Hedgehog Awareness Week, Day 4 - Be Messy

Hedgehog - Tom Marshall 

It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week! With the warmer months luring hedgehogs out of their winter hibernacula, May is an exciting time of year and the perfect time to act and give hedgehogs a helping hand. 7 days, 7 top hog tips. Day 4 – Be messy!

Spring is a popular time of year to have a big garden tidy up and at the minute, a lot of us are finding that we might have a little more time on our hands have been turning our attentions to our gardens over the past few weeks. However, badly timed garden tidy ups, in both spring and autumn, can be damaging for our wildlife disturbing nesting sites and can remove habitats for species that hibernate impacting many species. However, instead of having a big tidy up, May is a perfect time of year to do some gardening for wildlife whilst remembering it’s good to be a little messy!

Whilst some of us might prefer our gardens to look neat and tidy, wildlife actually prefers things a little rough around the edges and gardens that are wild and messy, giving us the perfect excuse to leave part of our gardens to run wild.

Hedgehogs are no exception to this and leaving leaf litter lying in your garden can hugely benefit them as they rely on leaves for their nests and leaf litter also provides the perfect habitat for a huge wealth of invertebrate species on which hedgehogs feed.

Tom Marshall

WildNet - Tom Marshall

Having piles of standing deadwood in your garden is another way in which you can create a wild corner in your garden and it benefits hedgehogs as again, species on which hedgehogs feed such as many beetle species, rely on deadwood as a food source and habitat to live. Wood piles can also in turn provide a fantastic nesting area for hedgehogs in the winter months. As the dead wood rots and decomposes, releasing nutrients into the soil, wood can be replaced to maintain a stand of deadwood from year to year. 

Another way to encourage invertebrate species, and therefore providing meals for hedgehogs, is to introduce compost heaps in a corner of your garden. A whole host of invertebrates live in compost heaps to include worms, centipedes, millipedes, rove beetles, slugs and snails to name a few, of which are a firm favourite of a hedgehog. Of course the compost heap itself may well offer a hedgehog a warm nesting site for the winter too, so be aware when turning the compost over with a fork! Check out the link below for top tips on how to create a compost heap and how to compost your waste. 

Another way in which you could be a little messy is to leave the weeds be! This is probably one of most tempting things for gardeners to remove but so many species rely on weeds for a source of pollination and they are food sources for caterpillars of many species of butterflies and moths, which comprise a big part of a hedgehog’s diet. Nettles for example are the food source of peacock, small tortoiseshell, red admiral and burnished brass butterflies caterpillars. 

So why not be a little brave this spring and be messy and let the garden go a little wild? The hedgehogs, and so many other species, will certainly thank you for it.