It may seem like spring has sprung, but while bulbs are blooming and birds are singing, March can actually be quite a difficult time for garden wildlife.
Temperatures in March can still fall well below zero at night, so invertebrates such as earthworms, beetles and caterpillars may still be taking shelter. Garden birds will have eaten all but the last of the berries, and with less invertebrate food available, they can often go hungry, just at a time when they need to be in good condition for breeding.
March is the key month for breeding amphibians. Frogs start breeding first, laying clumps of jelly-like spawn at the pond edge, joined by toads a couple of weeks later. Toads tend to breed in larger ponds than frogs, and are more likely to return to ‘ancestral’ pond sites. They lay ‘ribbons’ of spawn around the stems of submerged plant such as marsh marigold. Finally, newts return to ponds – shine a light into the water at night to see males performing a courtship dance to woo females. Female newts wrap eggs individually in leaves of marginal plants such as water forget-me-not and brooklime.
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Find out how to support your garden wildlife in March, with our list of wildlife gardening jobs, below.
Leave food for hedgehogs
Leave out water and meat-based cat or dog food for hedgehogs (chicken flavour is best, in jelly not gravy). Hedgehogs are emerging from hibernation in March, and need to build up their fat reserves for breeding. Put out the food from dusk and discard any that’s left first thing in the morning.
Feed the birds
Continue to feed birds calorie-rich food such as sunflower heart, fat balls and suet nibbles, to help them prepare for breeding. Avoid peanuts as there’s a small chance adult birds will feed them to their young, which can choke them.
Gather lawn clippings
If mowing for the first time, detach the box and leave the clippings to dry out, then take them up in a dry corner of the garden. You may encourage a queen bumblebee to start a colony there. Slow worms may bask and even nest here, too.
Add nectar- and pollen-rich plants
Make a note of the plants in flower in your garden and visit your local garden centre to see what’s in flower there, to increase your stock of nectar- and pollen-rich plants for pollinators. Learn more about helping bees from winter through to spring.
Add pond plants
Improve your pond for breeding amphibians, by adding plants such as brooklime and water forget-me-not, which newts lay their eggs on, and submerged plants such as hornwort and curled pondweed, which will oxygenate the water and shelter tadpoles from predators.