Spring has sprung! Time to get outside and hog-ify the garden!

Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Ashbocking garden by Dudley Miles, CC

Our Hedgehog Officer Ali tells us about the actions shes been taking for hedgehogs in her own garden.

Spring really is in full swing – the sun is shining, bees and butterflies are out and hedgehogs are emerging from hibernation! If you haven’t already, now is the absolute perfect time to make sure your garden is wildlife friendly.

This weekend I have been busy in my own garden and thought I’d write a quick blog to demonstrate how easy having a wildlife friendly garden is – even within the constraints of living in a rented property.

Firstly, I checked that our hedgehog highways hadn’t become blocked – we have two in total, one connecting our garden to our neighbours, the other connecting our garden to the rest of the street. We are lucky that our landlords were happy for us to cut a hole in the fence, but there are easy alternatives if your landlords are not so keen. One of our hog highways is a gap dug underneath the fence for example – easy! Ensuring a good gap under the gate is another alternative (13cm will ensure any sized hedgehog can fit, though many will squeeze through smaller gaps).

Next, it was time for some wildflower planting. I was pleased to see lots of ‘weeds’ sprouting through already – native wild plants are often the most nectar rich, and if you start to look carefully, you will see how lovely and colourful ‘weeds’ usually are. I was careful to plant our pollinator seeds around the wild plants already in place. Wildflowers provide vital habitat and feeding opportunities for all sorts of wildlife, and any size garden can accommodate them – window pots, hanging baskets or flower beds can all be bursting with food for invertebrates, which in turn will attract other species (including, of course, hedgehogs!) It’s useful to think about what plant species you encourage in your garden, as many ornamental plants have little nectar to offer invertebrates. To get an idea of which plant species are particularly nectar rich, check out a list made by Butterfly Conservation here. Providing food plants for caterpillars is important too. Check out this food plant list by Butterfly Conservation here. Lots of these plant species are great for other creatures too – the nectar from ivy for example can be amazing for hoverflies and bees, the berries eaten by birds, and if thick enough, may be used as a bird nesting site too. Now is the perfect time for planting lots of pollinator benefitting seeds – add a splash of colour & help wildlife at the same time!

Next I improved the habitat for ground dwelling invertebrates by adding to our bug piles with more twigs, old vegetation and bamboo canes. These will provide habitat for all sorts of bugs: beetles, woodlice, ladybirds, and if you can make one large enough, shelter for toads and hedgehogs too! Examples of how you can make your own bug hotel can be found on the RSPB website, here. The great thing about making a bug hotel is that you can use all sorts of odds and ends from the garden: logs, twigs, pine cones, bricks, old roofing tiles or bits of pots, soil… the list could go on! Bamboo bundles can provide habitat for solitary bees too – it can be as easy as wrapping string around a bundle and hanging them up along your fence posts! If you’re lucky you might get leaf cutter bees (that will fill the holes with small pieces of cut leaf) or red mason bees that will fill each cell with mud. If you want to make something a bit more fancy, check out this bee hotel on the RSPB website here. If you don’t have space for a large bug hotel or log pile, why not try making a purpose built hedgehog house!

Lastly, we are leaving our grass to go wild! It’s best to try and leave grass uncut until after most plants have flowered – this is usually around September time. We will I’m sure have to cut this back at some point to appease landlords/neighbours, but we will be leaving nice long strips around the edges. Long grass can look purposeful and neat, if you cut paths into it! More advice can be found on the trust website here.

Have you been out in the garden enjoying the sunshine this week? Let us know how you are making your garden wildlife friendly!