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What to do in Your Garden to Encourage Wildlife

Bees, birds, butterflies and mammals all play a vital role in the biodiversity of our gardens and there’s all sorts of things you can do to help them, no matter what time of year! From growing nectar-rich flowers, to making a log pile our wildlife gardening calendar is full of ideas to help get you started.

 

January

wildlife tasks january - robin

  • Take part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch to help monitor the UK's birds.
  • Put up nest boxes for birds before the nesting season begins.
  • Ensure birds have access to fresh water by melting ice in bird baths. Hang bird feeders and suet-based fat balls to help birds maintain their fat reserves in cold weather.
  • Plant native hedges using dormant bare-root plants.
  • For January flowers which attract early bees and pollinating insects try growing snowdrops, Daphne, Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' and Sarcococca.
  • If the ground is workable, consider planting trees and shrubs to provide shelter and make your garden more welcoming to birds, hedgehogs, toads, mice and shrews.

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February

wildlife tasks february - nest box

  • If your soil is workable, prepare beds and borders for sowing wild flower seeds. The soil should be left to settle for 6 weeks before sowing.
  • Put up nest boxes for birds.
  • Melt the ice on bird baths using hot water so they have access to fresh water.
  • Put out food for birds. Blue tits, sparrows and chaffinches will use hanging feeders; blackbirds, thrushes and starlings will take food from the ground. Read our Birds article for advice on feeding birds.
  • When choosing your plants for this year try including nectar-rich flowers for bees and butterflies or shrubs for birds. Take a look at our 'Plants for wildlife' article for inspiration.
  • For February flowers which attract bees and pollinating insects try growing winter aconite, primroses, Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn', Clematis cirrhosa and winter honeysuckle
  • Consider making a pond as this will provide a habitat for aquatic insects, newts and frogs, and attract dragonflies, bats and other wild animals.
  • Plant native hedges using dormant bare-root plants.
  • If the ground is workable, consider planting trees and shrubs to provide shelter and make your garden more welcoming to birds, hedgehogs, toads, mice and shrews.

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March

wildlife tasks march - hedgehod

  • Sow wild flower seeds direct now, provided the soil is workable. Read our 'How to sow wildflower seeds' article for tips and advice.
  • Take care when strimming or digging areas with long grass or piles of leaves as some creatures may still be hibernating.
  • Put up nest boxes for birds.
  • Clean and disinfect birdbaths and feeders to prevent the spread of viruses and disease.
  • Feed hedgehogs emerging from hibernation with meaty dog food or ready-made hedgehog food.
  • Continue to feed birds, especially in cold weather. Avoid chunky food such as peanuts and bread that can choke nestlings. Find out what to feed birds with our Bird article.
  • Think ahead to your summer borders and try including nectar-rich flowers for bees and butterflies or shrubs for birds. Take a look at our 'Plants for wildlife' article for inspiration.
  • Take care when strimming or digging areas with long grass or piles of leaves as some creatures may still be hibernating.
  • Work well-rotted manure or compost into your soil. This helps feed plants and also benefits earthworms and insects.
  • Consider making a pond as this will provide a habitat for aquatic insects, newts and frogs, and attract dragonflies, bats and other wild animals.

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April

wildlife tasks april - frog

  • Sow wild flower seeds direct now, provided the soil is workable. Read our 'How to sow wildflower seeds' article for tips and advice.
  • Give evergreen herbs such as thyme, lavender and rosemary a trim now to promote bushy growth and better flowering for insects.
  • Keep bird feeders and bird baths topped up. Avoid putting out whole nuts and bread as these can choke nestlings. Find out what to feed birds with our Bird article.
  • Strimmers present grave danger to hedgehogs, frogs and other wildlife. Always disturb areas of long grass prior to strimming.
  • Continue to feed hedgehogs with meaty dog food or ready-made hedgehog food, especially if the weather is cold.
  • Mulch around shrubs and perennial plants to help feed them naturally and keep the soil in good conditon.
  • Plant evergreen hedges now - these are excellent for sheltering birds, insects and mammals all year round. Holly and Yew are good native choices.
  • Plant up your pond with new plants. A well maintained pond is the single most complex and useful habitat that you can provide in the garden.
  • When planning your vegetable plot this year consider companion planting as a natural and wildlife-friendly way to control pests. Read our 'Companion Planting Guide' for more information.

