Winter gardening for hedgehogs
Jan 15, 2021 —
First of all, a belated Happy New Year - I had good intentions of writing this update at the beginning of last week but got hit by a cold (two negative covid tests ... there is less sympathy for a cold in the midst of a pandemic!) that left me breathless and exhausted. But now I am beginning to bounce back - having got through my daughter's 18th birthday yesterday ... what a rotten time for the young people, having these milestones diminished.
So - to hedgehogs. You might think that because they are mostly hibernating right now (there is research that shows it is quite common for hedgehogs to break their hibernation, and move to a new hibernacula) that there is little need to worry about them. Though there is good cause to worry about them if you see them looking poorly - PLEASE - have a read of the information at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society so you know what to look for.
Well, if you have a garden, that is definitely not the case. We need to be ready for the spring - and their arousal. So here are a few things we can do to help make it a more hedgehog friendly awakening.
First - it is lockdown. That means that your neighbours are probably in (unless they are part of the vital crew who keep us all functioning ... and that bunch need more than applause - they need to be paid properly) ... so you have a chance to have the chat - at a distance, or via notes through doors, about opening a hedgehog highway through the boundary if it is not already there. Check the Hedgehog Street page for details.
Secondly - could you build a pond? It does not have to be big, but it does need to be wildlife friendly. Froglife have top tips on this. Not only do you provide a home for amazing wildlife - dragonflies and amphibians - but you also provide water for hedgehogs and a place for hedgehog food to come ... because the insects that are attracted are more likely to lay eggs nearby - which become the larvae on which our friends will feast!
Thirdly - some planting - this is the time of year to shrubs, small trees and hedging. Could you imagine a hedge between you and your neighbour, as opposed to a fence or wall? It is not a small job, but now would be time to give it a go. Try and find somewhere that supplies native varieties - these ones have evolved with our native invertebrates. There are some good shrubs to be got from PlantWild for example. But also check out the advice from Plantlife and Buglife too.
Fourth ... will stop soon! It is too early and too frosty to plant the herb and flower rich mixes that can transform the most boring of green lawns or manicured borders into something vibrant and full of colour. But it is not too early to start preparing the ground. And planning. Actually, probably worth planning and then preparing ... turning the soil, exposing the roots of the grass, finding the less fertile ground ... and then, when the last frost has been (probably around March if we are lucky) start sprinkling! For a source of seeds I recommend Meadow in my Garden - the patch of wildflowers my mother created was a marvel - right in the middle of her lawn!
I could go on - in fact - if you have any other top tips that you think would be good to help hedgehogs please could you go to the Facebook Group - I know not everyone wants to use the site, but it is a very effective space for sharing ideas. There are over 16,000 members already!
I hope you all keep safe and well in these unpleasant times - maybe the lockdown will give us the space and time to think a little more about how we can help hedgehogs. This update has focussed on what those lucky enough to have gardens can do - next I will write about what we can do 'beyond our borders' ... because there is much we can and must get on with!
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