As August comes to its long, leisurely end, with the nights getting shorter and the temperature starting to dip, our thoughts turn to getting our homes and gardens ready for Autumn. Here are some tips to help you get your garden ready to welcome wildlife looking for homes of their own during the colder months ahead.
Autumn clean out
It's important to clean your bird houses, nesting boxes and any other garden wildlife habitats you've already put up (providing they're not currently being used), as these will have gathered all sorts of summer debris. Dispose of any old nests and destroy remaining parasites by using boiling water. When dry, you can add some new hay or wood shavings (but not straw), to keep nesting birds cosy and warm over the winter.
If you have a bee hotel with an existing nest, wait until late Autumn before moving it somewhere dry, cool and safe (like a garage or a shed) until Spring. Don't interfere with any insects or animals who've already moved in to their shelter, even if you're tempted to take a closer peek! And remember never use insecticides or flea powders when cleaning any garden wildlife habitats.
Setting up home
There are lots of way to attract garden wildlife by creating special places for them to nest, hang out or hibernate during the colder months. Why not check out our fantastic collection in our Garden Gifts Collection? Here you'll find everything that garden birds, butterflies, bees and bugs could desire - not forgetting frogs and hedgehogs too!
You can also help by not clearing out your garden too much. Sweep leaves into piles in corners, leave some empty overturned plant pots out of the way, and pile up twigs in sheltered spots so that little animals and creepy crawlies can happily hide away when it gets colder. Make sure travelling hedgehogs can get into your garden though gaps in hedges or spaces to tunnel under boundary fences.
Fresh food buffet
During the late summer months, birds will fill up on the available glut of berries and insects, so any bird food left in feeders may have become stale. The best thing to do is bin it and refill with fresh food. The RSPB has some useful suggestions for safe foods for birds, with everything from bird cake to breeding your own mealworms!
Some solitary bees and bumble bees continue feeding until late autumn and careful pruning and planting late flowering plants such as honeysuckle, delpiniums and winter flowering clematis will help to attract them. Butterflies also seek out nectar feeding plants. And a daily diet for frogs includes all sorts of insects, slugs and worms.
Hedgehogs also eat a variety of creepy crawlies and enjoy tasty treats such as meat-based wet dog or cat foods which are high in protein, readying them for winter hibernation. But bread doesn't have enough nutrients to help and, as they're lactose intolerant, milk is definitely off the menu!
Always add water
Having an easily accessible source of water is a great way to attract garden wildlife. Add a bird bath for feathered friends so they can make a splash as well as having clean drinking water - and make sure it doesn't permanently freeze over when Winter sets in.
Even the smallest of ponds can be a haven for garden wildlife. If you'd like to make your own wildlife pond, Autumn is the ideal time to get to work. The RHS has some helpful ideas on how to build a wildlife pond so you can make frogs and all sorts of pond life very happy!
What will you be doing to get your garden ready for wildlife this Autumn? Please share your tips and suggestions in the comments below.
And if you're looking for presents for nature lovers, our Nature Shop has plenty to pick from including the eco friendly Wildlife Gift Boxes below, locally sourced from the Cotswolds. A perfect way to inspire adults and kids alike to help look after our British garden wildlife!