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 wintry 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 garden this 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