When Less is More for Garden Birds and Wildlife
With autumn is on the way, many gardeners launch on a major tidy up mission in order to keep their properties neat and organised over the ensuing months. But neat and tidy isn’t what the local wildlife will be looking for! The birds, animals and insects that visit gardens throughout the autumn and winter months would prefer a less-ordered approach from their hosts.
Here’s our guide to creating a nature-friendly garden which will attract more wildlife and help a variety of creatures to prosper.
Don’t Manicure Your Garden
You might be feeling the urge to manicure your garden but it is important to resist the temptation to cut everything back in the autumn. Don’t clear away fallen leaves and decaying plants. The leaves create a comfortable layer for mammals and insects to use as shelter when temperatures drop. Hollow stems, seed pods and window boxes can also be safe havens for insects when the frost begins to bite.
Any leaves that you do wish to clear for aesthetic or safety reasons can be swept up and piled away in a corner where hedgehogs can use them as a cosy home. Any old wood and cut branches can also be piled up as the rotting wood encourages fungi & other detritivores which provide food for wildlife.
Leave Ivy Alone!
Avoid cutting any ivy back as this is a great plant for wildlife year-round. Most nectar-rich plants start to die off in the Autumn but the flowers of ivy are just starting to come into bloom, providing a great source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The evergreen leaves of ivy offer valuable shelter for garden birds and insects when much of the available cover is dying out.
Better still, ivy’s winter berries deliver calorie-rich nutrition for birds when they are struggling to maintain their body temperatures and require extra energy.
If your garden doesn’t feature any ivy, plant some!
Many garden birds appear to vanish in September and October and you might be left wondering where your feathered friends have gone. This is normal behaviour as the birds travel farther afield in search of berry-rich hedgerows. Whilst berry stocks are bountiful, many birds will abandon your feeders and turn to nature’s pantry instead.
In spite of the exodus, keep feeders stocked and provide plenty of clean water because the birds will be back and may rely on you to keep them going in the winter.
Do Less and Plan More
In the colder months, don’t feel guilty about leaving your garden less manicured. What you see as mess might well represent salvation for many of the creatures which visit. You could also take the time over the winter to plan a wildlife friendly garden which is planted to feature more berries and sources of nectar. A less ordered, informal garden will encourage greater natural diversity and could mean that you have to do less work. It’s a win, win situation!