There’s something soothing about gardens in autumn. They may not be as pretty as spring, or as productive as summer, but watching your garden getting ready to hibernate is proof that as much as our busy lives seem to speed up every year, Mother Nature knows when we should slow down and take stock.
Speaking of taking stock, your garden is probably full of furry and feathered visitors getting supplies in for winter. Keep your eye out and you might be lucky enough to see not only squirrels, hedgehogs, and sparrows, but a plethora of mini beasts all looking for somewhere cosy to spend the cold months.
Feed the Birds
It doesn’t take much to make your garden a welcoming winter habitat. Even the smallest garden can have a bird feeder. You may find that it doesn’t get a lot of visitors in autumn, especially if the weather stays mild, but keeping a small amount of bird seed on the table means birds will notice and know where to come when the temperature drops. Increase the fat content on your feeder as the weather gets colder, offering peanuts (in a net), sunflower seeds, suet scraps, and hanging fat balls.
Hedgehogs’ love of slugs and pests make them an absolute delight to have in the garden, however, the numbers of these shy creatures are sadly shrinking. You can encourage them to your garden by making it a safe place for them to hibernate over winter. They like wild and messy spaces, with fallen leaves and twigs that can be built into a nest, so pile up some logs in a quiet spot where they won’t be disturbed. Alternatively, you can make a hedgehog hutch using untreated wood, or buy one from a pet shop or garden centre.
Hedgehogs need lots of food and water. They like cooked eggs and potatoes, minced chicken or turkey (or chicken or turkey dog or cat food in jelly), mealworms, and sultanas. Don’t give them milk or bread as this can cause fatal stomach upsets.
Not only does it provide nutrients for your garden, but your compost heap provides a nice habitat for insects and grubs, which in turn attract birds and hedgehogs who feed on them. Try to avoid turning it over until April, and give it a prod with a stick before putting your fork in just in case something has made it their winter home.
You can still enjoy the delights of an autumnal garden even if you don’t have one of your own. The Duntrune Community Garden in Dawson Park is open daily from 9am until 3pm with free entry
Don’t look at your autumnal garden and think it is still and quiet. Underneath the leaves, in the hedges, and under the soil, your garden is alive as ever.