The Ulster Wildlife Trust, Northern Ireland’s leading local nature conservation charity, is encouraging everyone to Make Space for Nature in their garden this winter, as part of its 30th anniversary ‘Year of Action’ campaign.
With the winter in the offing, you might think that there’s not much to see or even do in your garden. But the season brings its own vibrancy, particularly from the fruits now ripening on trees; giving colour and providing a larder to birds and other animals for the cold months ahead. It’s also the ideal time to get outdoors, roll up your sleeves and start making your patch a better place for wildlife.
Putting out feeders or a bird table for birds is an easy way to make a difference. If you haven’t been feeding your garden birds throughout the year, now’s the time to start again – it’s a good idea through to give your feeders a good clean out before filling them up again to prevent disease. As well as the usual food such as seeds and peanuts, provide birds with bird cake as the high fat content will see them through the winter months. Also, remember that water is just as important to birds as food, so make sure that you supply regularly topped up clean bathing and drinking water to complement your feeding.
November onwards is the perfect time to start planting native trees, shrubs and hedgerows, either as bare rooted seedlings or saplings, to provide shelter and food for wildlife. Planting species which bear fruits or nuts is great way of providing a living winter larder, especially if you include a good variety which produce harvests at different times. Good native fruit producing species include rowan, holly, whitebeam and hawthorn, and if you have the space, including a nut-producing tree like oak, beech or hazel, will give the animals even more to keep them going.
Many of the species you find in your garden such as butterflies, ladybirds, frogs and hedgehogs hibernate to get through the colder months and are already looking for places to spend the winter. The most useful thing you can do is to leave some untidy corners for all your garden inhabitants. Piles of dry sticks, prunings, dry leaves and other debris will provide a wealth of hibernation sites. A pile of logs in a shady corner or under a hedge can be a winter refuge for frogs or newts, as well as many invertebrates. If you do feel the need to tidy up, do it soon, not in mid-winter when any disturbed creatures will find it very difficult to find a new home.
For more great ideas on how to make your garden attractive to local wildlife and to download a range of free information guides, visit www.ulsterwildlifetrust.org. Together we can make a real difference!