Helping wildlife (January Garden Notes)

January is a quiet month in the garden, but you can turn your thoughts to helping and encouraging wildlife to prosper. Whilst I am an advocate of clearing fallen leaves and general garden debris, in January many piles of vegetation will be providing a warm home for hibernating animals. Spare a thought for beneficial insects which could be overwintering in seed heads and dried stems. An untidy garden can be welcome for nature’s creatures! I suggest a compromise, to keep even small areas relatively untouched, with more prominent parts neatly tended.

As with other animals, birds will appreciate water as well as food. They need this for both drinking and bathing for feather maintenance. Usual sources can be frozen during cold spells, so keep replenishing bird baths – even a plastic saucer regularly refreshed will help. Keep them clean to prevent a build-up of dirt and algae which could cause disease. Ponds, however small, will be just as beneficial as a water source in winter as in summer. As for feeding, birds especially need plenty of high energy, high fat food in cold weather.

Planning for the future, tree planting has been very prominent in the news recently, with all political parties vowing to plant many millions over the next decade. This is great news for carbon capture – but also wildlife. Right on our doorstep at Langley Vale the Woodland Trust is overseeing the creation of the largest of 4 national First World War Centenary woods. Pockets of existing ancient woodland are being extended onto arable land in a woodland creation scheme both as a natural haven and a living memorial to those who gave their lives in the First World War. As always with tree planting, future generations will benefit most from today’s saplings.

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