulches and Compost from Madingley Mulch
As well as soil improvers, Madingley Mulch stock a wide range of other gardening, landscaping and building supplies for the keen horticulturalist. These include aggregates, decorative stones and cobbles, paving slabs, fencing and turf.
You can visit our online shop by clicking on this link. We operate a weekly delivery service, and this is free if you live within 15 miles of our base on the outskirts of Cambridge. If you live up to 24.5 miles away, then a standard £20 charge applies, and we can arrange deliveries further afield as well. At the moment, we are aiming to deliver all orders between two and three weeks of them being placed.
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