As Christmas approaches, most animals have migrated or gone into hibernation. Pro Landscaper speaks with Caroline Birdsall of Millboard to find out how to help foraging garden animals this winter.
1. Sparrows, finches and nuthatches
Their diet includes seed and grain, and this is generally enough in warmer months, but in the winter they can benefit from additional fat. Add fat blocks by mixing melted suet with seeds, berries and nuts. Once set, use string to suspend the blocks from trees.
The thrush family, including the perennial blackbird, increase in numbers through the winter months. Thousands migrate from Scandinavia to the relatively warmer climes of the UK. Late autumn gives these fruit-loving birds a boon with windfall apples and hedges fruiting berries. During the deep winter, you can help them by adding chopped fruit and raisins to bird table mixes.
Arguments tend to rage over whether to help or hinder vulpine activity in the garden. The best thing that to help these mammals survive the winter is to keep some of the garden wild to encourage foraging and to provide shelter.
The Gardener’s Best Friend needs a bit of help getting through the lean months. If they can’t keep their feathers clean, they’ll struggle to water and wind-proof themselves. Provide a shallow bird bath in a sheltered spot and keep it topped up regularly. Food placed on the ground will also help robins, alongside other ground feeders like dunnocks.
British frogs don’t possess the ability to freeze in the winter and thaw during the spring. As the cold air begins to bite, they take refuge in the bottom of garden ponds so would benefit from general pond maintenance. Maintain an oxygen supply by placing floating balls in the pond. The balls move around and help to prevent the water from freezing over.
The badger slows down, spending most of winter underground. Their need for extra help is greatest in winter when they emerge to find frozen, inhospitable environments around them. Leave out fruit, raw peanuts, dried dog food and peanut butter to help them and other garden animals get through to spring.
Squirrels don’t hibernate but take nuts to their specially built winter dreys to sit out the hard months. Help them by putting out squirrel boxes to give them secure protection. Make sure to fill the squirrel feeders with nuts, seeds, fruit and veg.
There are two more points that are worth considering. Firstly, all animals need access to fresh water and this can become more difficult in icy conditions. Secondly, planting berry and fruit trees like Malus or Pyracantha can conveniently supplement the food supply of garden animals.