As the summer sun cools, and long days outside fade into hazy memory, now is the time to start thinking about how to get your garden ready for the colder months. Your small patch of the great outdoors is home to many welcome creatures, and their habitats will have gathered all sorts of debris during the summer.
First, let’s do an ‘autumn clean’ of your birdhouses or nesting boxes: begin by washing the insides to destroy any lingering parasites, which might otherwise infect next year’s brood. Whilst cleaning, check the houses and boxes are still rainproof. When they’re dry, add some new hay or wood shavings (but not straw), to ready these roosts for your birds, and keep them cosy and warm over the winter.
Now is the time to start feeding the birds in your garden, so put up bird feeders if you haven’t already done so. The birds will find the feeders quickly enough, and having a buffet on site will encourage them to stay and nest! During the late summer, birds will fill up on the glut of berries and insects hanging around. This means any old bird food may have been left for a while, and have become stale. Time to chuck it out, and start afresh.
There is a wide variety of bird food available for your feeders. I use a general everyday feed which is fine for the tits and robins in our garden, but if you want to attract goldfinches and greenfinches then add some Nyjer seed. Choosing a mix containing sunflower hearts (rather than the whole seed) reduces mess.
Right – that’s the birds looked after. What about your other garden friends? To encourage hedgehogs to stay and hibernate, you can buy or make a Hedgehog House There are plenty of tutorials and online guides to help you construct a simple home for these sweet little animals, or you can glam it up and buy them something truly luxurious!
Put your hedgehog house in a sheltered spot, facing away from the wind and out of direct sunlight; in the lee of a shed or bushes is ideal. Hedgehogs like to eat creepy crawlies – snail, slugs, beetles, caterpillars, worms – so keep the grass and vegetation long around the box to encourage a natural food supply and attract the hedgehog to the area. You can also tempt hedgehogs by putting out some delicious titbits just for them, like cat or dog food. They can eat most things we can, like cakes and biscuits, but remember: NO bread and milk!
It’s no good laying on a mouth-watering feast unless you’ve first made sure hedgehogs can get into the garden! One of the main reasons we see fewer hedgehogs than in our childhood days is because our boundaries are more difficult to get through. You can make tunnels under fences to give them their own prickly right of way, and as hedgehogs like to roam quite long distances, encourage your neighbours to do the same.
Remember to bring in your Bee or Insect Hotel now. All through the summer months these quirky nooks will have attracted solitary bees to your garden, as well as a variety of other pollinating insects. There are around 220 species of wild bees in the UK, called ‘solitary’ because they make individual nest cells for their larvae. Store the bee hotel (with its precious cargo of nesting bees) somewhere dry and cold, like a garage or a shed, until the Spring, when the glorious garden cycle will start all over again!
Bird Houses, Bird Feeders, Hedgehog Houses and Bee Hotels all make wonderful gifts for anyone who loves their garden or wildlife. We have some great novelty and decorative items which are fun and practical, so do browse our range.Even though autumn’s arrived, there’s still plenty to enjoy outdoors, so get your garden in shape for winter!