How to prepare your garden for autumn and winter birds

Turn your garden into a wild bird-friendly haven this autumn and winter with our expert guide, plus easy craft ideas


Here are some handy tips to help get your gardens ready for wildlife this autumn and winter:

RSPB’s wildlife gardening expert, Adrian Thomas, said: “Make the most of this quiet time in your garden to prepare for the next year. With the right kind of planting you can treat your wildlife to a feast of flowers, a banquet of berries or a smörgåsbord of seeds.”


Stock up feeders

great tit on peanut reader
A great tit, the largest of the UK tits, at a birdfeeder. It is a woodland bird which has readily adapted to man-made habitats to become a familiar garden visitor/Credit: Getty

Refill feeders with a mix of high quality seed, fat and mealworms to help provide birds with energy during the colder months.

Green manures

Sow ‘green manures’, such as scorpion weed, into soils. These fast germinating plants smother weeds, which will benefit your garden and the visiting wildlife. If you plant them in time for them to flower, it will successfully feed bees and other pollinators with their nectar, and the later seeds will also provide birds with food during the “hungry gap” in late winter.

Wildflower meadows

garden wildflower meadow
Sow wildflower meadows ready for spring to feed insects and encourage birds to your garden/Credit: Getty

Wildflower meadows can also be sown now, ready for the next spring. These can include plants like bird’s foot trefoil, field scabious, ox-eye daisy and red clover. These meadows will feed insects, which in turn will feed garden birds.

Separate the perennial flowers

Summer flowering blue Geranium flowers also known as Crane’s-bill can easily be split/Credit: Getty

After flowering, it is useful to divide up the perennials such as hardy geraniums, heleniums, phlox and primulas. By spreading them out or giving them to friends and family, this creates new feeding places for nature.

Leave seedheads

By leaving seedheads, this will feed birds and other wildlife during the autumn and winter months. After your birds return to your garden once the weather grows colder, this harvest will largely be to their benefit.

Create a pond or birdbath

Garden Pond
Birds and other garden wildlife will benefit from a small pond/Credit: Getty

As well as planting, the more practical jobs can be completed to prepare fro autumn or winter. Birds use ponds/birdbaths for drinking and bathing throughout the year, and a wealth of other wildlife will also benefit. This does not have to be a massive project, as an upturned dustbin lid or old washing up bowl is just as useful.

Clean nest boxes

When the breeding season is over, towards the end of September, it is a good idea to clean out the nest boxes in your garden. Place the contents in your compost heap and use boiling water to clean out any parasites. After the box has dried out, replace the lid and hang it back up. Wrens and other small birds may use the box to keep warm during the winter. Remember to keep cleaning your bird feeders regularly.

How to make a log bird feeder

Illustration of log bird feeder
On your next walk, keep an eye out for a log to make a homemade bird feeder

Keep the woodpeckers and nuthatches happy with a homemade feeder

How to make fat balls for your garden birds

Adult sparrow seen perched on a bird feeder containing a high energy fat ball. Taken in early summer, the birds are feeding there out of view chicks.
 A house sparrow feeds on a fat ball made from kitchen scraps. If buying fat balls, try to avoid the ones that come in little plastic nets. Birds can bet their feet caught in these and die. Getty Images

Most of us have kitchen staples that are also loved by birds – find out how to use yours up and how to make fat balls for your garden birds

How to make birdseed ornaments

Sunflower seed bird food heart ornament
Decorate your garden and help the birds with these pretty feeders. iStock

For those who love watching garden birds, these inexpensive feeders will be a joy to hang around the garden. They’re simple and fun to make and the birds love them.