Winter gardening, from Vine House Farm Bird Foods

Think you can't get in your garden in winter? Think again! Our friends from Vine House Farm Bird Foods have some top tips for wildlife gardening in winter.

The daylight hours are slowly getting longer and although it may not feel like it, there are things you can be doing in your garden right now! Our friends at Vine House Farm Bird Foods have some great tips below.

Clean out and put up nest boxes

If you already have nest boxes in your garden then it's important that they're cleaned out for the breeding season ahead. 

Most birds, including blue tits and great tits, won't use a nest box if it has last year's nest in it and great tits often begin looking for a breeding territory as early as January (although eggs usually aren't laid until the spring). 

Nest boxes can also harbour parasites so it's important to clean them to help the next brood stay healthy. We've got a great guide to this here!

If you don't currently have a nest box in your garden, now is the time to put one up. Vine House Farm can help!

Robin and blue tit on bird feeder

Robin and blue tit © Nicholas Watts

Keep feeding the birds!

The further we get into winter, the further natural supplies of food are depleted. Even a short spell of very cold and harsh weather can prove fatal for small songbirds, as they struggle to find enough food to keep warm at night. 

Different birds need different types of food and feeders. We've got lots more information on this here

Hedgehog on lawn

© Gillian Day

Hedgehogs need help during mild weather

Unlike birds, it's when the weather is unusually mild in the winter that hedgehogs need help. When the weather remains cold, hedgehogs will hibernate until about mid-March. Recently we've been seeing warmer spells during the winter, which brings hedgehogs out of hibernation, but there's very little natural food to help them survive. 

If the weather is mild and you know that you have hedgehogs in your garden, or in the area, you can provide them with a dish of water and plain, meat-based cat food. Remember to never feed them milk or bread. 

Brambling

Brambling ©Margaret Holland

Look out for winter bird migrants

Lots of different birds travel to our shores from northern Europe to spend the winter, including some of our regular garden birds, like chaffinch, blackbird and robin.

Some of the blackbirds that you're helping along with sunflower hearts and suet pellets might have come all the way from a forest in Finland!

More exotic species that travel here are fieldfare, redwing and brambling. Out of these, often the brambling (female shown above) is the only one that will visit your garden to feast on bird food. They often arrive in mixed flocks with chaffinches, so keep a beady eye out for them!

You can try to tempt fieldfares and redwings though - place apples on the ground when the weather is especially cold. 

Find out more about winter migrants

We hope you enjoy trying some of these wildlife gardening tips - and look forward to spring when there's a whole host of fantastic things to do in your garden!

Buy your bird food

Vine House Farm shop

Blue tit (c )Nicholas Watts, Vine House Farm Bird Food

More ways to help wildlife

Actions for wildlife

©Tees Valley Wildlife Trust