When we think about autumn in nature, we might think about a ‘winding down’ of wildlife activity in our local areas – some birds will have flown south for winter, and certain animals will be going into hibernation or torpor. However, in our wild world, there is much more happening than you might think.
Many animals will be preparing for the harsh winter months ahead, where food, water and shelter are scarce. This is an important time for resource gathering, but at the same time, animals will prefer to conserve their energy to ensure that their bodies have the strength to make it through winter, then reproduce the following season.
For this reason, helping local wildlife throughout October and beyond is crucial for their survival. This doesn’t have to require lots of time or money – there are plenty of simple things that you can do in your garden, which will help animals and insects endlessly! I’ve put together some top tips for autumn wildlife gardening below.
Leave apples on the ground
While it may be tempting to harvest all of the apples from your tree as they come into season, leaving a few where they fall can be beneficial to insects and small animals, including butterflies, earwigs, birds, badgers and foxes, who will enjoy this nutritious, energy-giving treat.
Don’t feed birds with leftover cooking fat
Though it might seem like a good idea, and other websites may advise it, you shouldn’t actually use leftover fat for use in bird feeders. This is because the fat can actually smear onto birds’ feathers and cause problems with waterproofing and insulation.
Instead, pure fats like lard and beef suet can be used to make bird cakes, or high quality, shop-bought bird feeders can be hung in sheltered areas of the garden (away from cats!). Try these seed feeders from CJ Wildlife, or fat ball and suet feeders, which are great for winter birds.
Plant late-flowering plants
Nectar and pollen are still essential for insects and birds at this time of year. Encourage them into your garden by planting flowering plants such as Michaelmas daisies, sedums and asters. If these are too expensive to buy as ready-to-plant flowers, get them in seed form ready for next year’s planting!
Tidy your pond
If you have a small pond, it will need a deep clean every five years to maintain suitability for wildlife; large ponds require this every 10 years. Other than that, only occasional cleaning and maintenance are needed. This can include removing leaves from the surface, deadheading spent flowers and removing bedraggled leaves, and thinning out plants if more than 50% of the pond’s surface is covered with vegetation.
Leave out pumpkins for wildlife
Carving pumpkins for Halloween? Don’t throw them away after the 31st! Research shows that over 12 million pumpkins are thrown into the general waste each year, but these pumpkins can actually be used as a food source for wildlife.
If you like, you can simply leave your pumpkins in your front garden, and animals will devour them within days. Some people even break up their pumpkins and take them to a nearby wooded area to discard them, as animals are more likely to be scavenging for food in these areas. Fancy growing your own pumpkins for next year? Get your seeds here!
I hope that these tips provide you with some inspiration on how to care for wildlife this autumn! If you have any tips to share, please leave them in the comment section below.
Images c/o Pixabay
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.