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May

wildlife tasks may - container plants

  • Plant the same types of nectar plants in blocks in sunny, sheltered spots to attract the most bees and butterflies. Find out more about butterfly plants here.
  • Keep bird feeders and bird baths topped up. Avoid putting out whole nuts and bread as these can choke nestlings. Find out what to feed birds with our Bird article.
  • There's still time to sow wildflower seeds to attract pollinating insects to your garden. Read our 'How to sow wildflower seeds' article for tips and advice.
  • When planting up your containers and hanging baskets choose bedding plants that attract bees such as Bidens, Cosmos, Antirrhinum, single-flowered Dahlias and dwarf sunflowers.
  • Add a bee house to your garden, placing it in a south-facing spot but not in direct sunlight. Read our 'Encouraging Bees in your garden' article for tips and advice.
  • Think about creating a herb garden. The flowers are excellent sources of pollen and nectar and they're a delicous ingredient for the kitchen too!
  • If you're netting your crops, make sure the net is taut to prevent animals getting caught up.
  • Plant up your pond with new plants. A well maintained pond is the single most complex and useful habitat that you can provide in the garden.
  • Remove duckweed and blanketweed from ponds, and thin excessive growth of submerged oxygenators. Lay removed weed beside the pond overnight to allow insects, snails and other pondlife to escape back to the water.

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June

wildlife tasks june - wildflowers

  • Strimmers present grave danger to hedgehogs, frogs and other wildlife. Always disturb areas of long grass prior to strimming.
  • Dead-head flowers regularly and water plants well to keep them healthy so they will produce more nectar for insects.
  • Plant the same types of nectar plants in blocks in sunny, sheltered spots to attract the most bees and butterflies.
  • Add a bee house to your garden, placing it in a south-facing spot but not in direct sunlight. Read our 'Encouraging Bees in your garden' article for tips and advice.
  • Trim evergreen hedges such as privet, box and yew, taking care to check for nesting birds first.
  • Hoe regularly to keep on top of weeds and save resorting to chemical weed killers.
  • Make sure bird baths are topped up in hot weather. Clean bird baths regularly to prevent algae and bacteria growing.
  • If you're netting your crops, make sure the net is taut to prevent animals getting caught up.
  • Keep removing blanketweed from your pond to allow the plants and fish room to breathe. Try using Pond Wizard to clear your pond effectively.

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July

wildlife tasks july - butterfly

  • Strimmers present grave danger to hedgehogs, frogs and other wildlife. Always disturb areas of long grass prior to strimming.
  • Dead-head flowers regularly and water plants well to keep them healthy so they will produce more nectar for insects.
  • Take part in the Big Butterfly Count to help the Butterfly Conservation charity assess UK butterflies and protect them.
  • Trim deciduous hedges such as hornbeam, beech and hawthorn, and evergreen hedges. Take care not to disturb any nesting birds.
  • Competition for food among birds can be intense with fledglings on the scene. Keep bird feeders topped up or place scraps on bird tables. Find out what to feed birds with our Bird article.
  • Hoe regularly to keep on top of weeds and save resorting to chemical weed killers.
  • Make sure bird baths are topped up in hot weather. Clean bird baths regularly to prevent algae and bacteria growing.
  • If you're netting your crops, make sure the net is taut to prevent animals getting caught up.
  • Keep ponds topped up with rainwater. Remove any blanketweed by twirling it around a stick. Leave the weed close to the pond for a few hours to allow wildlife to escape back to the water. Alternatively use Pond Wizard to clear your pond.

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August

wildlife tasks august - bees

  • Cut back annual and perennial wildflower meadows as soon as the plants begin to brown. For more advice read our 'How to sow wildflower seeds' article.
  • Strimmers present grave danger to hedgehogs, frogs and other wildlife. Always disturb areas of long grass prior to strimming.
  • Take part in the Big Butterfly Count to help the Butterfly Conservation charity assess UK butterflies and protect them.
  • Add a bee house to your garden, placing it in a south-facing spot but not in direct sunlight. Read our 'Encouraging Bees in your garden' article for tips and advice.
  • Sow green manures such as mustard, clover and rye grass on uncultivated areas to improve soil and control weeds naturally over winter.
  • Give hedges their final trim now before they stop growing.
  • Hoe regularly to keep on top of weeds and save resorting to chemical weed killers.
  • Make sure bird baths are topped up in hot weather. Clean bird baths regularly to prevent algae and bacteria growing.
  • Keep dead-heading flowers to encourage more to be produced, providing pollen and nectar for insects.
  • Keep ponds topped up with rainwater.

