Gardens across the UK can provide vital refuge for wildlife over the winter period as temperatures drop and food becomes more scarce.
Supporting wildlife species this winter not only helps to boost the biodiversity in your own garden, but also impacts the survival of various species by offering food, water and shelter.
RHS Senior Wildlife Specialist, Helen Bostock, stated: “Winter can be a tough time for many species, meaning they need all the extra support they can get in our gardens. Providing food and a safe haven when resources are otherwise scarce is a vital lifeline, and we can all do our bit to help.”
Put out food for birds
Foods that are high in calories, such as fat and suet blocks, grated cheese and bacon rinds, are an important food source for birds over winter. Be cautious of using plastic nets, as these can catch on a bird’s tongue and cause them to get stuck. You can also make your own fat blocks by melting down suet.
However, while fat is important, grain mixes and seeds provide a balanced diet for birds. Wire mesh feeders can be used for peanuts and seed feeders for other types of seeds, while specifically designed feeders are needed for smaller seeds.
You can also scatter fruit on the ground, including over-ripe, apples and raisins. These are favoured by thrushes and blackbirds.
The RHS advises that you put out food regularly to be consistent and avoid expending a bird’s energy.
Be careful when emptying compost
Different species, including frogs and toads, often use compost heaps to keep warm in the colder months. Be careful when emptying compost heaps to avoid disturbing them.
Put water out
Provide a shallow dish or container of water at ground level to encourage wildlife to drink. Be sure to check it regularly when the weather gets colder in case ice forms.
Plant winter-flowering species
Incorporating winter-flowering species into your planting schemes will attract pollinators such as bumblebees. Select single flower varieties rather than double to ensure that nectar and pollen is more readily available.
Melt a hole into iced-over ponds
Ponds are a great way to introduce more biodiversity into your garden. However, they can become iced over in the winter. If you have a pond in your garden, melt a hole into it to allow wildlife to drink, as well as enter and exit the water.
Non-hitting and cracking methods are preferred to avoid disturbing any wildlife below the surface.