Home-made treats for winter wild things
The bareness of the garden or allotment in winter could be considered rather bleak, but actually with the dropping of the leaves a new landscape is revealed. A landscape that sometimes sparkles in low winter sun and sometimes disappears beneath low hanging mists.
On clear days, the fact that many plants have died back or lost their leaves means it’s actually a great time to spot wildlife. Winter is also a brilliant time for attracting new wildlife to your garden, and you can do a lotto help species survive harsh weather spells.
Leaving out seed, nuts and fat for birds will make them your biggest fans, while growing climbers like ivy, which offer shelter and berries, will make them consider your garden a suitable home. Providing safe, warm areas for mammals and insects that bed down for winter will also increase your popularity levels no end. Simple homes for bugs and bees are easy to make. Here are a few ideas for home-made treats you can make for wildlife:
Make holes in monkey nuts and thread them into huge necklaces to hang from trees. Make a hole through the middle of old apples and pears, thread with string and stud with sunflower seeds. Tie a twig to the string at one end so the fruit sits on top of it and tie the other long, loose end to a branch or bird table edge. Nutty necklaces and seed-studded apples with twiggy perches look cheerful, and will be quickly devoured by birds (and, yes, probably squirrels too).
Fruit and nut cupcakes
Specially made ‘cake’ provides birds with crucial fat as well as fruit, nuts and seeds. Whip up your cake mixture, spoon into paper cupcake wrappers, allow to set and then pop them outside. This could be a great gift – choose pretty wrappers, then box the bird cupcakes up and tie the package with a large bow. Make sure you include a card explaining they’re for birds, not humans! If cupcakes seem a little frilly, yogurt pots make great bird cake moulds.
Wild winter gardening
Include winter bloomers like heathers, winter-flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) and winter-flowering honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) in your planting scheme, just in case warm weather tempts nectar-hungry insects out.
Holly, ivy and spindle berries are great sources of bird food throughout winter. Evergreens like lavender and climbers like ivy give your garden texture and color, while providing valuable shelter. Leaving herbaceous vegetation standing until March provides cover, while letting seed heads stay on plants will provide food for small birds. Resist hard pruning in some areas, and delay repairing walls and relaying paving until the weather warms up, as all these places will be sheltering wildlife from the cold.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not knock up a bird box from some old pieces of wood, construct a bird table out of old step-ladders or an old high chair, or fashion a bird bath out of a large shallow dish? Any old junk could be transformed into eccentric garden furniture with a little imagination, love and a few choice tools.
Always ensure you are using nuts and seed produced specially for birds, as others may contain additives that are harmful.