London’s green spaces are a haven all year round, but winter is the time when the city’s wildlife needs them the most. Our allotments, parks and community gardens are vital sources of shelter and food for the capital’s many species.
Here are some of our tips on how to help wildlife thrive through the colder months:
Don’t tidy up!
This winter, fight the urge to make your garden look pristine. By holding off on sweeping those leaves or clearing away dead plants, you’ll provide a host of benefits for wildlife:
- Let leaves lie where they fall, as this can provide shelter for insects throughout winter. Or, if you just can’t help sweeping, create a leaf pile in a sheltered spot where hedgehogs and frogs can find a place to live in colder months.
- Leave fallen fruit undisturbed on the ground, as it can be a great source of food for birds.
- Let your flowerbeds and grass grow wild during the colder months. Insects like caterpillars and bumblebees overwinter below the soil in long grass or at the base of plants, and other insects spend the winter in the hollow stems of perennials.
Provide a winter home
While some small animals are happy to nestle down in the leaves and flowerbeds, others really benefit from having a different kind of place to spend the winter. There are lots of easy ways to create winter wildlife homes:
- If you have a compost heap, it will be a great home for toads, and maybe even slow worms. Just be careful not to disturb them if you’re digging it over or moving it around.
- Bird boxes provide much-needed refuges for winter birds. You could even try leaving out different nesting material for birds to take and use – try cotton wool, moss, string or pet hair left over from grooming.
- Hedgehogs will love a log pile in a secluded spot – or you could build them a home using a free guide
Plant a garden that will provide through winter
There are very few winter flowering plants in the wild in Britain, so our gardens are particularly important for pollinators in winter. By choosing plants that fruit and flower in winter, you’ll also benefit from a great garden display all year round.
- Winter-flowering perennials like Evergreen Clematis, Hellebore or Primrose are a great source of pollen for bees.
- Let ivy grow on your walls and fences, as its late flowers and fruit are an important source of food.
- Plant fruit bushes to provide berries for birds over winter.
Leave wildlife a winter feast
Leaving food out for wildlife can help many of London’s animals get through the winter food shortages:
- Many birds need to build up their fat reserves over winter, so try leaving out fat balls in wire cages. You could even try making your own, by melting lard or suet in a pan and adding nuts and seeds before leaving it to set in an old yoghurt pot.
- Try different recipes to attract different birds: sunflower heads for sparrows and finches, insect cakes for tits and fruit for blackbirds.
- Tinned dog food or minced meat is great for great for hedgehogs. Never feed them milk as it can make them ill – a bowl of water is the best thing for them to drink.