Wildlife Garden Maintenance in November
November is a significant month in the wildlife year, as
it is generally the turning point between milder autumn
weather and the first frosts of winter. Garden wildlife
responds to these changes and as natural food is depleted in
the countryside, you may notice more birds in your garden.
Migrant redwings and fieldfares from Scandinavia are arriving
to feed on the berries of hawthorn or garden shrubs
such as Berberis and Cotoneaster. All in all there is a more
feel in the garden now.
This is a good month to make a log pile in the garden or
allotment, to provide a habitat for a huge range of
invertebrates, a hibernation place for toads, newts and slow
worms and a damp place for mosses, ferns, lichens and fungi to
grow. Choose a shady place and if possible bury some of the
logs a few centimetres into the soil. This will encourage
wood boring beetles to lay their eggs in the damp conditions
created below the soil surface Over time add more wood to the
pile as the bottom logs decompose, but take care not to
disturb the habitat you have created.
Mulching borders now will lock in moisture and conserve
water for next spring. Use home made compost or leaf mould if
you have it, or composted bark. Composted garden waste is also
available from many local authorities. Avoid trampling around
too much between plants, as many moths over winter as pupae
below the soil surface and the caterpillars of some
butterflies spend the winter deep in vegetation in borders.
Leaves are falling in quantities now, so rake up the
excess from lawns and paths, but leave some amongst your
shrubs and herbaceous plants to break down and enrich the
soil. This will ensure that earthworms and other soil
organisms have plenty of food. Make good use of the rest by
composting them or tuck them beneath a hedge or dense shrubs
to break down naturally. They will provide material for
hedgehogs to build hibernation nests and create a habitat for
wood mice, voles and many invertebrates. Clear large
quantities of floating leaves from ponds but a few here and
there won’t create a problem.
Make sure the birds that are returning to your garden now
have plenty of food and fresh water. By feeding a variety of
different seeds and fruits you will cater for many different
species. Finches, house sparrows, blue tits, great tits and
coal tits will appreciate a mixture of seeds including
sunflower hearts. Goldfinches especially like nyjer seed,
woodpeckers love peanuts and thrushes and blackbirds will take
raisins and other fruits including windfall apples. If you
use a variety of hanging feeders, you can move them weekly to
prevent the accumulation of droppings and the build up of
disease. Live foods such as mealworms will tempt robins.
Water should be changed daily – an old fashioned bird bath,
plant saucer or even an upturned dustbin lid will encourage
birds to drink and bathe. Spending a little time outside in your wildlife
month will ensure that you local birds and mammals have a good
chance of surviving the winter weather ahead.
© Text and photographs Jenny Steel 2017