Winter jobs in a wildlife garden

Winter is generally a quiet time for gardeners. With most plants lying dormant through the winter months, and frost and snow often coating the ground, there are few jobs to be done. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do – especially if your garden is wildlife friendly.

Ensure bird feeders are topped up

Whilst the weather is cold and sources of food are scarce, birds will increasingly rely on garden feeders, so make sure these stay topped up. Also make sure that the birdseed remains dry. This is because wet birdseed will start to go mouldy, and eating this can then make the birds sick. Your feeders should be regularly cleaned, for similar reasons.

Make sure bird baths are clean and free of ice

Just because its cold doesn’t mean the birds don’t need to have a drink. Over winter it’s necessary to keep your bird bath filled with fresh water. Melt any ice that forms on it, and clean the basin regularly. Birds won’t usually bathe if it’s so cold that the water is likely to freeze on their feathers, but discouraging them from doing so during the winter will help to keep your birdbath cleaner for longer, as well as giving you a little added peace of mind. Laying twigs over the top of your birdbath will do this, as the birds will have perches from which to drink and not as much room to bathe.

Build a new bird house

It might still be winter, but spring is just around the corner. It won’t be long now before the birds are searching for mates and building nests. Putting up bird houses in your garden is a perfect way of encouraging them to move in.

Before you make you bird house, think about what type of bird is likely to make a home in it. It’s design will vary depending on the needs of the birds who’ll hopefully move in. Small birds, such as wrens, will go for a bird box with a small hole. They’ll be able to fit through the entrance, but predators won’t. Sparrows live communally, so a row of houses together will suit them better than a single one alone.

For some ideas about what to make, check out this page from the Morning Chores website, where they share the plans for 53 different bird house designs.

Create habitats for insects and small mammals

While much of the garden lies dormant is a perfect time to create some features that will attract more insects and small mammals.

The first of these features is a log pile. Many insects make their home in decaying wood, and other forms of wildlife will then use these as a food source. To build a log pile, collect any dead wood that you can find around your garden, plus any that your neighbours or a local tree surgeon might be happy to get rid of, and pile it up. Logs that are at least 10cm thick, with their bark still attached, are best, but whilst larger pieces of wood are of most value, even smaller twigs and herbaceous cuttings can be of use.

The log pile should be built in an area of dappled shade – as full sun will dry the pile out whilst full shade will be too cold for some insects – and positioned where it won’t be disturbed, such as at the back of a flower bed or behind some shrubs. This has the added benefit of concealing it from sight, as a log pile is not always thought to be the most attractive of garden features.

Another feature is stacks of stones or paving slabs. As it is the gaps between the stones that is of the most importance to the wildlife, try to collect stones of varying shapes and sizes. You can even build a number of stacks in different locations around the garden – some in sunlight and some in shade, some filled with dirt, and some with leaf litter. These will attract different types of creatures to make their homes within the crevices.

You’ll soon see the benefits of performing these few winter tasks, as your garden becomes even more of a haven for the local wildlife.