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