Hedgehog and compost heap

10 ways to help garden wildlife in autumn

Discover 10 simple things to do in the garden in autumn that will help wildlife get through the winter.

Many types of mammals, invertebrates and amphibians sleep through the coldest months. Some species, like hedgehogs, truly hibernate. Others, such as frogs, enter a state of torpor from which they rouse easily to look for food or stretch. 

Find out how to make your garden bee-friendly in autumn.

Gardeners can help by ensuring garden wildlife has somewhere cool and dry to rest undisturbed until spring - here are 10 things you can do to help get wildlife through the winter.

Advertisement

Ponds

Male frogs often spend winter in the muddy depths of ponds, breathing through their skin. But if the pond freezes over, gases caused by decaying plant material can get trapped and poison them. Remove debris from ponds now, and float a tennis or golf ball on the surface to prevent ice from sealing it.

Twigs

Put bundles of twigs at the back of borders, or in a plant pot on its side, where invertebrates and small mammals can shelter.

Borders

Leave herbaceous borders intact in winter so decaying plants can act as a 'winter duvet' for small mammals and insects. Clumps of ornamental grasses may offer the perfect hibernaculum for a hedgehog, while hollow plant stems and seedheads provide nooks and crannies for invertebrates. Seedheads are also a source of oil-rich food for birds which may visit to feed.

Plant pots

Leave stacks of plant pots in a sheltered spot to offer shelter for bees and other insects needing a cool, dry place.

Sheds

Some butterflies overwinter as adults and will enter our homes in autumn, where they find conditions cool and dry. However, when the central heating is turned on they wake up and expend energy flying around. If you find a butterfly inside your home, transfer it to your shed or garage, where temperatures will remain constant. Use an empty shoe box to move it, keeping the lid on until it has settled down. Make sure it can exit safely in spring, via a window or door.

Leaves

Remove leaves from paths or lawns but transfer them to a corner or beneath a hedge, where hedgehogs and other animals can crawl for shelter.

Compost heaps

A variety of species, including hedgehogs and queen bumblebees, find compost heaps the perfect place to hibernate. if your heap is in a plastic bin with a lid, this will keep it dry, but be sure to provide access for hibernators at the base by standing the bin on bricks. If you have an open bin, cover it with a thick piece of old carpet to keep it dry and insulated. Avoid disturbing the bin between autumn and April, when all species will have finished their long snooze.

Indoors

Like butterflies, ladybirds may choose to overwinter in your home and will be disturbed by the heating coming on. As they hibernate in large groups, it may be best to leave them alone and if you can, leave the room unheated. If not, using a dustpan and brush, tip them gently into an empty box and move them to the shed.

Nest boxes

Birds don't hibernate, and they require a lot of energy to keep themselves warm at night. Clear out nest boxes now so that birds can take shelter in them on cold nights.

Lofts

Take care if paying a visit to your loft in winter, as you may disturb hibernating bats, ladybirds or butterflies.

Gardeners need to make sure that our garden wildlife has somewhere cool and dry to rest undisturbed until spring.

Advertisement

Discover more ideas and inspiration

Related content

Habitats for garden birds

Hedge trimming and garden birds

How to create a wildlife garden (part 10)

Related offers

Offer

Subscriber only content Premium seed and free feeder offer

Save over £5 on premium bird seed plus receive free feeder

Help garden birds this winter, save over £5 on a 12.5kg bag of 'Premium No Mess Wild Bird Mix' from Birds&Bees and receive a free seed feeder worth over £4.99

Unlock now

Offer

CJ Wildlife Staten Bird Table

Save over £30 on a Staten Bird Table

Attract wild birds to your garden this winter with the Staten Bird Table. Designed to allow birds of all shapes and sizes to use the feeding area at the same time, whilst an umbrella shaped roof helps keep the food dry. Usually £129.99 you'll save £30 when you buy one now for only £99.

Order now

Offer

Heather offer

Save on heathers

Inject some colour into your winter and spring planting schemes with this beautiful collection of hardy heathers from only £2.55 per plant. These ericaceous plants make brilliant weed-suppressing ground cover and look fantastic with spring bulbs. Order now and your plants will be despatched from February 2018.

Order now