Autumn tips for wildlife-friendly gardens

Caroline Cassidy

Though the glorious spring and summer blooms will have long since lost their exuberance, your garden can be just as colourful come autumn.

autumn gardening tips
autumn gardening tips

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Beautiful autumn leaves and rich, red berries are abundant at this time of year and autumn offers a chance not just to protect the garden for winter but also to provide a favourable environment for plant-friendly wildlife that will ensure your garden thrives again come the spring.

Those autumn berries and fruit not only look stunning, of course, they are also a great source of food for birds and animals as the weather begins to cool.

While the keen gardener will be tidying up, removing dead foliage and cutting back perennials, leaving a few seed heads for the birds to feed on and waiting until January to cut back summer hedge growth will protect late-nesters and encourage garden-friendly insects.

Similarly, leaving some longer grass at the base of hedges and shrubs will protect plant stems and roots from wind damage during the cold months and offer shelter for insect life.

A small log pile or simple bundles of twigs or dead wood left in your garden at this time of year will attract plenty of earwigs, which will feed on dead plants and aphids, amongst others.

Falling autumn leaves should be raked up but can be added to your compost (another cosy home for insects), along with any final grass cuttings of the season.

Frogs are, of course, a gardener's friend so if you have a pond it's important to look after it as winter draws in. Some, mainly males, will hibernate in the mud and silt at the bottom of your pond so be careful if you plan a clear-out.

Dead leaves should be removed on a regular basis as they will otherwise clog up the pond and poison the water. Alternatively, cut back over-hanging trees - you can always use the wood and twigs to create your insect-friendly wood pile.

Whether you have fish or frogs, try to avoid letting the pond ice up during cold weather - a ball left floating on the surface will allow you to easily create a hole in any ice that does form.

Many gardeners feed the birds through the winter and fat balls, widely available from garden centres and pet shops, are ideal for keeping the birds fit and well if the weather is harsh but don't forget that water is just as important so remove ice from the birdbath if you have one.

Finally, if you are keen to attract nectar-loving insects when spring comes round again, now is the time to plant in pots. They can be kept inside or in a greenhouse and will have plenty of time to establish roots, ready to be moved to the great outdoors when the weather warms up.

Look after your garden wildlife, and the wildlife (well, most of it) will look after your garden.