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September

wildlife tasks september - grasses

  • Net your pond now in anticipation of autumn leaf fall.
  • Sow green manures such as mustard, clover and rye grass on uncultivated areas to improve soil and control weeds naturally over winter.
  • Sow wild flower seeds direct now, provided the soil is workable. Read our 'How to sow wildflower seeds' article for tips and advice.
  • Leave seed heads of grasses and flowers intact to provide food for birds and shelter for over-wintering insects.
  • Create piles of logs, rocks or hollow plant stems to provide shelter for overwintering insects such as ladybirds and lacewings.
  • Make sure bird baths are topped up in hot weather. Clean bird baths regularly to prevent algae and bacteria growing.
  • Keep dead-heading flowers to encourage more to be produced into autumn, providing pollen and nectar for insects.
  • Leave some windfall apples, pears or plums on the ground as food for birds.
  • Plan ahead for next year - autumn is the best time for planting new trees, shrubs and hardy perennials. If you want to incorporate more wildlife plants in your garden see our 'Plants for wildlife' guide.
  • Cut back annual and perennial wildflower meadows as soon as the plants begin to brown. For more advice read our 'How to sow wildflower seeds' article.
  • Tidy up your pond. If you need to clear pond weed lay it next to the pond for a day to allow wildlife to escape back to the water.

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October

wildlife tasks october - leaves

  • Leave the old stems of perennial plants until spring. Dead plant material provides valuable shelter for over-wintering insects and seeds for birds.
  • Create a compost heap to collect fallen leaves. This will encourage worms, slugs, beetles and other insects which in turn feed birds and mammals.
  • Tidy up your pond. If you need to clear pond weed lay it next to the pond for a day to allow wildlife to escape back to the water.
  • Leave some autumn leaves untouched in quiet corners of your garden. This will offer excellent shelter and foraging ground for Hedgehogs.
  • Hang bird feeders and suet-based fat balls to help birds maintain their fat reserves this autumn and winter, and survive frosty weather. Find out what to feed birds with our Bird article.
  • Net ponds to prevent leaves falling in and clogging up the water.
  • Leave some windfall apples, pears or plums on the ground as food for birds.
  • Clean bird baths with a dilute household disinfectant. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.
  • Create a log or rock pile to provide winter shelter for beetles, slow worms, newts, toads and hedgehogs.
  • Consider planting hedges, shrubs or trees to provide shelter for birds, hedgehogs, toads, mice and shrews.

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November

wildlife tasks november - logs

  • Check bonfires for hibernating hedgehogs before lighting them.
  • Leave autumn leaves untouched in quiet corners of your garden. This will offer excellent shelter and foraging ground for Hedgehogs and other small animals.
  • Mow or cut back perennial wildflower areas if there has been strong autumn re-growth. This weakens the grasses for successful flowering.
  • Consider planting a tree or some shrubs to provide shelter and make your garden more welcoming to birds, hedgehogs, toads, mice and shrews.
  • Use any fallen branches to create a log pile in a shady spot. This will provide shelter for beetles, slow worms, newts, toads and hedgehogs.
  • Leave the old stems of perennial plants until spring. Dead plant material provides valuable shelter for over-wintering insects.
  • Float a lightweight ball in bird baths to stop the water freezing over.
  • Autumn berries are an excellent food source for many wild animals. Create your own fruiting countryside hedge by planting bare-root native trees and shrubs now.
  • Put up nestboxes.
  • Hang bird feeders and suet-based fat balls to help birds maintain their fat reserves this autumn and winter, and survive frosty weather. Find out what to feed birds with our Bird article.

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December

wildlife tasks december - thrush and berries

  • Melt the ice on bird baths using hot water so they have access to fresh water.
  • Leave your lawn to grow long over winter to provide shelter and hibernation sites for insects.
  • Plant native hedges using dormant bare-root plants.
  • If you're harvesting berried holly for Christmas decorations, leave some for the birds as berries are a vital winter food source.
  • Use any fallen branches to create a log pile in a shady spot. In time this will attract toads, hedgehogs and insects, and support a large range of fungi.
  • If the ground is workable, consider planting trees and shrubs to provide shelter and make your garden more welcoming to birds, hedgehogs, toads, mice and shrews.
  • Hang bird feeders and suet-based fat balls to help birds maintain their fat reserves and survive frosty weather. Find out what to feed birds with our Bird article.
  • Wash and disinfect bird feeders and bird tables. Clean out bird baths too with dilute household disinfectant. Rinse thoroughly.

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