We have looked at what garden birds need now let’s look at the other visitors that may visit you . In the cold weather the two things that really count are food and shelter .
Food – Hedgehogs and foxes will benefit from a dish of wet cat or dog food . Dry dog or cat biscuits are also taken . Leave snails at this time of year for hedgehogs , they have very good appetites !! Many garden visitors will enjoy windfall fruits , birds and mammals both eat fruits . Invertebrates will feed on fruit as well and they in turn will be food for many other species . Bird feeders provide valuable morsels for ground dwelling animals when it falls from the feeders . Don’t be to tidy and allow a little “mess” around the feeding station .
Another source of food comes from berries on bushes and plants . Leave pruning and cutting back to give cover and a late feeding opportunities . If you are only going to plant only one species please consider Ivy . It provides superb cover with its dense foliage , nectar from its late blooming flowers and one of the last berry harvests of the year . Ivy is loved by many ,many creatures including birds , invertebrates and mammals . I have an old established ivy in my garden and there are currently 30+ house sparrows roosting at night in it . Red Admiral butterflies were feeding right up to the end of November and hoverflies , wasps and several moths were also taking advantage of the Ivy’s bounty .
To provide another home for many creatures you can leave log piles for frogs,toads and newts . Thousands of insects and bugs can live in these piles providing food for countless other creatures . You may even be providing a home for the rare, endangered Stag Beetle which needs rotting wood for its development .
Leaf piles and twig bundles can be left in quiet corners of the garden . Hedgehogs will live in leaf piles and small mammals , wood mice and field mice will share with them !
The other requirement for survival is of course water. No creature can last long without it . You can leave a small dish , a bowl sunk into the ground , a bird bath or if you’re lucky , a pond . Whatever you offer please make sure that is always available because like food the creatures in your garden WILL RELY ON IT ALWAYS BEING THERE ! Keep the water clean and fresh and watch out for freezing weather . Place a tennis ball in the pond to help prevent freezing and don’t break ice but rather gently place a pan of boiling water on the ice causing it to melt .
When Spring comes always check compost heaps and rubbish piles for sleeping hedgehogs or other creatures , don’t just plunge a garden fork into it . Also check before using the strimmer as these kill and maim many animals in the Spring .