Ways to help wildlife over winter months

As the autumn garden tidy up continues, especially with the leaves now falling, let’s not forget the wildlife.
Leave some seed heads of plants such as echinacea, sedum, allium and ornamental grasses as they not only provide food for the birds, but their stems can give a home to a huge variety of insects, larvae and eggs.
If you have mature ivy, resist if you can the temptation to cut all of it back as the flowers can provide a brilliant boost of nectar and pollen for later-flying insects. Its berries will feed the birds and its leaves offer shelter for many species.
Just piling logs, twigs and leaves together will create an idyllic space for many creatures over winter. It is best to find a spot where your log pile is unlikely to be disturbed. Start by partially burying logs to enable insects such as beetles to feed on the decaying wood.
Any larger spaces can be filled with dry leaves and twigs. Ensure some gaps are left throughout your pile for insects and small mammals to shelter.
A myriad of insects, especially bees, hibernate through winter. Their ideal space would be warm and dry where they can remain until spring. Old air bricks are great where you can fill the holes with twigs. Empty flowerpots laid on their side, again filled with suitable ‘bug bedding’ will also provide the perfect shelter over winter.
While the bottom of the pond is where the male frogs will head to over-winter, the young and the females will search for damp areas. Log piles will be a great habitat, but the creation of a hibernaculum is just as simple. Take an old grow bag and dig a shallow hole of the same size in a sheltered position. Place the bag inside and completely cover with grass clippings and pack it all down.
Lastly, spread a layer of leaves and twigs over the top. The hibernaculum will provide a safe space for amphibians and reptiles to hibernate and should be left undisturbed until spring.
Many products can be purchased to complement these natural sources of food and shelter for the wildlife. Birds in particular can struggle to find food during the colder months, so putting out feeders will help them get through winter.
Providing a range of bird feed such as seeds, peanuts and fat balls will ensure you cater for the variety of bird species. Pre-made bug hotels and bird boxes can also be bought if you are short of time to make your own.
n Rudge’s Garden Centre has a range of bird feed and accessories in stock.

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