The Chilstone in-house gardener Jason Large of Summit Gardens is here to share his expert tips on cultivating and looking after wildlife in your garden this winter.
Our gardens give so much scope to provide good conditions and habitat for wildlife so I thought it would be a good time to share some tips on how to make changes in your own garden, particularly in this cold season when our little friends could use a helping hand.
There are plenty of things you can do, but even if you follow only one of these tips, wildlife will benefit.
You don't need to provide a full blown pond to benefit nature, especially as space may be limited. Just a very small body of water will suffice for insects such as dragonflies, frogs and algae.
If possible slope the sides so that birds can wash and drink, so that any mammals that inadvertently fallen in can escape.
(Click photo for more fountains and water features!)
Many of us like to put out food for birds because it is great to see them in the garden, but it can be particularly beneficial in winter, especially in prolonged freezing weather when nature’s larder may not be so easy for birds to access. Leaving out nuts, seed and fat balls can play a key role for their survival.
Bird baths can easily freeze over during the winter months. Removing or cracking the ice and replacing with fresh water ensures birds stay hydrated.
(Click photo for more birdbaths!)
A simple yet effective way of introducing wildlife to the garden. Just try to site them in a sheltered place so as not to be isolated. There's no need to restrict boxes to birds; consider bat boxes too!
If you have the room, create wood piles from all your discarded tree and shrub prunings/ cuttings. These provide important habitat for bugs such as beetles, and also fungi.
Wood piles also provide hibernation possibilities. In a less formal garden these piles can be a feature in themselves, but if you’re more inclined to be neat, then tuck them away in a corner behind a shed or tree.
With the hibernation process in mind, make sure to check any piles that were intended for a bonfire before lighting!
Plan your garden
Winter is a good time to think about what you may want to plant for the coming seasons. Think about extending the season and try to pick shrubs and perennials that flower and berry in succession throughout the year, as this will be hugely beneficial to birds and bees and other pollinating insects.
Avoid double flowers if possible as it is harder for insects to access the nectar.
Trees are wonderful and offer a rich diversity of habitat and food. Even small gardens are suitable, just choose a dwarf variety.
Trees provide nectar in their flowers, food in their fruits, and habitats for nesting birds in the canopy.
Even the dead and decaying bits provide habitat for small insects!
If you have the room think about planting a hedge, maybe to provide garden compartments. Don’t over manage them, allow them to grow naturally as this will provide shelter for wildlife.
Also allow grass to grow longer at the base of hedges as this provides shelter and corridors for creatures such as field mice.
Hedges in the Just Retirement Garden at Hampton Court flower show 2014
Try to avoid the use of pesticides as these can harm beneficial insects and organisms, which in turn are eaten by birds and other mammals, so affecting the food chain.
If you have the space, get composting; Much garden waste, such as grass clippings, soft plant waste and leaves can be converted to mulch if done properly. This also avoids the need to use peat passed compost.
It’s not for everybody, but try to be a bit less tidy around the garden! For example, don’t remove seed heads, just allow them to form as they provide food, plus they look great on those cold frosty mornings. Try and leave areas of the lawn long or grow a natural meadow, even if it is small, as this provides food and shelter.
Lovely natural planting in the gold winning 'Potters Garden' at Chelsea Flower show last year featuring our flowery friends How Green Nursery!
We hope you have fun working these tips into your winter/ Spring gardening and enjoy all the wildlife your garden has to offer.
Spotted some new garden wildlife that you're proud of? Send your best photos to us on Facebook and Twitter and we'll share them with our fans!